“I was in a long-distance relationship with music for many years,” jokes singer-songwriter Vienna Teng. Long-distance, perhaps, but long-running. In 2002, Vienna released her debut album Waking Hour, landing her on NPR’s Weekend Edition, The Late Show with David Letterman, and the top of Amazon’s music charts. Four more albums followed, most recently Aims in 2013, as well as the music for The Fourth Messenger by playwright Tanya Shaffer. Together with Vienna’s captivating live performances and thoughtful online presence, her work has built a devoted following across generations and continents.
Still, other pursuits have always beckoned. Vienna returned to academia in 2010 to study environmental sustainability, which led to a new career working on climate change, energy and waste issues. She also became a bonus parent to her partner’s two kids, and in early 2020 welcomed a newborn addition to the family – just in time for pandemic lockdown.
“I learned a lot about what it means to hold two truths in your head at the same time, as the saying goes,” Vienna says of that period. Out of that idea emerged some of the most intricate and impassioned songwriting she’s ever done: a pair of songs called “We’ve Got You,” about leading and leaning on one’s community. When she performs it on stage – solo, live-looping her voice, keyboards and percussion to layer the two songs together – the audience response is electric.
“We’ve Got You” also marks a new chapter of merging her musical and environmental vocations. In 2022, she launched a “music x climate action” community on Patreon, combining monthly livestream shows with Zoom climate action sessions, and hosting workshops between concerts that participants have described as “life-changing,” “rocket fuel,” and “the perfect antidote to despair.”
The long-distance phase is over. Now it’s time for communion – and moving forward.