By Lauren Donnelly
VANCOUVER – With their new album Phases scheduled for a March release, Vancouver’s Dear Rouge are busy people. For the pop rock duo, comprised of Drew and Danielle McTaggart, the upswing in their career is more than just a phase.
Playing SXSW and headlining a pre-Grammy Showcase in New York City this month, Dear Rouge is getting used to multitasking. Over the telephone from the backseat of a Toronto Uber, McTaggart explains that sometimes, you have to move to get creative.
“We just moved back to Vancouver four months ago, and it feels good,” she says. “It’s just comfortable. We moved to New York for a year because we wanted to get uncomfortable [in order] to have new experiences to draw from for songwriting.”
And write they did. Phases explores life’s ups and downs. “We really took the time to dive into our stories with this one,” says McTaggart. “There are some high highs and some low lows on this album.”
The highs for this duo include a 2016 Juno Award, and the lows are more personal; McTaggart describes losing her cousin to cancer as jarring. Leaving Vancouver allowed the band to write with other artists and to access New York’s signature grit.
“The writing process was experimental for us,” she says. “Drew and I never really involved anybody else, so learning to be free was really great.”
And opening up to outside perspectives had a surprising effect. “We kind of just came back to the fact that we really like writing music together, and in some ways, that’s how you get the best out of yourself – going internal, but taking what you’ve learned from other artists.”
Now that they’ve mined their creative depths, Dear Rouge hope to make waves in the U.S. market. McTaggart says the support of Canadian creative growth initiatives, like the now-defunct PEAK Performance Project and the recently stifled MuchFact funding, were instrumental in launching Dear Rouge to their place among Canada’s strongest exports.
“After the PEAK, we realized there was so much support for artistry in this country, and it blew my mind – it’s just amazing,” she says. “I don’t ever want to feel like I’m entitled to that, but I also feel that without it, we wouldn’t be where we are. It should keep going. I hope they find ways to keep inspiring artists and helping them grow, because it’s good for everybody. It’s a win-win.”
Vancouverites will be able to welcome Dear Rouge home at summer festivals yet to be announced. Until then, McTaggart is missing the mountains, the ocean and – as a self-described “weird bird lady” – the bald eagles.
Before she hangs up, she has a question about home.
“Is it nice there?” she asks. “I hate it when it’s dreary. But then the sun comes out, and you think, ‘This is the best place in the world.’”
Dear Rouge’s latest album Phases is available early March.Dear Rouge