Teddy Geiger’s musical journey has brought her from solo pop success to the inner workings of the recording studio as the driving force behind hits for artists like Shawn Mendes, Leon Bridges, Empire of the Sun and so much more. Now the songwriter is back with an album of her own music for the first time in years. Teresa is a vast soundscape that expresses the inner workings of Geiger’s mind and invites listeners into everything she’s experienced over the course of making the album and beyond. Atlas sat down with Geiger to talk about the creation of the record, reconnecting with herself and her music and her hopes for what’s coming next.
Atlas Artist Group: Now that your upcoming album has a release date, how did this whole process come together for you with the record? How did you know that it was ready and that you were done and it was time to put this out?
Teddy Geiger: I went to Spain to get out of here in LA. I needed to be in a fresh environment and explore, and then I ended up making a bunch of music while I was there, and then that sat around for a while. I think it was like 15 or 16 ideas that I had put together and it just wasn’t feeling like a whole thing yet. And then the pandemic happened, which I was just like, great, these are the last days. And then after that, I went back to doing more daily grind writing. But really, for me, it’s been like a connect to myself and even just being quiet until there’s some lyrical content that I feel like expresses something in me and going back towards that through the process.
I hit another moment of doing that and then decided to go back and look at the stuff and ended up cutting some of the songs and re-putting together stuff and working on some new little bits for stuff, and the vision started coming together, and I was like, oh, great, I want to put these out.
Post-pandemic basically was lots of extra psychedelic stuff happening and I basically went pretty sober for the last year and put together a book of sketches and just did a lot of artwork. This project has been my grounding, working on something sort of thing, which has just been really nice.
I’ve missed that because I really did get swept up into…having some success as a writer and producer and then really trying to follow that up and keep that going, which was good. But then also I do feel like I’ve neglected my own urge to create from, because so often with that stuff I do just want to- being an artist myself- I never want to feel like I’m putting my ideas in an artist’s mouth or I want to make sure everything’s coming from them and they feel like the artist on a project. But then being an artist myself also, sometimes it’s like too much of that. Then I lose my connection to my own thing and it gets difficult.
Atlas: That’s really interesting because I know that you do produce and you do write for other people and being able to take that journey for yourself is very important because you’ve been making your own music for such a long time.
Geiger: And I started that way. I started as a kid in my basement just staying up all night and making demos and just experimenting and playing with melodies and different things and doing a lot of that alone and then always had friends that I collaborated with.
But I’ve always liked to keep my circle kind of small as far as friends and stuff growing up. So it is a lot to have the success that I had and then have lots of opportunity and lots of going here and there and so many different people. It all gets to be a lot.
Atlas: As a fellow introvert, I understand that completely.
Geiger: Yes. That’s the word I’m looking for.
Atlas: You touched on this a moment ago, but I am a little curious because you have been writing and producing for so many different people over the years along with making your own stuff. How do you separate those two worlds internally? When you’re in the studio with somebody that you trust and you collaborate with and you’re bringing their vision to life and then finding your own creative energy- how do you separate the two to keep it fresh for you?
Geiger: I mean, it feels pretty natural. I don’t know. When I’m in the studio with someone else, it’s very much like I want to see them light up about something or get excited about something. It’s actually really, really hard for me to try to write something for somebody else. It always just turns into something that I would do and gets a little extra weird and there’s not somebody with me to keep guiding the process.
Atlas: What do you think the rewarding parts of both are for you personally? Where do you find the joy in that?
Geiger: I mean, it’s so nice. My idea of a party is basically working on music with some people. So it is so fun to be creative. It’s like two different things. It is more of a social gathering feel for me if I’m working on music with people and getting to feel a bit valued in a group even as opposed to when you’re doing so much on your own. I was doing some stuff the other day and was playing some guitar and people were like, ooh, love that. And it is nice to get some external or to get different influences and have other people’s melodies and stuff all mixed together and freshen up something. If I’ve been doing too much alone time, it definitely helps to connect.
Atlas: I’m sure it jumpstarts a different kind of creativity for everybody with the collaboration and potential ideas that you might not come up with on your own.
Geiger: Yes. And even learning- especially with other producers and stuff- there’s so many little tricks and things and ways of looking at working with sound that you can just learn forever.
Atlas: From the point when you started to what you’re doing now, your sound has changed a lot, which is natural. How did you land on this particular sound that you’re working with for this record?
Geiger: I don’t really know. I mean, it was just at the kitchen table. I was at the table and a lot of it I was working through…I got a tiny little Bluetooth speaker and I really don’t like headphones unless I need to use them.
So I was monitoring everything back through that terrible Bluetooth. It wasn’t even a brand, but that was like having stuff on there and then thinking about it in terms of this one, being something I’d want to listen to in a bathtub, but also maybe could drive around to or turn it up if I wanted to.
But I don’t know, I think something about that little speaker and hearing everything through that, it ended up being a lot of the guitars that I had there. A lot of them started from just the combination of those two things and then a lot of reverb for this one.
I actually, towards the end, ended up taking some of the mixes and filtering them and putting those through pitch shifters and then putting those through spring reverbs and then writing that in. So there’s some little sounds, too, you can hear in certain transitions in the album and that was so fun. That was new, I’d never done that before. I was like, I’m not even sure I should be doing this. I’m like, well, I don’t care. It’s my album.
Atlas: Which track on the album do you find yourself connecting to the most? Is there one that’s very special to you?
Geiger: There’s a song “Curtains”- I like that one. Basically I ended up writing that to my mother about me being somebody that’s consistently enjoyed pushing the boundaries of my experience and wanting to explore things, but then having it be my mom being like, what are you doing?
Whether it’s smoking some weed or doing whatever I need to do to just live out my experience and then having it be from somebody who cares about you and then just wants to keep you safe and do that stuff. And you’re causing the person some pain by doing what you need to do to live your own life. I like that one.
Atlas: What about the songs you’ve already put out prompted you to pick them for the singles?
Geiger: “I Belong Here” opens the album and I really like that one. It was the first one I made for the project and set the tone and just makes sense for me to have it be like the one that goes with the album and then “I’ve Made Mistakes” has been one of the ones that more people have responded to. My manager who’s been helping me put all this stuff out- it’s one of his favorites. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to pick anything, really. I’m not good at it. It’s all happening more than me being very intentional. But I like that one.
Atlas: When you’re writing for yourself, do you find yourself focusing more on lyrics first or melody or does it just depend? Do you have a process or does it just happen?
Geiger: It kind of just happens, but it’s usually music and melody and the way that stuff works. Usually with that, there’ll be some words that have come out and some syllables and melody. And then usually I’ll just listen to it until there’s either words or I did for this one, a lot of where I just close my eyes and put on the instrumental and just listen until words showed up and then would put those in and then sometimes would eventually tweak it a little because it’s like, oh, this doesn’t quite make sense.
But I tried to do it all based on an intuitive listening to just what I’m hearing, which it’s always been that way for me. It’s always been a mixture of things, and then I’ll usually get a flash of it being like, oh, okay, that’s what it is.
Anything else would usually be like on my very, very first record- it was all that. Then there were a few where the producer I was working with was like let’s put a chorus on that. Usually I will go based on vibe.
Atlas: You’ve been in this game for awhile and a lot of people look to you for inspiration. Who do you look to when you need inspiration?
Geiger: I love Joni Mitchell. Recently, Joni Mitchell’s been going off for me. I love Yung Thug- just the expression and the freedom of his thing. It’s so good. I’m a very big fan. And then I love Grouper. That music’s so beautiful. I listen to that a lot.
Atlas: Do you have any hopes for what your listeners will take away from this album?
Geiger: Not really. It feels very new to be putting music out again, and even the idea that people are going to listen to it is very foreign to me. It’s been a long time, and the last time I put it out, it was just like a quick little thing. It’s been interesting to just do that process and even to talk about it. To be going through that process is crazy again, but exciting.
I think moving forward next year, I’m probably going to continue to just take a little more time for myself to make stuff and just not have a crazy schedule for a bit because it’s been crazy for a while. The last year has been calm and it’s given me the opportunity to put stuff together for this one. It’s interesting to just think about listeners. I guess for me, it’s like reopening a relationship with even having listeners for my own stuff.
My hope is that there are listeners and that it could open a bit more of some sort of interaction somehow. I haven’t really thought about playing shows yet. I’ve been slowly learning how I would play the songs but I don’t even know exactly. I’m figuring all this out, but the idea being that reconnecting with listeners, making a new thing. I don’t know, I’m all over the place.
Atlas: It’s been a long time since you’ve played your solo music live. Do you miss being on stage?
Geiger: It was never my favorite thing. I always get anxious about it, but I think I would enjoy it. I think it would be fun. I just want to have a good band. It just seems like such an insurmountable thing, but I think I could get it together. It just would take time and some focus. It could happen.
I haven’t put it out of my mind, but I haven’t made a real effort to make it happen yet. And I’m still enjoying being creative and putting this stuff out and writing more for myself and just seeing where this thing could go. Even between when I wrote these and now, it’s been so many years, and then the past year ended up being a lot of just figuring out how to get this stuff up and out.
Now I want to be creative again but then it could be fun to play shows. I have some friends who are like, I’ll play with you. It could happen.
“I’ve Made Mistakes” is out now and stream Teresa everywhere on November 1!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo courtesy of Teddy Geiger