Teenage Dirt Bags
High School and the power of an origin story.
Happy Sunday to you all!
Sara and I flew to New York in the winter of 2018 to pitch podcast ideas. While on the trip, we stopped by our book agent's office. Marc Gerald had been a friend for a decade by then. He’d said that someday we should write a book. When we stopped by his office in 2018, we asked if he thought that day had come. “Yes,” he told us, “I think publishers would be interested in hearing your origin story.” We discussed the idea of writing about our early years in the industry. But then, like now, we didn’t feel ready to talk about our first years in the music business. Sara, on the spot and having never consulted with me, enthusiastically laid out her interest in telling the “real” origin story of our band. If you want to know how Tegan and Sara started, you have to go back to the 90s, to Calgary, to our adolescence, to our time in High School. Marc loved the idea. “Go home and write a proposal,” he told us. So, we did. Three months later, we flew back to New York and pitched it to every major publisher. When it sold I was happy for about three seconds, and then the panic set in. How the fuck do you write a book, I thought?
Writing a book was terrifyingly complicated and difficult. It was emotional and challenged us in ways we hadn’t yet experienced. Putting on paper the way we felt as young people, as we navigated high school, coming out, and learning to play music and perform, took incredible focus and determination. More than once, I thought we’d made a terrible mistake. But taking the opportunity to put in our own words how our life as Tegan and Sara had begun was too important to pass up.
Along the way, I found all the videos we had taken as teenagers (back then I documented everything, aspiring secretly to be a filmmaker), as well as Sara and I’s first songs. Hearing back the music was inspiring and painful. The melodies were good; the songs were well-developed. But we’d written off so much of our early work as silly, a reaction to men in the industry, often decades older, implying we weren’t worth the hype. So, it felt sad to me to rediscover that music and realize it was good. In 2019 we re-recorded those songs and made our ninth album, Hey, I’m Just Like You.
After High School came out on September 24th, 2019, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, which was a fucking relief I can’t put into words. Then and now, we remain so grateful that we got the opportunity to tell our story in our own words. Women in music are often ignored or written off (see the recent Jann Wenner controversy for proof of that). For every one memoir, or lengthy account by or about a woman in music, there are dozens and dozens and dozens by and about men. It’s rare that we get to see or hear a woman tell her story, let alone celebrate her story by allowing her to tell it in her own words with a reputable publisher. This is a huge part of why Sara and I really wanted our story to be out there for other young women to find. For queer people to find. For anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or just didn’t fit in to find. So, I didn’t delete what I wrote, instead, I persevered and alongside Sara finished High School and published it in 2019.
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Today I wanted to write something here on Substack about High School. I have no doubt that MOST of you, being the huge supporters of us that you are, have read or listened or watched High School by now. But on the off chance you have not, what better day than today to take the plunge?
In the years since we wrote and published High School, we’ve written two graphic novels, and are hard at work on two other book projects as we speak. High School blew open the door for a whole new creative lane for Sara and me. To say we’re grateful for that would be a massive understatement. As avid readers and voracious thinkers, the act of sitting down to share our ideas and pluck from our vast imagination feels like a fever dream inspired by years of LSD use. And yet, it is not a dream! It is our new reality! And it’s a reality supported by each of you. Your interest in all things T&S is what fuels us. SO THANK YOU!
Tegan (and Sara)