Do you struggle with personal identity based on some part of your upbringing? Does it feel like you have a lot to say but don’t know how to get it all out? Have you ever been bothered by something you can’t change about yourself?
You are Teague.
The New Folklore: Lyrical Tales for Dreamers & Thinkers – http://www.northstarpress.com/store/p622/The_New_Folklore%3A_Lyrical_Tales_for_Dreamers_%26_Thinkers.html
Circuit Sessions streaming at TeagueAlexy.com
Wisecracks & Roadside Flats podcast –
[1:30] Natalie introduces Teague and story #30
[2:20] Issue 4 of the magazine is in the store!
[3:00] Teague’s conversation with Natalie to catch up and talk shop
[4:30] Podcasting as a good avenue for storytelling & music
[5:45] The ability to change your name in show biz
[8:20] Standing out as an adult vs a kid
[9:00] How to find Teague
[10:00] Teague’s story: thoughts on his name
[10:45] How Teague came to be
[11:30] Being Teague in a New Jersey school
[12:12] Teague’s name announced on the PA for the first time
[13:30] “I want to have something to say. I don’t just wanna be up there singing for the sound of my own voice.”
[15:00] Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank
[16:25] What Teague likes about playing guitar
[17:15] Songwriting process
[19:10] How to support us
[20:20] Teague: “Don’t Go”
READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
My name is [Taig Alexi [00:00:15], but it wasn’t always my name. I was born in San Francisco, and I stayed in the hospital for about 10 days. When I came home, I was still baby boy, Alexi. A short time after that I was given the name, Taig, which is an Irish name meaning, poet. I moved to New Jersey after I was born, and grew up there.
My dad found the name Taig, in a name book, and my mom is 100% Irish. Both of her parents were born in Ireland, so they decided on the name Taig, and my mom is a writer, and my dad is a painter. They like the idea of putting me on the path to be a poet. The Irish pronunciation of my name is Taig that’s my understanding. My Irish grandma and her sister call me Taig, and then an Irish priest told us the correct pronunciation of the name is Taig. Neither of those pronunciations is what I was called when I was a kid. It ended up being Taig, because of New Jersey Dialect.
When I was going to school, the first day of class would always start out with my last name being Alexi with an a. I was always the first kid called upon. The teacher would always botch my name. It always felt to me, like it was the way that the teacher would bond with the class in the way that the class would bond with each other, as having a collective laugh, over the butchering of my name.
My name was problematic as a kid. I didn’t like my name. I didn’t understand it and I wish it was Tom Alexander, instead of Taig Alexi. It just would have been a little easier. When I was, I don’t know, 10, or 12, somewhere in there, I played this big basketball game. You know, big county basketball tournament. You know, it was a big deal to me at the time. It was the first time that I was ever gonna have my name announced on the loud PA. So there we are at the game and my big moment’s coming up, and they’re like, “Shooting guard, number nine. Taig Alexi.” I’m so used to my name being butchered, I’d just run out onto the court, but the other kids on my team are hollering over at the PA announcer. The whole time he’s in the mic like, “What? What? Taig? Teeg? What?” And you know, my childhood is filled with moments like that.
So when I moved away, I started introducing myself as Teeg. It took some years, but eventually my mom even started calling me Teeg, which still sounds funny to me, to this day.
I was always writing. I always made the connection between writing and playing music. Maybe not my two favorite things growing up, but two things I thought that I was good at. I always thought, if I was gonna play music, you know, people take their time to listen to it, I wanted to have something to say, something of some kind of intrigue, or philosophical value, or some kind of connection to make with whoever’s listening, because … I value people’s time, and I wanna have something to say. I don’t wanna just be up there singing for the sound of my own voice.
When I think of poetry, I think of English guys in the 16th century, you know reciting poetry. Being a poet in modern times to me, I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how you become a poet. It never seemed like a clear, distinct path for me. I love writing. I feel like it’s an instinctual thing for me to do. I have notebooks and notebooks full of different little blurbs and writings, and ideas and sketches, and thoughts.
I didn’t start playing the guitar until I was 21. It satisfied the cravings of creating my own music. I also saw it as the medium that I wanted to get my words across with. It puts a listener in a better position to hear you. They might not understand what you say the first time, or the second time, or third time. Sometimes you hear a song and it’s the hundredth time you hear it, and you get it. You get what they’re trying to say, and you understand.
I guess I’m a songwriter, but I consider myself Taig. You know, sometimes you write things that are really desperate, or emotional, and there’s almost like a panic to what you’re trying to say. If you can learn to play music that is a little bit desperate, and out of control, and you know, like a runaway train, then that can be the perfect place to put those type of thoughts. You have to learn how to play music like that, in order to have that option.
In 2005, my brother Ian and I, started a band called, Hobo Nephew’s of Uncle Frank, who wanted to started a band. It was focused on playing roots music. Just a combination of all the different music styles from this country that people have been listening to, since before we were born. We started playing roots music the best we could, and we’d travel around, and travel to the south, and really try to prove ourselves in the heartland of the blues, and to me that was the only way to do it. You can sit on YouTube, and learn blues licks till your fingers falls off, but …
For me, I really wanted to travel around and really imbed it in myself, and that really brought everything … I don’t want to say full circle, cause the circle’s not complete, but it grounded everything else doing on guitar and you know, gave me a base to always go back to. Be nice if I could figure out how to make enough different kinds of music to cover all the different types of things I’m talking about. If you’re playing guitar in the living room environment or something. You can really get across things that are very intimate, or personal. It works really well like that, but it might not work singing over a big band, or a big production. You know that you lose some of that intimacy of the words.
What I really like about playing guitar is … You can walk into a room and really create the atmosphere, the vibe that you want to create. You know, if I’m having an emotional day, or a troubled day, or I’m pissed off about something in the world, I try and include that a little bit sometimes. Other times, maybe the room, or just people need a certain thing, and I’ll try to provide that. Sometimes bad things happen in the world. You know, what if you’re playing music on September 11th, 2001. You know, you have a gig that night. That’s the kind of thing you want to be able to change what you do to fit the atmosphere a little bit. That’s what I like about playing guitar. The more you master the instrument, it gives you a wide range of places you can go, just in an atmospheric sense.
I don’t really have a certain way to write, as far as music first, or words first. I try and be open minded enough, where it can work either way. Sometimes I’ll write the words all at once, with a guitar in my hand. Sometimes my song will be composed of stuff that’s pulled out of my notebooks from three years of notebooks that have been in my pocket with various little ideas. Then, you go back through ’em and you know, you find some kind of common thread.
Now I’m absolutely comfortable with my name. I understand I wasn’t supposed to be Tom Alexander. I was born Taig Alexi, an original name, an original idea, an original life. I’m an observer, and a writer, and a friend to all. All the struggles I went through as a kid with my name were part of developing who I am. I’m supposed to go around and sing to poor people on street corners and to rich people in mansions on some days, and deal with all different kinds of people and it all is this constant replenishing of material for me. You know, I gain more wisdom as a writer, through all my experiences of traveling and playing music.
When you play music, music tends to find you, as much as you find music. The same with anything to pursue. You pursue it, and if it pursues you in return, you know you’re doing the right thing. •