Some album are new beginnings, a new swing of things. Such is undeniably the case for Andréanne A. Malette, who left the Productions J record label after Bohèmes, her first album, which sold 15,000 copies. As if to illustrate this fully assumed autonomy, the cover of her sophomore effort only bears her name as a title, and a picture of her and a ghost double.
“I’m a girl who constantly asks questions, who wants to know how things work,” says Malette. “I didn’t leave angry. On the contrary, I left with the idea of doing things my way. Simple as that.”
After completing various training sessions on production, taxes, distribution and marketing, Malette decided to bet on complete control, and moving forward will act as her own producer, artistic director, administrator and publisher.
These new responsibilities allow her to express her new creative approach. After writing in English for many years, she admits having tried for a long time to find her own style of writing in French. “I’m inspired by music I like, folk that’s best sung in English, like Bears of Legend and First Aid Kit,” says Malette. “So obviously, when I sang in French, there was something ‘off.’ I would veer towards text-based chanson française, gypsy music, which is not like me. On this album, I wanted to work on my delivery, how I stress words when I sing a text. I wanted to make French sound the way I like, and I did.”
The writing process also differed, this time around. Where Bohèmes was a compilation of seven years’ worth of writing, this time Malette was filled with creative urgency. Used to waiting for inspiration, she decided to force the issue, holing up in a cabin in the woods with a single goal in mind: write songs. “But the truth is, inspiration didn’t come when I wanted it,” she says. “There I was, with writer’s block, taking walks in the woods and making fires, hoping it would soon come. But the context did provoke things; I managed to write six songs, and forest is one of the most common nouns in the songs. It left its mark…” Since then, Malette’s phone is constantly in record mode to capture her melodic ideas, and a notebook is never far, so she can jot down themes, or lyrics snippets.
In order to convert those introspective creative impulses into financially viable ones, Malette also had to come up with new financing streams. She rapidly abandoned the idea of crowd-funding à la Kickstarter, a model that’s become over-used and impersonal, to her. After the Bohèmes tour, Malette wanted to keep going, so she came up with the idea for her “Feu de camp” (“Campfire”) tour. She contacted more than 300 camping sites. The response was immediate. In no time, 40 gigs were booked. No middlemen, no venue to pay, only one musician to accompany her (Judith Sun), minimal expenses.
“It creates deep ties,” says Malette. “You have a beer with people, you pee in their bathroom, you partake in their méchoui (spit-roasted whole lamb)… I have spare keys for cabins all over the province. And I’ve learned a lot.” Nowadays, she repeats this winning formula for other artists like François Lachance and David Paradis.
The other financing stream she set up is a VIP Fan system. For a certain amount of money, three interactive shows were presented to her fans in Montréal, Québec City and Granby, and the fans chose which songs she would sing, as well as those that would appear on the eponymous album. Malette also asked for their comments in order to get to know them better. “I did everything on my own, and I needed to step back from my songs a little,” she says. “I knew my fans could provide me with that perspective. I was surprised to find out that what they crave the most are my compositions. I did a cover of Francine Raymond’s ‘Pour l’amour qu’il nous reste’, [‘For the Love We Still Have Left’] and my fans were very clear that that was only OK live.” The singer – who has left her mark on the Star Académie TV singing competition, the Festival de la chanson de Granby, and Ma première Place des Arts – honours those ties with her fans in various ways, notably an early release of her second album just for them.
A multi-talented artist, Malette questioned the “complete control” route she’d taken until the very end of the process. “I thought it’d be faster,” she says. “And I’ve realized how much time doing all of that requires. It’s very demanding, but I have good support. A month before the album’s release, I got an offer from a record label. I did hesitate for a moment. But I thought it was crazy to have worked so hard on self-producing, only to embark in another vehicle. It’s like I had decided, five minutes before a marathon’s finish line, to ask somebody else to cross it for me. I did not go through all this for that.”
Don’t miss Malette’s “making of” video playlist for he new album: