It’s often said that in 2017, songwriters are faced with a massive challenge because everything has been said already, especially in the folk realm. Re-inventing the wheel is nearly impossible. And 15 years as a music journalist seems to point in the same direction. As a matter of fact, critics tend to abandon their quest for originality in favour of a quest for authenticity. In that case, and artist stands out from the lot by spilling their guts. This occurs as much through their sound as it does through the dynamics of their playing, their energy and their sensitivity. When all those elements coalesce, even the most discerning ear will feel like it’s hearing something fresh.
It took all of one minute and thirty-four seconds for Beyries’ first album, launched in February 2017, to have that effect on this journalist. Sombre and fragile up to that moment, Alone, the album’s opening track, begins spreading its wings melodically in a goosebump-inducing way. It’s as if a beam of light pierces through melancholy, taking the piano, guitar and voice of Amélie Beyries to another dimension. The singer-songwriter replies with a very personal and touching resilience and strength to the adversity that informs her songs.
And then, a piece of information is revealed that’s the key to the puzzle. The 38-year-old musician has had 1,001 odd jobs before mustering the courage to share her songs. Then, an aggressive breast cancer and its relapse acted as game-changers, and pushed the musician to her extreme limits, whence she responded with Landing, a magnificently cathartic album.
“I let go of what I can’t control. I’m not as hard on others and myself as I was before.”
“The media abundantly covered the fact that I had cancer, that I went through a very rough patch,” says Beyries. “But suffering people are everywhere. It can be disease, death, a divorce, a depression… For me, the most important question remains: what will you do with your pain? My album is a post-event process, a post-traumatic growth.”
Beyries makes no bones about it: it’s not just what she does for a living that changed after she received her diagnosis. “I now go to places I would never have dared to go before the illness,” she says. “My vision of failure has completely changed. I let go of what I can’t control. I’m not as hard on others and myself as I was before. I absorb bad news and unexpected things with a much more zen attitude. On the flip side, I realized I have much less patience for people who constantly complain about the same damn stuff. At a certain point, we need to stop victimizing ourselves; it’s useless and prevents us from moving on.”
By transforming her pain into wisdom, Beyries burst onto the music scene with the life experience a 20-year-old can only dream of. “Starting a career in music with some life experience allows you to better see shit coming,” she says. “When I play showcases in Paris, London or New York and there’s barely anyone in the room listening because they’ve been drinking the open bar dry for the last two hours, I manage to remain focused, and to tell myself that I only need one attentive person for it to be worthwhile. When you’re my age, you’re more analytical. You’ve learned to not take yourself too seriously. It becomes easier to ask yourself the right questions and remember why you do what you do.”
But despite her hard-earned maturity, Beyries still started her life as a musician filled with a sense of being an impostor. “I feel strange, but super-happy at the same time,” she says. “I took the recognition of qualified people [including Alex McMahon, who produced Landing, and Louis-Jean Cormier, who duets with Beyries on “J’aurai cent ans,” a song that was nominated in the SOCAN Songwriting Prize] for me to start believing I had my place. I’ve not had a single negative comment since the album came out. In the end, I think that regardless of age, if you offer something personal, you’ll make a place for yourself.”
Folk music might be several Centuries old, but everything remains to be seen for an artist who spills their guts. Landing demonstrates that every time it plays.