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Jade Music Fest: Juno winner Jacqueline Teh shares her process for recording music

Jacqueline Teh
Jacqueline Teh cowrote three of the five songs on Sammy Jackson's Juno-winning "With You" EP.

The Canadian music industry took notice of Jacqueline Teh at the 2021 Juno Awards. The respected jazz singer and songwriter co-wrote the final three tracks on Sammy Jackson’s five-song “With You” EP, which was honoured as Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. Teh also joined Jackson on vocals on the EP’s fourth track, “Bad Reception”.

At a recent Jade Music Festival workshop in Vancouver, the Toronto-based Teh spoke about her recording process.

“I actually don’t go to a legitimate studio,” Teh quipped at the Annex on October 19. “It’s usually all just at home with equipment that I have or that my producer has—or that I’ve borrowed from a friend who helps me record.”

Teh said that she relies on music software, such as Logic Pro, when laying down backing tracks. However, she noted that some other musicians use Ableton products for this task.

After doing putting down music, she adds the background vocals.

If Teh needs to go to a studio with a band, she thinks about how many songs can be recorded in the time that’s available.

“So, sometimes if you’re very well-rehearsed, you can—within two hours—maybe even do three songs,” Teh said. “I try to avoid doing, like, a full day of recording because it can be very mentally exhausting.”

Teh often incorporates vocal improvisation into her songs, which can be taxing on the brain.

“So, sometimes you do reach a point where you’re too tired,” she stated. “There’s a lot of stuff done in post [production].”

Teh also likes doing background vocals by herself before working with the producer or mixing engineer to include them.

Scope and Jacqueline Teh
Emcee Tom Su (left) asked Scope and Jacqueline Teh if they had advice for aspiring musicians.

Teh shares stage with Scope

Jade Music Fest moderator and violinist Tom Su asked Teh and her fellow panelist, Vancouver rapper Scope, if they had advice for students hoping to become musicians.

Scope emphasized tuning into the “little flame” of creativity that burns within. He pointed out that this passion might not make sense to others. And when that happens, Scope recommended that young artists recognize that naysayers may be on a different life path.

“If you somehow come across that thing that’s kind of calling you, I think you just have to kind of trust that,” Scope said.

For her part, Teh told the audience that if someone wants to be an artist, they get to define that that means. And if others try to do that for them, it’s because they want to market that person.

“Be proud of who you are; be proud of what you are able to create,” Teh stated emphatically. “Like Scope was saying, don’t let other people judge you for things you want to do or things you want to express as long as you’re not harming anybody in the process.”

In addition, Teh advised aspiring artists to be confident and accept compliments.

“Those took me so many years to master,” she revealed. “But yeah, if somebody comes up to you and says, ‘I love that song—that’s amazing,’ don’t feel the need to refute it. Accept it. Embrace it. Add it to your self-esteem and just be open, be kind, [and] be patient with yourself.

“It’s very easy to be self-critical, to compare yourself with other artists that are up and coming,” Teh added. “but every single person is on their own journey.”

Visit the Jade Music Fest website to hear a podcast featuring Jacqueline Teh. Learn more about arts and culture on the Toronto Spark website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Toronto Spark editor Charlie Smith has worked as a journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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