Featured in any and all Québec media outlets for months on end, Alex Nevsky can say one thing unpretentiously: the timing couldn’t be better to release Nos Eldorados, an album that goes well beyond the pop compromise for which he seemed destined.
Nevsky’s life changed completely after the release of Himalaya mon amour during the summer of 2013: an impressive harvest of awards et the 2014 ADISQ Gala, radio hit upon radio hit, several SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards, and an audience of two million viewers who watch him every week on La Voix Junior. “Let’s just say that it’s much more difficult to act like an idiot on the street,” says Nevsky. “I allow myself to anyways, because I can’t forget to live my life throughout all of this. I don’t want to go ‘all-in’ in this game.”
Without being entirely tainted by the songwriter’s meteoric rise, this third album does nonetheless touch upon many mirages in life. Where Leloup had his dome, an illusory crystal sphere that was a refuge for “time’s desperadoes,” Nevsky has his Eldorados, utopic havens that are both feared and desired.
“The Eldorado is my dream country, a fantastic place where two lovers live,” he says. “Those are songs that I write when I’m in love. The basic romantic emotion is very strong and I really get a kick out of it,” adds the 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who admits to having lived through three different relationships during his latest creative phase.
“But the Eldorado is also a utopia, a mirage,” he says. “Take ‘L’enfer c’est les autres’ (‘Hell is Other People’), for example. In it, I sing about my radio-hit inflated ego. I’m turning the mirror on myself and, looking at myself, I realize that I, too, can be mediocre and ugly. It’s very important to me to reveal that side of me, but I didn’t want to do a whole album about that. That would’ve been way too depressing!”
“I thought it was the worst time ever to not try different things. It would’ve been pathetic if I’d stayed in the comfort zone of the previous record.”
Not quite depressed, Nevsky did nonetheless live through very intense periods of self-doubt during the recording of his third album. Songs such as “Le cœur assez gros” (“A Heart so Stout”), “La beauté” (“Beauty”), and especially “Réveille l’enfant qui dort” (“Awake the Sleeping Child”), a duo with rapper Koriass, all took a long time to fully bloom.
“I was in the studio for seven months. . . It’s ridiculous!” says Nevsky. “Anyway, it’s always like that. I’m unable to finish a song in one go! ‘Réveille l’enfant,’ for example, I started writing in February on my phone. When we were in the studio, we twisted it, deconstructed it… Nothing worked. I started hating it and decided to get rid of it completely. And then we had this idea of inviting Koriass to participate. If we had canned the album in two weeks, I know I would’ve missed out of gorgeous musical moments like that one.”
Nevsky worked once again with producer Alex McMahon and mixer Gabriel Gratton, frequent collaborators who also helped with arrangements. With their assistance, the Granby-born artist now flirts with electro, and even forays into tropical indie pop on ‘La beauté,’ and dancehall on the title track. “We decided to go all in, to take the songs as far as we wanted to,” the songwriter confides. “I thought it was the worst time ever to not try different things. It would’ve been pathetic if I’d stayed in the comfort zone of the previous record.”
Nevertheless, with that amount of success, it would’ve been all too easy to stick to the radio-friendly formula of yore. Nevsky does admit, out of sheer honesty, that he did succumb to that temptation by launching an early single from the album, “Polaroïd,” last summer.
“I felt tremendous pressure to perform on the radio and wanted to get rid of it,” he recalls. “I knew ‘Polaroïd’ would be a hit, and that radio stations would follow. When it started climbing up the charts, it relieved a great amount of stress. It allowed me to veer off and try other stuff.”
In other words, just as on Himalaya mon amour, the singer-songwriter doesn’t consider pop as a means to an end, but as an efficient way to captivate an audience. “The trick is to hook them with a huge chorus and bring them in to live the rest of the song after that,” he says. “During my concerts, it’s not necessarily my biggest hits that I like playing the most; I prefer doing the densest and most poetically refined songs. Those are the significant songs to me.”