Caroline Savoie had toyed with the idea of a pursuing a pop music career long before getting early exposure in France in The Voice in 2014 and taking top honours at Québec’s Festival international de la chanson de Granby in 2015. Those initial experiences helped her lose her morbid fear that her folk music might become contaminated by a “sweet pop” label. “Now I deal with it,” she says.” But for quite a long while, I was afraid of getting caught up in a model that would stick with me for the rest of my career…”
The same fear caused her to think twice before competing on The Voice: “It’s funny, because in the beginning, I was very critical of myself,” she says. “Actually, the first time they invited me, I declined. However, seeing as we were talking about 10 million viewers… Business-wise, the rewards are so great, I would never have recorded in New York if I hadn’t done it, and I developed the best work ethic I ever had. Looking back, I’m very glad I did it.”
Savoie faced the maelstrom of pop music life with tact and resilience. “What you have to do is get into it deep enough to enjoy the visibility and the benefits, but not deep enough that you get caught up in the machine,” she explains. Now that her song-competition days are over, she’s putting great store in clarity as she prepares to officially launch her career by releasing her debut album. “I found it hard to play the covers game at times,” she says. “It’s not for everyone. I’m a songwriter, so if there’s one thing that The Voice really taught me, it is the ability to say ‘no’ at times, to stay grounded.”
The Granby song competition was a major catalyst in Savoie’s quest to accept her pop “fate.” “I still can’t believe I won the Granby contest,” she says. “So many talented people have come out of there! It did a lot for my self-esteem. Better still, since I was slated to perform on the last night of the preliminaries, I was able to watch all 23 people who were scheduled to perform ahead of me! I think it helped me accept myself for what I am. My lyrics are very simple, I don’t try to wax too poetic… So I thought, ‘Yes, your lyrics are simple, yes, you perform pop songs, so deal with it and have fun!’” Seeing as she came out as the top winner, and collected some 15 prizes along the way, there’s no doubt that she did indeed “have fun,” and lots of it.
Poised to present us with her first official release on Spectra Musique, Savoie seems excited about what she and her top-notch accomplices have committed to tape. The album is produced by Jay Newland (Norah Jones, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon) and his musicians (Adam Levy on guitars, Dan Rieser on drums, Zev Katz on bass and Glenn Patscha on keyboards), and Savoie is still pinching herself at the good luck of having had the opportunity to work with them. “I was a bit afraid of getting there and finding out I was just another product,” she says, “but they really got into in the project, they were enjoying themselves. Jay only works with his favourite artists. The first song we recorded was ‘Aux alentours,’ and when we were done, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried like a baby because I was so overwhelmed!”
The album’s first single, “Y’en aura,” is a great source of pride for Savoie. “It’s a tune I wrote really fast,” she says. “I basically wrote it thinking about somebody specific, and I think I got it right. Onstage, it’s a song that gets a reaction from the audience, and I’m really proud of that.”
And how does she enjoy performing? “Actually, I think it feels a bit like being in my own living room,” she says. “I love interacting with an audience, telling stories, talking with people… I think there’s something very Acadian there. In New Brunswick, people are really simple and nice. It’s very typical… Y’know, the big metropolis is Moncton, and that’s [only] 100,000 people, so it doesn’t take long to feel at home.”
Thanks to her honesty and spontaneity, Caroline Savoie seems unlikely to be swallowed by the big bad machine after all. And that’s a credit to her artistic integrity.