In June 2021, local musician TALK released his debut single, “Run Away To Mars.” The song garnered attention and airplay, appearing on a few Canadian charts. It was followed by “Train” a month later, then “Hollywood” in October, premiering right before TALK dropped his first EP in November, an eclectic set of songs that showcased his range and talent, from folk singalongs to gritty rock manifestos. However, the follow-up singles failed to build on the momentum of his debut, and the EP seemed to be fading from sight.
Then, over a year since its release, “Run Away To Mars” took on a life of its own. Through continuous engagement on social media, TALK’s fanbase started to grow worldwide. Then the streams spiked. One country after another, “Mars” started popping up and dominating viral charts. By mid-August, it was at or near #1 on Spotify’s Viral charts for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, among others. A week later, it was #1 on the U.S. Viral chart and broke through in Germany. It’s now sitting at #5 on the Global Viral chart, has cracked the 13 million stream mark, and is still rising fast. For reference, in the ten days since our chat, it’s amassed 4.5 million more streams and shows no sign of slowing down.
TALK’s streaming numbers have cemented him on the “most played” daily playlists for Norway, Sweden, and here at home, with almost half a million streams in the past week in Canada. So, what’s it like to have your debut go viral 14 months after you released it? We caught up with TALK to, well, talk amid his meteoric rise.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Apt613: You released “Run Away to Mars” over a year ago, and it had a bit of traction in Canada. But now all of a sudden, it’s viral EVERYWHERE. What’s been going on that caught everybody’s attention?
TALK: So “Mars” dropped in June 2021, and I knew it was a good song. I feel like when I make music, I send it around to a lot of my close friends, and they’re like mirrors. They’ll give me feedback on it, and if everyone that I send it to likes it, well, then it’s probably pretty good. And it was overwhelming. I sent it to my managers and team, and everyone loved it. So that was the first song we went with because I knew it would get attention, and it was my first release out.
We got excited, and we were like, “Okay, we’re on a roll. Time for the next one.” And we moved a little bit too fast, I think, and pulled the attention away from “Mars” too quickly. I think we all knew right away that that was the case. But we just decided to keep going with the EP.
After releasing all those songs, I got the opportunity to go to the U.S. and work with a bunch of new people that hadn’t heard “Mars,” and they were really excited. And I just knew that the song hadn’t had its moment. So, I started posting more on TikTok and getting more followers. And when I had first shown “Mars” on TikTok, I maybe had 60,000 followers, but now I had over 250,000, and so I felt like it was the right time to try again and give the song the moment it deserved.
I started posting some of the stuff that I had never posted that we had filmed, and it started very slow, and we saw a small increase, and then every day, we were watching the current listings on Spotify. Then all of a sudden, three or four videos went super viral, and we’ve seen pretty insane growth over the past 72 hours.
And now you’re topping charts in places like Finland and New Zealand. How does that sink in, that it’s catching on in these far-off places that, I’m assuming, you’ve never toured?
I love learning about cultures and languages and all sorts of stuff. But right now, the only thing in my head is I have to keep pushing and do every tiny thing I can to keep this momentum up. So, I don’t think I’ve really sat back and paid attention. I see the charts, and it feels really good, but even just now, sitting back and thinking about it, it’s pretty crazy. I saw a couple of covers from Finnish people—these people in a place I’ve never been are singing this song that I wrote in my parents’ basement two years ago. And it seems like every day there’s something that blows your mind. We started getting on all these charts, and we were like, “Holy crap, we’re on these charts!” And then it was like, “Holy crap, we’re number one on all these charts!” And then today, we saw we were number two on the U.S. chart. Like, I’m in the company of bands I love and artists I love and ahead of artists I love.
Speaking of striking while the iron’s hot, your cover of “How to Save a Life” also showed up on Grey’s Anatomy.
Yes. I had written a song with a writer in Los Angeles, and that guy’s manager is the music supervisor for the show. He had been a fan of mine since the release of “Mars,” so I didn’t even know any of this at the time, but someone put my name forward for it, and one day I just went in and made a version of it in Toronto. And I had a studio here and sent it in, and they loved it, so we just went with it.
Given how well 2022 is going, can we expect a full album soon?
It’s already been worked on. There are a bunch of songs that have started, and I’m heading back to Los Angeles next week to finish them over the next couple of months.