Sara Quin Talks Tegan & Sara Series and Christmases With Clea DuVall (Exclusive)

Tegan and Sara photographed by Trevor Brady
Trevor Brady

The singer opens up about adapting her memoir for TV and contributing a Christmas single to the 'Happiest Season' soundtrack.

For Sara Quin, one-half of the pop rock duo Tegan and Sara, 2020 has been an unexpected year, thanks in large part to the coronavirus pandemic, which sidelined many projects and plans since March. But as the year comes to an end, there’s surprisingly plenty to cheer about. The group’s New York Times best-selling memoir, High School, is now available on paperback one year after its initial release and is being developed by Amazon’s IMDbTV into a comedy series. 

Additionally, the duo contributed an original song to the soundtrack of their longtime friend Clea DuVall’s newest film, Happiest Season, which is now streaming on Hulu. While speaking with ET by phone earlier this month, Quin revealed why they wanted to be part of the holiday soundtrack and pen their first-ever Christmas single, “Make You Mine This Season.”

“This was a very unique situation in that Clea and I had actually worked on music for her first independent film. She had asked me to do the score and it was a learning experience for both of us,” Quin says, adding that not long after she saw early drafts of the script for Happiest Season she asked if they could be involved in some way. “Clea was like, ‘What you can do is you can write a Christmas song.’”

When Quin prodded her friend for more details and musical references, DuVall said, “I just want it to be like Mariah Carey’s Christmas song.” No pressure, right? But she and her sister were up for the challenge and got to work on a track that they thought matched the vibe of the movie, which tells the story of Abby (Kristen Stewart) joining her girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), at home for Christmas only to learn that she’s not out to her family. “We wanted there to be a bit of melancholy feeling to the verses but then we wanted something really lighthearted and fun and explosive for the choruses,” Quin says. 

And when it comes to the film itself, Quin couldn’t be more happy that it exists. “I think the film is great and I’m so excited that for gay people, we’re finally starting to get things for ourselves,” she says, adding that “because we’ve spent so many Christmases with Clea, there’s something that feels really wonderful and touching about the whole experience.” Not only has DuVall spent time with Quin and her family during the holidays, but she’s ridden in horse-drawn carriages down the middle of Main Street in Palm Springs and participated in White Elephant gift exchanges on Christmas morning.

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Quin adds, “She’s made something that addresses the gaps in our Christmas experience,” which is something DuVall was trying to achieve. Growing up as a gay kid she never saw herself represented in holiday movies, despite being such a fan of the ever-growing canon of Christmas classics. “I kind of thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I just make one of those movies then?’” the director says, adding, “This is such a personal story and I really wanted people to understand what it meant and the significance of it.”

In addition to contributing to the soundtrack for Happiest Season, Quin and her sister are teaming up with DuVall on an adaptation of High School, which recounts both Tegan and Sara’s formative adolescent years and their experiences with alcohol, drugs, friendship, love and music during the time. Announced in late October, the series is being described as a coming-of-age comedy “about finding your own identity” set against “a backdrop of Nineties grunge and rave culture.” DuVall has been tapped to write and direct the pilot. 

“After she read the book, she called us and said, ‘Look, I would be honored and humbled if you would let me try to take this material and turn it into a televisions show. I feel like I relate to it so much and I can see it from the first page, like, what it would look like on screen,’” Quin recalls DuVall saying to them about a year ago, when they were busy with a new album, touring and promoting the initial release of their memoir.

Trevor Brady

But as soon as the pandemic hit, they found they had time to focus on developing the show and pitching it to networks. While it’s a comedy at heart, Quin says what they wanted to make clear is that this is not meant to be a goofy series about sisters who fight over clothes. “Our story is about identity and it is about depression and it is about drugs and alcohol and it is about sex and it is about homophobia. And it is about the transcendental nature of music and finding something you love and how that allows you to be connected to yourself,” she explains, adding that the series will shoot in Calgary, where they grew up.

Admittedly, there’s a lot of steps between the announcement and getting the pilot shot, but Quin is excited about what’s to come from the experience as well as tackling new writing and TV projects that they hope to announce soon.

But as for new music, which they teased on Twitter while sharing “Make You Mine This Season” with fans, that seems less likely, especially amid the pandemic. “I don’t want to put a record out right now and not be able to tour,” Quin says, adding that the truth is they’re actually busier than ever. “Musically, I sort of wander past the guitar every once in a while and I’ll be like, ‘Just be patient. I will be back. I am coming back.’”