Arielle Soucy introduces multiple versions of herself on her first full-length album, Il n’y a rien que je ne suis pas. Following two English EPs, Shame and Waterway (2020), and Unresolved Collection (2021), her debut album gives us a glimpse into her French writing through words imbued with an appeasing melancholy where sadness is distilled in profound reflections that she delivers as if they are mantras.
The precise idea for the project’s title came to Arielle Soucy after seeing a drawing by American artist Sister Cody on Instagram: “He advocates multitude, a way of being many things,” she recalls. “He drew a picture of two characters talking to each other. One says Who do you think you are? and the other replies Who do you think you are not? I thought it was full of truth. If you allow yourself to judge others about something, it’s probably because you can’t accept that you carry it too,” she explains.
Music entered her life as early as primary and secondary school and it is through musical theatre and the various instruments of the school band in which she played the flute that she was introduced to the stage. Later, studying classical singing at Concordia University, she fine-tuned the facets of her voice in order to better understand and use it at her will. “I was still a brat, she giggles. I took jazz singing classes on the side. I wanted to know the classical technique, but in the end it just confused me. It’s only when I finished school and took a break that things fell into place.” Once she was equipped with the necessary tools, the singer modelled her own voice: “It took a while, but everything was thought through,” says the singer who has a voice that is truly distinct from anything we’re used to hear.
In her lyrics, the singer-songwriter evokes the most incommensurable questions (the lyrics have been freely translated, here): “Am I alive? Will I have enough time?” she sings on Pardonne-moi, or “Daddy, do you know I’m the one who cared for your cat after you died? Do I have to believe in God, believe in God, so you are still with me?” she sings on Élégie. But beyond all the questions, there are just as many affirmations that resonate like massive doubts that penetrate us and get stuck in our minds through sheer repetition: “I might be loving you—I can’t be sure, if it’s a game I don’t think I will win,” on Talk To Me (this lyric is in English on the album), “I’m wandering around a little washed out, a little lost in my timeline. I don’t think I’ll ever be by your side,” on Ottawa, “Bottle me up so you can pick one thing at a time and round out life with lightness and forget my name,” on Une chose à la fois.
And Arielle doesn’t just switch from French to English from one song to the next; she also does it within her songs. A good example is the album’s title track which begins in English before switching to French. “It can be a little treacherous at times, but I started writing it in English and I thought the sentence There is nothing I am not was just as beautiful in both languages. I just didn’t want to choose.” And although she had never released French songs before the ones on this album, people who heard her sing in French spurred her along to dot it again. “It was a challenge for me, but I was committed to write one song in French for every song I wrote in English,” she explains.
Carried forward by the necessity of channelling emotions that were, at times, still raw, she admits the creation of her album was all about letting go. Co-produced alongside Alexandre Larin (Larynx), all the songs had been constructed solo on the guitar by Arielle. “It was hard to let someone in,” whispers the artist who self-produced her previous two EPs. “Alexandre helped me push my songs a little further. I needed another weirdo like me who does everything all a once.”
While some start with the music and others with the lyrics, Arielle Soucy starts with the feeling. It’s therefore an impression, an emotion or a sensation that becomes the core of what will come next. “I love writing lyrics, but it’s harder than writing music, for me,” she confides. “Words are there to complement the emotion, which is almost always a kind of sad-happy nostalgia.” Automatic writing is at the root of many of the album’s tracks, yet there had to be an intense period of pondering after she opted to work on a typewriter. “You type words and can’t remove them,” she exclaims. “There’s something about the machine that clarifies your intention.” And of all of the songs in her repertoire, Pardonne-moi is the first she mentions when asked what text she feels is the most important she wrote. “I can’t believe I wrote it,” she admits. “It’s about thoughts that invade us and take over and prevent us from being clear. And as long as you don’t have clarity, you’re unable to know what you need.”
At the antipode of self-censorship, she is constantly pushing herself to write, morning, noon and night, even if it is just a few words in a notebook, because those words could become important, down the line. “I wrote a lot of songs with a looper,” Arielle Soucy explains. “It has given a certain flavour to my songs. I like working from something short, a melody or a sentence I like, and build on that. I like canon music, harmonies, and bass riffs that repeat endlessly.” Her lyrics and the way she delivers them thus become intertwined as she manages to harmonize her own voice over and over again, giving the impression she has countless backup singers. Similarly, words and sentences are repeated as if they contained a secret message that we will come to understand if we just think about it a little longer. And that is how, without any form of premeditation, Arielle Soucy’s songs find their home: they inhabit us.