Clone, Claude Dubois’ Fall 2013 album release, is made up of two recordings whose full duration is almost exactly the same, at just over 34 minutes – a coincidence that’s not so strange when you consider that both discs contain the exact same material in two different music styles: pop and acoustic.

Few artists have ever considered such a dangerous feat, with the possible exception of Michel Rivard, who came back with a solo acoustic version of Roi de rien (King of Nothing), his most recent album, although essentially in the form of downloadable demos.

Finding two completely different versions of the same music on the same release is an unusual home-studio-era achievement that inspires curiosity. So we asked a few questions of Claude Dubois, who explained that “the original idea was to use this album as a vehicle to freely explore the musical possibilities of the pop version of each song without being afraid of alienating my original fan base by exploring more modern sounds. I felt that they would be more likely to forgive me for it if I also provided them with more sober versions of the same material in the same box. And it worked.”

Along the way, Dubois discovered another side of his project that was to strengthen him in his purpose and give it a whole new meaning. “As I was moving back and forth between the two versions of the album’s songs, the meaning of each song started shifting. Early in the process, I had been brash enough to believe that as long as I was using the same tempos and structures, I would be able to use the same vocal tracks for both versions of each song, but it didn’t work out that way.

“I have to create some distance from the music industry to be able to write new songs.”

“Different arrangements called for different vocal treatments. In a pop mode, things are lighter and more relaxed, like in a travel sketchbook. But in an acoustic mode with guitar accompaniment, things become more serious, and you get the feeling that what you’re saying is being heard in a more personal way, so your perception of the song changes.”

Dealing with subjects that are in turn modern (“Textoyable”), personal (“Tout ce que j’ai fait” [“Everything I Did”]), or seldom used in Francophone songwriting (such as the lesbian relationship in “Amoureuse d’une amoureuse”), Clone is the first album of original songs Dubois has released in 10 years. The many reasons for this include the release of duets, Christmas songs and choral albums, a French tour, numerous Quebec concerts and a stint as a judge on the La Voix reality show.

“I have to take some distance from the music industry to be able to write new songs,” he explains. “I can’t be involved in any other activity lest I become influenced by the sounds I hear around me. Bottom line, I don’t find writing easy. Contemplation wouldn’t help either. At one time, probably as an excuse to have a bit of fun in an unfamiliar setting, I used to plan writing on trips, but I find there is more value in just facing a blank page right here at home. I’d rather feel free to take it all in as it’s happening, and them come back home and write a song about it and enjoy it all over again.”

Written between the four walls of a prison cell after being convicted of heroin possession and trafficking at the turn of the 1980s, Sortie Dubois (a wordplay also meaning “Out of the Woods”) is probably the best example of that mental process. “With Sortie Dubois, I was going back to my memories to escape my jail-bird mediocrity. With Clone, I had to make good on my claim that I was finally able to release a new album after so many years,” the musician explains half-jokingly.

In the end, it only took a matter of weeks for Dubois to produce the entire recording on his own label, through a fast-lane self-production process facilitated by the performing right societies and music associations credited on the album jacket, namely SOCAN, SODRAC, SOPROQ and SPACQ.

“I wanted to pay tribute to these organizations as copyright advocates, first of all, but also for an even more selfish reason: they made my life so much easier through the album production process. Any self-producing artist will tell you that you sometimes come up against legal issues that, in connection with Clone, in my own case, went way over my head. So instead of hiring a lawyer or reading hard-to-understand law books, it occurred to me that could call these associations up and get answers. I’m not one to suck up to anyone, but I would advise musicians to take advantage of these resources. They’ve proven invaluable to me.”