Local singer voices emotional turmoil of the past year

Téa Renee Ning LaFleur of Snellman joins a school friend from Maryland in a long-distance musical collaboration titled "Tell Me," now streaming online.

Joseph Nehring and Téa Renee Ning LaFleur sit in similar but distant locations to film the music video that accompanies their new song "Tell Me," released March 21 on all major streaming platforms. (Courtesy of Téa Renee Ning LaFleur, March 23, 2021)

One year after their college campus closed due to COVID-19, two music students collaborated long-distance to explore the feelings created by their separation from friends and classmates.

The results is a new song titled “Tell Me,” featuring lyrics and vocals by Téa Renee Ning LaFleur of Snellman and Bemidji, accompanied by pianist and composer Joseph Nehring.

The song was released Sunday, March 21 on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Tidal, Jango, YouTube and more. To see the video, visit

According to a media release, LaFleur, Nehring and their friends at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. were given one week to move out of the dorms and head home as COVID-19 caused a nationwide shutdown. As the friends said goodbye, the former dormitory neighbors had no idea that a year later, they would still be scattered across the world, attending their college classes online.

Exactly one year later, they released their musical collaboration online, expressing feelings of uncertainty and grief that they have experienced during the past year.


“This song was a way for us as musicians – as friends – to create a deliberate purpose to remain connected despite the distance. We got a bunch of old dormmates involved, whether as mixing engineers or for their feedback as peers,” said LaFleur, a songwriting major.

This long-distance collaboration was different from anything they had tried before, Nehring said. It involved sending recordings back and forth online, never able to work together in real time.

“It brought out the reality we face in our distance from one another. Not just in our music collaboration, but in our relationships too,” he said.

Nehring is a composer, pianist and contemporary writing and production major from Pasadena, Md.

The release describes “Tell Me” as a conversational piece with a stripped-down piano and vocal sound, intended to sound like a live recording.

“I wanted the piano to sound like it was part of the conversation, responding to the vocals,” Nehring said. “The last few bars, slowed down to just single notes, emphasizes a sort of fragility in the conversation itself.”

“We’ve all had to open ourselves to understanding our relationships more this year,” said LaFleur. “You can be right next to someone and feel miles away from them. I think we’ve all learned this year that communication is hard. We cannot read each other’s minds – whether we’re in the same building or miles apart – and that can leave us feeling vulnerable and alone.”

Her lyrics portray feelings of insecurity, not knowing where your relationship stands, yearning to have feelings reciprocated and fearing that you may become a burden.


“My voice in this song goes straight into those dark thoughts of loneliness even when you are right beside another human being you care about,” she said. “It’s saying I need to hear you say you are here for me, even though I don’t believe it myself, and in the meantime, I’ll just keep pretending everything is fine.”

LaFleur was born in Minneapolis and spent much of her childhood abroad, living in Beijing, China and Wenatchee, Wash. before joining her grandparents Terry and Judy LaFleur on their northern Minnesota homestead. She has been writing and performing original songs since age 12, and has won many awards and competitions in classical opera and music theater. She has held multiple concerts in Bemidji and Park Rapids, performing jazz standards and her original songs.

While “Tell Me” is their first single release publicly, LaFleur and Nehring plan to work on an album together this summer in Boston after getting vaccinated.

Related Topics: MUSIC
What To Read Next
The concert series continues Feb. 10 with Davina & The Vagabonds.
The Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning presents a different program each Tuesday from Feb. 28 to April 18.
The royal couple was crowned during a school assembly on Jan. 30, followed by more spirit week festivities.
Deadline for submissions is March 29.