The reign of the pathetic

Artist and musician Tess Poirier talks storytelling and self-acceptance

Few students at Mt. A have their fingers in so many art communities, and are so recognizable, as Tess Poirier. They strike an impressive (and immediately recognizable) figure: iconic black hair, accessories, an infectious friendliness and more often than not, carrying a film camera. But more than their welcoming familiarity, Poirier boasts an impressive resume of involvement in diverse forms of storytelling: music, art, theatre— this guy has got it all. 

“These days, I always just say I am an artist, but that means so many things,” Poirier shares. In their third year at Mt. A, this Cape Breton student originally studied music but switched to Fine Arts after their first year. Both remain passions in their life: their two original songs “shadow puppetsand “September” are available for streaming online, and anyone who sees Poirier’s artwork can feel the passion present in every brushstroke or mark.


“In terms of fine arts, I am really into painting and film photography, and drawing […] informs my painting and photography practice a lot.” They describe film photography as a practice in gratitude: to see the world and immortalize moments that would otherwise be gone.


“[Art] has always been with me, as far as I can remember—no one becomes sentient until they are like six,” they laugh, “I have always wanted to go to art school. Literally always—and it makes me feel so warm and fuzzy and happy that I wake up and I am like, ‘I have always dreamed of this, and it is happening.’ And it is just as great as I wanted it to be. I have never been disappointed once. If anything, it has exceeded my expectations.”


Poirier has an interest in portraiture and abstract work, which often “bleed into each other,” exploring themes of “childhood […] but also themes of identity, more specifically queer identity and all the complexities of that. […] Being alive. […] I just draw a lot from anything I need to be processing at the moment.”


Their music is equally varied; “I would put [my songs] in the indie-folk, indie-pop genre. That could evolve, I could find a completely new genre and be like, ‘I fit perfectly into that’, but I do not know if [that will] ever happen.” 


Their first song, “shadow puppets” was originally a poem written as a young teen, and was released as a song on Poirier’s Released on their twentieth birthday in April 2023. “It was about being a little lonely teen, and then it was about a breakup. […] “shadow puppets” is everything that happened.” “September”their second single, “is about looking back on everything that happened.”


““September” is about changing so much and still feeling the need to go back to things that are not working for you anymore because that is all you know […] you know things were so bad for you, and they hurt so bad, and they do not serve you anymore but you still want to go back to it.”


“If anything, [“September”] is about feeling pathetic. And being fine about it. […] A lot of people use the word pathetic in such a mean way. And I am perfectly fine with saying “September” is about feeling, and in a way being, pathetic about something. […] Fully accepting that you have changed so much and you are always going to think about it, and you still have to keep going.”


“I am always going to feel pathetic, and I am always going to write about it. And I do not care.” 


Personally, their taste is jack-of-all-trades: rock, folk, punk, rap, even some country influences: “I do not listen to country music a lot, but my music is somehow influenced by country music. There is something about being a queer person that makes making country folk music a little bit freeing.”


Tess played their first gig in February of last year at Ducky’s. They described this last year as a whirlwind of writing, producing, gigs, and overwhelming support from their community. “I did not expect anything of it, I really just wanted to write and produce and release a song just to be able to say I did it. […] To prove to myself I could and the world would not blow up.”


Poirier explains their surprise: “You never think you can make something that people connect to. Because you are not on television […] I feel separated because I am not well known. I am just a little guy. 


“I have never felt so confident in myself in my life,” they share. “[…] there is something so life-changing about opening up about your deepest, darkest feelings, and being so vulnerable, and putting that out for anyone to listen to. […] I did it, and I [even] got negative feedback, and nothing bad happened. I did it, and I am better for it.


They described their music journey as “anxiety exposure therapy”: “bad things can happen, and you will still be fine.”


Poirier is currently developing an EP with plans to release it in the summer. They have six songs in development, touching on themes of childhood, identity, breakups, religion—all disparate parts that make up the whole.


As for their future, “it makes me feel very happy to say, but I feel like I want to do exactly what I am doing now.” They envision a potential Masters degree in Fine Arts, maybe a professor—but plans might change. “I want to keep storytelling. Whatever that looks like.”

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