ADD TO QUEUE
Owen Teague Has Plenty of Reasons to Be Excited for the Year to Come
This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral.
In this edition, we speak with the actor Owen Teague, who next year is poised to break out as Harold Lauder in the highly anticipated CBS All Access adaptation of Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic epic The Stand. We won’t spoil the character’s arc here, but given that the 22-year-old actor made a playlist filled with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson in order to get inspired, it’s a safe bet to say things take a dark turn. But when he’s not preparing to get into character, Teague has more diverse musical tastes, from the works of Nick Cave to the soundtracks of some iconic films. It makes sense, given that the Florida-native was raised by two musicians, and, when he isn’t acting, dabbles in music himself. While he was at home hanging out in his Calvins, we caught up with Teague to discuss getting inside his character’s head through music, his go-to karaoke song, and why he’s hopeful for the year to come.
JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: Let’s start with The Stand. What was your audition process like for it?
OWEN TEAGUE: I sent in a tape. I was really excited because I read the book when I was 13, and I kind of grew up with Stephen King. He was one of my favorite authors. So when I got this audition, I was really, really excited about it. I sent a tape and then Josh Boone and I talked on the phone. I went and did a read with Odessa [Young] and then just buried my nose in the book for the next month and a half until we started shooting.
UKIOMOGBE: How does this role differ from others you’ve played in the past?
TEAGUE: I’ve played some really dark people, but there was the most shame with Harold. The way that I felt, even now watching the show, brings up some weird feelings. He’s got a lot of shame about himself and about how he acts and looks, and his place in the world. A lot of insecurity and pain that comes out as anger. So finding that and making that feel real was challenging both just in terms of playing it and in terms of feeling like that. I also played another Stephen King character in It, but to me, that was a looser adaptation of the character. They weren’t exactly going straight from the book with that character. But Harold, I really felt I wanted to get him right and play the version that I read in the book, because he’s such a full and realized character and he’s so interesting. I wanted to do that on screen. I think I felt more pressure. But to do what I read and bring the book to life accurately [is something] which I hadn’t experienced before.
UKIOMOGBE: I saw the playlist you made for your character and it’s very interesting how you have Nine Inch Nails in addition to classical music. Walk me through how those relate to Harold’s character.
TEAGUE: The music that I found he might listen to were those kind of weird novelty songs. One of the first songs on there is “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” [by Napoleon XIV]. And there’s some Tom Lehrer and Perry Como— those kind of weird, old-sounding, or in the case of Perry Como actually ’50s, strange ditties. Harold has a really twisted sense of humor and I think he’s also kind of a snob. So he listens to a lot of opera and this kind of antiquated, symphonic, epic, classical music. He starts out with these more silly, novelty songs and then as he goes down this path through the show, he starts to see his place in the post-plague world and that’s when the classical music starts to come in. With the Nine Inch Nails and the Marilyn Manson stuff, there was a thematic similarity between those songs and it’s just angry music. I know he would kind of get into it.
UKIOMOGBE: Speaking of songs, what’s the last one that you listened to?
TEAGUE: I think it was a Townes Van Zandt song called “Waiting Around To Die.” It’s very uplifting. [Laughs]
UKIOMOGBE: Do you remember what your first concert was?
TEAGUE: I played classical violin as a kid, from the time that I was three until 15. I remember my parents, we would go to concerts. I grew up in Florida and we had this theater nearby. So my violin teacher would be like, “You should go see,” whoever. My parents are ex-musicians, as well. My mom was a jazz singer for a long time. I think the earliest concert I went to was Yo-Yo Ma playing cello. I didn’t go to an actual rock concert until I was probably 16 or 17.
UKIOMOGBE: Besides acting, what’s your favorite way to express yourself creatively? Is it playing music?
TEAGUE: Yeah, I think it is. At least right now. It depends on the month. I go through periods where I’ll take a bunch of photographs or write a bunch, but since the pandemic started, it’s basically been just music. Probably because that’s a really good thing to do when you’re alone in your house.
UKIOMOGBE: If you could choose any musician to see live, as soon as the pandemic is over, who would it be?
TEAGUE: Nick Cave. I’ve never seen him live, and I’ve always wanted to.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?
TEAGUE: Lord of the Rings.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a song that always puts you in a good mood, without fail?
TEAGUE: Um, no. I don’t. A lot of the time, if I’m not in the mood for a kind of music or a certain song and I listen to it, I’ll just be really like, “No, this is wrong. I can’t be doing this right now.” Even if it’s a song that I love. But there’s never a song that I’m like, “I could listen to that, anytime.”
UKIOMOGBE: If you were to have dinner with four artists, living or dead, who would they be?
TEAGUE: Leonard Cohen. I would love to meet Trent Reznor. Does William Shakespeare count? I mean, he doesn’t make music, but he’s still an artist. He did write a few songs, I guess. Sonnets count.
UKIOMOGBE: They do.
TEAGUE: I get one more. Francis Bacon. Weird party, but hopefully fun.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s your go-to breakup song?
TEAGUE: I don’t know that I have a go-to breakup song. It’d probably be something by Nick Cave.
UKIOMOGBE: What song would you use to describe yourself?
TEAGUE: There’s a song called “Familiarity” by The Punch Brothers and I don’t know if the lyrics are how I would describe myself, but the song itself is a pretty good reflection. Just, the structure of it and the instruments and just the sound. Yeah, go with that one. That’s a great song.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a favorite karaoke song?
TEAGUE: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. I’m a terrible singer and I make people cry when I sing it, but I will readily sing it.
UKIOMOGBE: What is one song that if you could, you would play for the entire world?
TEAGUE: “Mojo Pin” by Jeff Buckley.
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have a song that makes you hopeful?
TEAGUE: “Lady May” by Tyler Childers. It’s like folk country. I really don’t like most country, but with this guy Tyler Childers, it’s just him, a guitar, a violinist, and a bassist. He’s really authentic and writes beautiful songs.
UKIOMOGBE: What song would you use to describe 2020?
TEAGUE: I can definitely pull that off the Harold Lauder playlist. There’s a composition, it might just be called “Halloween,” but it’s not the soundtrack to the movie. It’s this violin piece that’s bizarre. It sounds like he’s playing it backwards. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s terrifying.
UKIOMOGBE: That makes sense for this year.
TEAGUE: Yeah, his name is Krzysztof Penderecki. He did a lot of The Shining soundtrack. It sounds like complete chaos. He’ll use the instruments in completely unconventional ways and the music is atonal. There’s no exact rhythm. It’s bizarre. And it’s very, very scary. But I feel like that’s been this year. Nothing really makes any sense, and it’s all terribly disturbing.
UKIOMOGBE: Leaving this year behind and looking into next year, what are you most looking forward to in 2021? What are you most hopeful for?
TEAGUE: A vaccine. Having a new president. That’s going to be great. Hopefully, being able to be around people again and not be scared about it. And hopefully some more compassion and people acting less insane. Maybe some compromise. Some progress. That’s what I’m excited and hopeful about.
UKIOMOGBE: What did you learn about yourself this year that you hope to carry with you into the next one?
TEAGUE: That maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about how people see me or what I think I should be doing. That maybe I should do what I believe in and try to be as good a human being as I can. Do what is actually good. I mean, philosophically speaking, who knows what that means? But having a good life matters and means something.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s the first thing you’re going to do, once it’s safe to do so?
TEAGUE: This is sort of mundane, but I really just want to go to a restaurant. I do miss that. Just going to see friends. That’s what I’d like to do. I’m going to go home and see my family the minute it’s safe. I’m excited to do that.
UKIOMOGBE: What does the new year look like for you, in terms of upcoming projects?
TEAGUE: I’m excited to see what people think of The Stand and think of Harold. I’m nervous, as always, but we worked really hard on that show. I’m excited to see what people think of that.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s one song that you hope will soundtrack 2021?
TEAGUE: So this is from the soundtrack to A River Runs Through It. It’s by Mark Isham and it’s called “In the Half-Light of the Canyon.” There are no words. It’s just instrumental. But, if 2021 could be like that, that’d be great. It’s calm, but it’s really sort of an awe-inspiring song. It’s very beautiful.
Listen to Owen Teague’s “Add To Queue” playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.