“I have more questions than answers at this point, and I have learned to relish the beauty and adventure inherent in living in that space.”
— Teressa Mahoney
Deep calls to deep…
Singer-songwriter Teressa Mahoney had something of an existential crisis while sitting on the couch one day, seven years ago. At the time, her mom had generously offered to take the kids, and, as Teressa sat there, she just didn’t know what to do with her day. It seemed like her whole life was spent taking care of other people.
Since then, Teressa has figured it out: making music is her purpose. The Parker, Colorado-based artist has stepped forward as a prolific and enlightened musician. She has issued two full-length albums and four singles of elegantly emotive folk-pop. For her efforts, Teressa has garnered rave reviews and feature story articles in such esteemed music outlets as New Release Today, UTR Media, The Most Creative Thing, CCM Magazine, Indie Music Spotlight, and Louder Than The Music, among other online publications. In addition to her work as a musician and a mother of four, Teressa actively supports philanthropic initiatives, including the International Justice Mission, an organization committed to ending human slavery. Teressa’s latest full-length album, Disillusions, out August 2021, features songs that question the very fundamentals of her life.
“This album is my bravest musical expression,” she reveals. “In the last five years, I’ve learned some powerful lessons. I was raised with particular convictions, but I’ve looked outside that bubble and seen how other people are affected by that thinking. I felt like I was betraying people staying with those beliefs, so I began questioning everything. If all of that was not truth, then what is truth? This album is about that process.”
Teressa’s story is one of resilience and creative rebirth. She decided at the age of 4 that she wanted to be a singer, and sang in church, high school youth group bands, and she won local and regional voice competitions. Teressa later moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of being a singer. At 21, she entered a singing competition, and when she wasn’t even called back, she took it as a sign from the Universe to move on from music. Teressa then returned to Colorado, got married, had a family, and put music on hold. Personal tragedy seven years ago led to her starting to learn how to play guitar, and Teressa began to explore her emotions and process her pain through writing songs. This was a formatively creative time for Teressa, and she took classes to develop her songwriting skills and deepen her creative expressions.
Her wisdom from her artistic and her personal journeys come together on Disillusions. The album thematically addresses empowerment, faith, and embodiment. Disillusions sonically recalls the 1990’s mix of thought-provoking and heartstring-pulling lyrics and slightly melancholy but ultra-catchy songcraft. The 8-song collection is a mix of the rustic and the ethereal, and pivots toward albums by Sinéad O'Connor, The Jayhawks, and Iron and Wine. Waterdeep’s Lori Chaffer produced Disillusions, and created lush soundscapes that bring forth the full expressive spectrum of Teressa’s courageously confessional songwriting.
Select album highlights include “Always You, “Good Good,” “Emma,” and “She.” “Always You” has a soaring emotionality and sparse production aesthetic that showcases Teressa’s vocal range and the purity of her songwriting. The lyrics here are evocative of gorgeous childhood memories, and beneath the nostalgic yearning is the kind of wrestling with faith that comes with life changes, pain, and adulthood. “My questions and doubts, and my wounds and feelings of betrayal led me to discard quite a few of the ideas I had about God,” Teressa says. She continues: “Many days I despaired of really being ok ever again. What gets me through a day like that is being outside. Outside, I am reminded of how God speaks through creation.”
A conceptual centerpiece of the album is the upbeat folk-pop song “Good Good,” which is lavished with gorgeous harmony vocal overlay, otherworldly atmospherics, and an invigorating groove. The backstory here is that Teressa attended a conference called “Evolving Faith” where speakers discussed the Bible, truth, and goodness in ways Teressa hadn’t experienced before. On the last day of the conference, there was a communion service, and Teressa had volunteered to hold extra wine for the ceremony. She recalls: “As I stood there, I watched the faces pass through the line. I saw people weeping desperately because, for the very first time, they had been invited to participate. My heart broke open at that moment.”
The fragile but heavy ballad, “Emma,” is about one of Teressa’s friends who was abused, and who later wrote a memoir about her painful childhood. The song opens with the chilling words: She said he hurt me with his hands/And all her colors turned to grey/She was too young to understand/And she loved him anyway. At the end of the song, many voices join in singing; this coming together metaphorically symbolizes a force of people speaking out on abuse and supporting the survivor.
One other powerful concept Teressa explores is embodiment. The idea here is how our bodies carry us around in this lifetime, but we often don’t respect them. “I’ve noticed how little we pay attention to our body cues, or we constantly point out things about our bodies we don’t like. We seldom celebrate, nurture, or listen to our bodies,” Teressa says. “She” explores this thematic thread. It opens with airy, echo-drenched vocals, plucks from a banjo, and slowly blossoms into a strikingly beautiful pop song. The lyrics here are body positive, and one powerful section is: I can hear her now she has so many things to say/Every curve carries her kindness/There's beauty in her tears, her strength, her smile, her gentle way/These things are timeless.
Making the album Disillusions, and processing its weighty realizations have been transformative for Teressa as a songwriter and beyond. She says: “I realized I should trust my inner voice both artistically and personally. This album taught me that I need to sit still and listen. Once I connect to what’s deeper inside of me, I can connect with others through my music and the way I live my life.”