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Step into Telehorn’s Whimsical Garden

Montreal songwriter Jacob Vanderham takes flight on “The Overgrown.”

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Photo by Xavier Cyr

An ancient rose bush symbolizes the beauty of space and time, while wild garlic, lilac trees, and grape vines are a sharp reminder that everything is temporary. This sentence may sound like it was plucked out of a Robert Frost poem, but it is also the thematic link found within Telehorn’s latest single, “The Overgrown.”

Inspired by the backyard garden in Telehorn’s (the musical alias of Jacob Vanderham) Montreal flat, the song is also somewhat of a tribute to the garden’s caretakers who have been tending to it over the years.

The music video features Vanderham playing his keyboard in a low-lit apartment while a mysterious older woman watches and nurtures the growing plant life. Feeling a bit like a piece of cinematic magical realism, the track is a chill and funky piece of indie pop, but the real money has to be the gorgeous vocal harmonies between each verse.

We spoke to Vanderham about the new single, writing music for dance pieces, and leaving his DJ career behind to become a singer-songwriter. 

Hi Jacob. So who is the mysterious woman in the video and what does she represent, thematically? 

The mysterious woman in the video is one of the real-life caretakers of the garden, Nathalie Derome, a legendary Quebecois performance artist and my former upstairs neighbour. She was reluctant at first to speak to me when I first moved in. It probably didn’t help that I introduced myself with the cursed Montreal “Bonjour hi,” but it didn’t take us long to connect as she passed on tips and tricks about the garden and shared with me some of the kooky happenings that took place there over the years. 

One such event involved our 80-year-old neighbour kissing the garden gate in a failed attempt to woo her. Eventually, she moved away, but we’ve stayed close as I now teach her singing and have composed music for her upcoming theatre show Le Passage Secret, which will tour Quebec this summer. I was excited to ask her to be a part of the video and to play to herself, dreamily tending to the midnight greens.

Can you talk about the shoot day of “The Overgrown” and the process? Is that your apartment? 

We shot the music video one day and night at director Jasen Loughlin’s house, not far from my place in Little Italy. Visually, Jasen was curious to play with the strong contrasting elements between light, shadows, and age. I didn’t want to project some kind of narrative onto the song, but rather, let the lyrics speak for themselves and allow the audience’s imaginations to run wild. It was a really beautiful summer evening and the team I was able to pull together vibed super well. It felt like a house party between a bunch of close friends with really nice, really expensive cameras. Sadly, Jasen’s cat Cutie Pie was spooked at some point in the night and ran away. We looked for her for the next three days. Thankfully she was eventually spotted under the stairs of a nearby depanneur and she is now back home safe and sound.

You originally wanted to make music for dancefloors, not necessarily become a singer-songwriter. Can you talk about that transition?

Yes, when I decided to pause my acting career and move to Berlin I was hell-bent on honing my chops as a DJ and producing electronic music. I didn’t have any prior exposure to club culture or electronic music but I just felt drawn to it for some reason. I only knew one person in Berlin and that was DJ/producer NYMA. I ended up living with him and during that time he let me play around in his home studio, showing me the ropes of basic audio production and working with electronic instruments. But the more I played around the more I found myself recording little lyrical ideas that started to look like songs. He encouraged me to follow this and eventually it led to my first-ever single release under the alias Sheryl, called “Summer Kitchen” and released on NYMA’s It’s All In You label. My songwriting took off from that moment on and I went on to produce Telehorn’s debut EP afterwards. All that said, I still have an itch to scratch with dance music and I’m excited to explore that in the next era of Telehorn.

Where does the name Telehorn come from?

When I started to think about releasing music, I didn’t want to release it under my given name. I was sitting at the breakfast table with my partner in Berlin and they just said “What about Telehorn?” They made it up on the spot and it felt right, like some kind of vintage device that has a nostalgic appeal but also no real purpose.

I know you also write scores for ballet and dance pieces. How did you fall into that and can you talk about the upcoming project?

After I released Telehorn’s first single, “Get to Me,” in 2021, Alyssa Martin, the artistic director and choreographer of Rock Bottom Movement, heard the song, loved the vibe, and reached out to see if I’d like to score her next dance work, DINO. It was a first for both of us, creating music and dance in tandem. Since then, we’ve gone on to create three full-length works together. At the moment we’re developing a piece called Big Time Miss, a dark, twisted, and beautiful show that asks the question: What do we need to sacrifice in order to move on? I’ve had the pleasure of co-creating the score with Mohawk singer-songwriter and producer Semiah Smith. The music is unlike anything either of us have made before – a whacky blend of cinema horror, modern classical, and dark rave?! The show will have a soft premiere in Halifax this summer and then its world premiere in Toronto with Fall For Dance North.


What can you tell us about the upcoming album The Gravity Of See You Later. I love the name by the way. It’s very evocative of something I can’t put my finger on.

The Gravity Of See You Later … the title is drawn from the lyrics of the song “Castles” on the record. It’s about that feeling you have with someone when you say “See you later,” but it’s not the same as goodbye. It’s not as heavy. There’s some kind of promise to it. There’s a lingering force. I left Berlin for a mix of reasons, but the choice wasn’t easy, and I left a loving relationship behind as well. I’ve felt the gravity of a big see you later between me and my partner ever since.

The big grab of this song for me is those amazing harmonies that almost channel a bit of the 70s, like Crosby, Stills & Nash. Where did these come from?

Crosby Stills and Nash is definitely a reference that comes to mind when I listen back to these vocals, but it wasn’t an intentional choice, as I write my vocal arrangements on the fly. That’s just where my voice took me that particular day. Singing them live, I’m excited to see how that plays out in band rehearsal next week. We’re preparing for our first-ever live Telehorn concert on May 30 at Casa Del Popolo. I have high hopes for the band’s CSN-channeling abilities.

“The Overgrown,” has many references to nature, so going off of that, if you could be any animal, what would you choose and why? 

Any animal? I think I’d like to be a raven so I can play tricks on the forest around me and fly for the fun of it. Birds must fly for the fun of it, right?