Here’s the return of our series about the happy creative meetings between two songwriters. Together, Louis-Jean Cormier and Daniel Beaumont wrote one of the biggest hits of the last few years in Québec, the unifying “Tout le monde en même temps,” (“The Whole World at the Same Time”) from Cormier’s first solo album, and they’ve continued their collaboration, right up to the recently released “Le ciel est au plancher” (“The Heavens are on the Floor”).
“There’s nothing easier to plant in the mind of an artist, diving into a solo project, than doubt,” says Louis-Jean Cormier. It was 10 years ago, after four albums as a member of Karkwa, that he took a leap of faith and started working on his first solo album, Le Treizième étage (2012). “I’m a band guy,” he says. “I felt I needed someone, a sounding board. I like bouncing ideas around, I like to think that two heads can work on a single project. I prefer that than doing everything on my own.”
A few years earlier, at a writing workshop during the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée, Cormier had noticed Daniel Beaumont. Still in his early days as a lyricist, he collaborated on songwriting with his brother Matthieu and his sister-in-law Catherine Leduc, who formed the duo Tricot Machine. “He’d come up with these sentences where the words always fell in the right place, and it stuck in my head,” says Cormier. “It was really well crafted. That’s when I got in touch with Daniel, even though I barely knew him.”
The first text Beaumont wrote was for his brother Matthieu, who was a contestant in the Cégep en spectacles competition. “I grew up with a love of language,” says the man, who considers himself “the trouble-shooter” for those seeking the right word. An advertising copywriter by trade, he still suffers from impostor syndrome when it comes to music – having collaborated with Cormier, but also Andrea Lindsay, Fanny Bloom, and, more recently, Alex Nevsky.
“With Louis-Jean, as with the others, it’s not my soul that I bare on paper,” says Beaumont. “I just try to meet the artist where they’re at, and help them write something that resonates with them. That’s my job. “It was a trip for me to write lyrics because I’ve always loved Québec music. I would write new lyrics to a song by Les Chiens and use it as a model; then I wrote using English songs, so I wouldn’t be distracted by the lyrics, since I was paying less attention to the English lyrics.”
Between Cormier and Beaumont, a working method was established: the former provided the latter with the raw material, the basic ideas for songs. “Then, we talk about it,” Cormier explains. “Daniel comes back to me and says, ‘When you say that, this is what I see.’ He has a very down-to-earth, concrete side. I’m not saying he’s not creative; on the contrary, he writes wonderful things, and when he’s given a lot of room on a song, he comes up with good ideas. ‘Le Ciel est au plancher,’ for example, that’s totally his idea.
“As a copywriter, Daniel is used to coming up with ideas in a split second,” says Cormier. “And he’s a real workhorse: You should see our Google Docs with all the alternative words he suggests in any given song. He’s got this thoroughness of spreading out all the texts of the album on a table to identify where we repeat ourselves, where a word returns in several songs, and how we could introduce more variety. He’s highly technical.”
As a lyricist as well as a copywriter, Beaumont says he puts his writing talent at the service of others. It’s this healthy distance that allows him to offer the best insight into the words and ideas of Cormier. “I’m not that much a part of his world, so when he knocks on my door, it’s because his project is mature, and he’s at the stage where he needs a hand,” says Beaumont.
“I’m not contaminated by all the discussions he had about his project, which allows me to arrive with a detached look. In fact, I’m always a straight shooter with Louis-Jean, and I think that’s what he appreciates. When it’s your girlfriend or a friend who gives you their opinion, they’ll always be a little complacent, and that’s normal. I don’t know Louis-Jean that well, we’re not the best friends in the world, so I tell him what I really think. In a sense, I feel a bit like the guardian of the listener” vis-à-vis the creator.
Cormier likes to say that Beaumont “rakes” his texts and his song ideas. “He gets hands-on and bullies my ideas a bit,” says Cormier. “What I like is when your collaborator takes your ideas and says, ‘This sentence makes me tick, for this or that good or bad reason.’ It’s as interesting when it’s time to re-hash an idea, as when it’s time to confirm that it’s a good idea.”