It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that chemistry between members is one of the essential ingredients for a successful band. It’s also an element in a band that cannot be forced; it only lasts when it develops naturally and cannot be faked. Having spent less than an hour chatting with Vancouver electro-pop-rock duo Dear Rouge, it’s clear that they have chemistry in spades. Rarely do you find such a memorable and genuine pairing of musicians that click as well as these two do.
Partners in music and in life, Danielle and Drew McTaggart have grown to become a perfect fit. While working on their respective music careers, the two connected in 2009, released the single “Heads Up! Watch Out!” and following the buzz around the song, the two officially banded together as Dear Rouge in 2010. With their catchy choruses and hooks, Danielle and Drew connect beautifully with fans through their music, stage presence and unbelievable energy. Now with two EPs (Heads Up! Watch Out! and Kids Wanna Know) under their belts and, after winning the 2012 Peak Performance Project, a giant a cheque for $102,700 in their pockets, the Dear Rouge duo is primed to take their band and music career to the next level. Genuine, talented, giving and down-to-earth, Dear Rouge came by the Youthink HQ to provide insight on its music, live show and plans for 2013.
YT: Congratulations on winning the Peak Performance Project. What did the experience teach you about the business side of the industry?
Dr: It taught us how to run our own business, be our own label, do what we need to do by ourself, and when needed, [how] we could pay someone to do it. We have people asking us, “So are you going to sign with a label?” But that’s not necessarily the end goal now. It’s now to set up your music as a business. The art represents this huge part of it, which is the foundation, but then there’s publicity, record promotion, distribution, media interviews and how you’re going to market yourself.
Photo: Carmen Bright
YT: You’ve released two EPs. How do the songs on Heads Up! Watch Out! differ from Kids Wanna Know?
Da: I feel like our tracks in Kids Wanna Know were a bit more synth-based. We wanted to be a little bit more on the not-so-pop side, and be more creative and try new things.
Dr: Heads Up! Watch Out! was when Danielle and I were trying stuff, and I love some of the tracks – “Diamonds” is probably one that we both love a lot, and it did help push us to this point. But, it was kind of us just forming our relationship musically. Then Kids Wanna Know was us building on that relationship, and you can see how some of the tracks get a little bit more poppy and synth.
YT: What can the fans expect from your first full-length album?
Da: Catchy songs! We always say we want people to be happy when they hear our music, so very positive, radio-friendly and exciting.
Dr: I feel a full-length is like you’re having a full conversation with someone. An EP is a short, shallow conversation, but a full-length album is when you sit down and have all this time to have a deep conversation with someone. For us musically it’ll be a lot deeper.
YT: Why do you think music is important?
Dr: That’s a really big question! Music’s a tool; it’s a tool for everything. Whether you want to use it to help you write this interview while you’re typing, whether you use it to workout, or to dance, or in your wedding, you use it in everything. It’s a tool to your emotions. It’s in every part of life. Anytime you turn on the TV there’s music along with an ad, music playing in a TV show and the intro song to a show is music. It’s just everywhere and everything. It’s just something that helps you get a little bit more emotional.
YT: In what ways has music impacted your life?
Da: Music’s definitely been an outlet of emotion for me. Like Drew said it’s a tool, so sometimes in my life when I’ve needed to let go of emotions or express myself, or even just relay something I couldn’t say, I could in a song. It’s just been a way of expressing myself. It’s the best way to express yourself because you don’t have to hold anything back. I feel like people can be most honest when they’re listening to songs, or at a concert, or for us when we’re writing or performing. It’s the place where I feel the most free.
YT: Tell me about story behind "A Song for Noah" and what it means to you.
Da: I used to work at Cactus Club, but we actually quit our day jobs so we can do music full-time. When I was working at Cactus Club I met this family there - Tanya and Kevin, with their kids Noah and Cruise. Noah’s five years old and Cruise is two. When I met them we sort of became friends and we would joke around quite a lot and eventually I realized something was different with Noah. He wasn’t expressing himself or communicating back to me and things like that. So I basically asked them if he was okay and they said that he had autism and apraxia. So, I felt like I was supposed to write this song for them. It was really quite a bizarre feeling. I went home and I wrote it and I was really emotional about it. I had finished it within a couple hours, and Drew helped put it all together. We recorded it then sent it to them, and at the time I just felt like it would be something to help them when Noah was going through treatments and stuff like that. Then in the end the father passed away and the song became a way to help fund for Noah’s treatments.
YT: How would you describe your live show?
Dr: I would say energetic, especially with the Peak [Performance Project] crowd.
Da: A lot of the other bands were pretty folky. We were really the only pop-rock band in the Peak, so we totally bought into that. When we performed I would be like, “OK, I need a sequined jumpsuit and we need backup dancers!”
Dr: For every show we try to add in new songs, and something visual that’s different. But the main thing fans can expect is energy. . . we want them to have smiles on their faces. It’s more like we’re a bunch of friends, let’s have a good time.
Da: I really want to stage dive at every show! I’ll be like, “Drew can I stage dive?! And he’ll just be like, “No.” (laughs)
YT: What have you learned about each other that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t work together?
Dr: I know Danielle’s personality, but when you add the music component in, it just gets really, really deep. I feel like I understand her strengths and her weaknesses better than I would have without music. Danielle is so good at what she does with performing, songwriting, hooks and meeting people. She brings that part to music that I never really had. I always thought I was good and a nice person but the performer aspect is something I didn’t realize was so important until after I saw that in her.
Da: We write songs together and Drew’s really creative and an amazing musician. But the thing I noticed was that he’s super business-ey too, and I never saw that side of him before. He’s just as good a businessman as he is a musician, which is crazy and awesome.
YT: If you two could tour with any band in the world, dead or alive, whom would you choose and why?
Dr: For sure The Beatles. The Beatles when they were just starting were just amazing because they did what any band is trying to do - they had these huge singles. They were super poppy but it was creative. It’s exactly where we want to be.
Da: I’d say The Killers. I think that we would be a good fit for them and I really respect them. They write really good songs and they’re really creative. I really like them! I’d maybe choose Katy Perry too just cause she’s just fun.
YT: What are some words of wisdom you would give to teens looking to pursue music for a living?
Da: I would say to be true to yourself, no matter how cliché it is. Know what you want, and who you are. There are a lot of snakes in the music industry who want to take advantage of your dream. You have to be very sure of that dream and know that the first person that comes to you that says they can help you be a big star isn’t necessarily right.
Dr: The biggest thing that I would say to young teens is that it’s all earned luck. You hear about these stories like Carly Rae Jepsen and how's she's an overnight success. Yes [that is true], but she earned that luck because she worked at music for 10 years before that, but you don’t hear about that side of it. You hear about Justin Bieber tweeting, and then she has the biggest song in the world. That’s what you hear because it’s exciting, but every musician that I’ve known of has never had a shortcut. Danielle and I have been doing music for a really long time, and in the last six months we’ve had the most success in the last ten years. Its’ pretty amazing. Work hard and just keep doing it. It can come overnight, but it can’t just be, you start a band and the next day you’re going to be huge.
YT: What song would you choose to serenade each other?
Dr: We both wrote songs for each other while we were dating. So, I feel like those are the ones we both lock into most. The one Danielle wrote for me is the fourth song on our first EP. The one that I wrote is just a song I wrote and recorded for her. It was a Christmas present when we were long-distance dating.
Da: I should pick a song by like Kesha or something. We don’t really sing to each other that often. Oh! “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.
Dr: No, that’s your karaoke song. Just so you know, Danielle has her karaoke song where she goes in and blows the bar away.
Da: You can put down “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal for my serenading song.