BY KAREN BLISS
“I didn’t want to be a club artist; I wanted to be a stadium artist and that’s what I want to be still,” Nick Durocher, professionally known as Talk, tells CMW’s Making Noise.
The Ottawa native, who lives in Toronto with his bandmates, just released his debut album, Lord of the Flies & Birds & Bees, on Doogood/Range Music/Capitol/UMG, which includes his platinum-selling first-ever single, “Run Away To Mars” which was on his 2021 Talk to Me EP. The music video has now clocked 13 million views on YouTube and the song has racked up over 100 million collective streams.
Executive produced and co-written by Justin Tranter (Imagine Dragons, Justin Bieber, Måneskin,), along with the songwriting contributions from others such as his band members, the 10-track album also features another viral hit, “A Little Bit Happy,” which has over 30 million views on Tik Tok. His new bio describes the sound as pulling “inspirations from Meatloaf, Broadway, and ‘80s and ‘90s rock.”
Talk’s manager, Cormac McGee, who works with Sandy Pandya at Toronto’s ArtHaus Music, tells Making Noise he first met Durocher about five years ago through a concert photographer friend, Drew Yorke-Slater, who is now “an integral part of the team,” handling all Talk’s digital content.
McGee, who was doing a little bit of everything at the time, from DJing to management to concert promotion, started helping Talk with administration, including writing and landing a FACTOR artist development grant. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of artists working away in Toronto, McGee says Talk had something that made him want to invest his time and manage him.
“Honestly, it was his drive. Every day he would wake up and call me and tell me what he was working on and then tell me what he needed me to work on. I had never met an artist like that before,” McGee says.
“We would introduce him to other friends in the industry or people we respected, try to get feedback from them and he would take every piece of feedback and implement it, work on himself. I was like, “Wow.” That, paired with his voice, is super unique. I thought he was a great songwriter. It was super raw at that time, but this guy is in it. He inspired me to be in it too.”
The first three years they worked together, Talk didn’t release any music. “I would say there were inroads because we figured out the brand,” assesses McGee, who enlisted the help of artist development strategists Doogood, after witnessing their success with Toronto singer renforshort’s “Waves” which led to her record deal. “He had a few songs that we thought were good and we were just starting to figure out what development and a release strategy would even look like.”
Just before covid hit in early 2020, McGee joined ArtHaus, while working with Talk a little bit on the side. “When it started to get serious with him, I brought him to Sandy and said, “Hey, I have this artist. Would we be interested in working with him?’ ‘Yes, bring him under. Let’s go.’”
At the very start of the pandemic, the city on the verge of shutting down, Talk moved back to his parents’ house in Ottawa. In a depressed and lonely state, he was inspired to write “Run Away To Mars,” apparently after watching the dystopian Christopher Nolan film Interstellar.
|Your color’s fading
‘Cause I kept you waiting
It’s a wild, wild world
And you’re a wild, wild girlOur sun’s still shining
But it seems half the size
And it’s a wild, wild world out hereBefore my time runs out
What If I run away to Mars?
I can’t tell which way is home
Before my time runs out
What If I run away to Mars?
Three, two, one, I miss you
What If I run away to Mars?
(songwriters: Ben Thomas / Connor Riddell / Lauren Mandel / Nick Durocher)
The song dropped in June 2021 — his debut single — and was followed in November with the EP Talk to Me, on Doogood. The Range/Capitol deal came before “Run Away To Mars” took off for the second time.
“The song had had some mini viral moments on TikTok. Nothing crazy huge, but big enough that a lot of labels took notice,” says McGee. “And so, we had discussions with a lot of different labels.
“Range is a relatively new label. They have a joint venture deal with Capitol, and they were the first ones to approach us. They have a shorter history of doing more indie type deals, but when we talked to them we were like, ‘We think this needs to be a major label play and investment.’ And so, Capitol was brought to the table and that was a team effort.
“The head of music is Matt Graham. We worked really closely with him and one of his partners, Tyler Henry, on this deal. They really saw the potential of Talk and were willing to give him the time to work and develop. And then, obviously, we were able to make a little bit of headway ourselves, which is why they jumped in on ‘…Mars’ with us.”
“Run Away to Mars” was moderately successful at first, but went viral on TikTok in 2022, landing in the streaming charts in several countries.
“As a team, we never felt like ‘…Mars” got what it deserved and so we were looking for any way to reinvigorate it. We got this slot playing at Festival d’été in Quebec, opening up for Luke Combs on the main stage. He played in front of 70,000 people. Right after that, we saw ‘…Mars’ start to bump again on streaming. It wasn’t huge, but it was enough that we took a notice of it.
So we decided to treat it like we had just released it again. We really dove into that song on his socials, on his TikTok, reposted all of our marketing materials, shot new stuff, treated it like a whole new campaign. And then, it just started to take off from there. We had a conversation [with Range/Capitol] where we said, ‘What do we have to do to have you guys jump in on this song with us?’”
By January 2023, “Run Away To Mars” had climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s adult alternative charts, and kept climbing on the Mediabase top 40 chart in Canada, peaking at No. 28 in May. According to stats provided by Luminate Data, the song also peaked at No. 1 at modern rock, No. 3 at mainstream rock, No. 32 at CHR, and No. 6 at hot AC.
“It still has its legs,” McGee believes. “I think, it’s gonna be one of those songs that every so often it’s gonna spike again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the end of it. There’s still a lot of people who’ve never heard it and we find as soon as someone hears it, they’re stuck into it.”
Its inclusion on Lord of the Flies & Birds & Bee counts in effect as its third release.
Talk toured over the summer with Young The Giant, Milky Chance, and appeared at various festivals from Lollapalooza to the Calgary Stampede, then had some European dates in September. Just this month, he opened for Shania Twain in Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal, the same week Lord of the Flies & Birds & Bee came out.
In Canada his responsible agent (RA) is Steve Himmelfarb at The Feldman Agency; the U.S. is Tom Windish and Ira Golden Ring at Wasserman, and the rest of world is Sean Goulding and John Olier at one Phoenix.
A 30-date North American tour was announced for 2024, kicking off Feb. 9 in Detroit at El Club and ending March 10 at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club. A little over a month later, he starts the Canadian leg in Quebec City, April 18, at Imperial Bell, and wraps up May 6 at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom.
After speaking with McGee, Making Noise interviewed Talk about his start in the industry, his personal strategy and goals.
Cormac said what impressed him when he first started working with you was your drive and discipline. You would soak up everyone’s advice and implement it and were raring to go every day. Where does that come from?
From having no backup plan, mostly. That probably gave me the drive. I didn’t have secondary education background. I went to college for one year for public relations and then I dropped out. There’s a gap in my resume because I took some time off to just make music. I was struggling to get jobs anywhere when I moved to Toronto, while I honed my craft.
Is that simply because you wanted to do music and if you’re not interested in something, you’re not all-in?
Yeah, I’ve known for years that I wanted to do this, at least a decade, but I didn’t exactly know how to get there. I thought about it a lot and then I figured the best way to do this is probably just to make a million songs and hope that I get good at this. I knew I had some kind of natural talent, but plan B is something I don’t want to think about because I don’t think there is a plan B. This is all I ever saw myself doing. That’s the biggest drive.
Did you need Cormac and Drew so early on as sounding boards or to implement the stuff you didn’t want to do?
I think everybody in the industry, if you’re trying to be an artist, you need to surround yourself with people you trust. I’ve known Drew since we were six years old and I met Cormac about five years ago. I think it’s impossible for an artist to be successful and not give up control to anybody or delegate stuff to people that have stronger skillsets in other areas. Cormac and Drew have skill sets that I do not have; it would be impossible for me to be successful in those areas without having them around. Everybody needs a team. Talk is a team of people from those guys to Sandy, who works with Cormac, to my agents.
Did you ever have a discussion with Cormac, ‘Okay, manage me” or did it just happen?
It was a lot of events that led to us discovering that we were a good team. We worked at a distance at first. He would occasionally help me with grants and some other stuff. And then, he eventually made the move to ArtHaus and that seemed like a good place for me. I needed people to work with and I trusted him with my life — and I still do.
Are you good at assessing if you’ve got a good or great song?
I like to think that I can pick good songs from bad ones. I feel like I’ve been right about everything so far. The most important thing is that I love it. And if I love it, then it doesn’t really matter if other people think it’s a good or bad song, it’s more about what I love. And I love everything I’ve released.
Some people think the most recent song they write is their best song and they wouldn’t go back and re-release a song from a year prior. “Run Away To Mars” was pushed again a year after it came out.
I guess, there’s probably artists that don’t like older songs because it gets annoying and repetitive, but “…Mars” did a lot of really good things for a lot of people around the world so I’m never going to pull back on that song. I wrote that in 2020. It came out in 2021 and blew up in 2022. it’s been around in my life for three years and I still play it live every time I play. I love it, and I love how other people react to it. I think no matter what, a good song will last. That’s why you see artists that are like, “This song was from years ago and it never came out and now it’s on my new album.” I see that all the time.
You saw the impact “Run Away To Mars” had. It probably helped you as much as it helped them.
Definitely. I think it had a much bigger impact than we thought it was going to. I was happy with how it came out the first time. People loved it. I got great feedback and I knew it was helping others. I didn’t intend, necessarily, for that to happen, but it was an outcome that I’m honoured to be a part of, and I was humbled by. And, yeah, it was a really powerful experience.
When you started talking with record labels, what was it you were wanting to hear in terms of how they wanted to market you or leave you alone or whatever your vision was. What made you end up with Range and Capitol?
When I went into looking for deals, I was by no means a recognizable name at the time in Canada. “…Mars” had done maybe 5 million streams and had a moment online and got the attention of some labels. So we were doing the rounds, like you do when you have a bit of a moment. I don’t necessarily think we were looking for anything other than a strategic partner because, as much as people want to be independent and try their best at doing their own thing, you kind of need the machine if you want to go to the next level. I didn’t want to be a club artist; I wanted to be a stadium artist and that’s what I want to be, still. And the way to make that happen, in our opinion, was to go to a major. Range was one of the first people to reach out. That might’ve even been before “…Mars” was released, I talked to them; it might’ve even been months before. It’s all kind of a blur. But they had seen me on TikTok and reached out immediately. And so, we talked to them first. I had a good feeling about them. And then they had a partnership with Capitol, and Capitol had shown interest and so it made sense for them to come together.
A lot of the songs on your debut album were co-written with Justin Tranter. How did you find writing with someone outside the band?
He understood my vision for the album really well. We met early on and he understood the complete vision for the project. I know how talented, talented he is and I was looking for collaborators on the production side, as well. I produced the majority of the last EP with Connor, [Riddell], my guitar player, and we were just looking to have a new voice in the production team.
Is there an overall theme to your first full-length album?
It’s a loose narrative album of me helping myself through the last few years. Present me finding past me and grabbing him by the hand and helping him along. I’m really happy with it.