Late last summer, Dany Placard released Démon vert (Simone Records), an album that does not reinvent the Dany Placard sound but definitely takes us closer to the artist and his loved ones. I met with Dany early in the morning at Café Placard on Mont-Royal street. He assured me that he was fine, one of the rare musicians that are able to get out of bed before 10 a.m. for an interview… “I was up at 6:27 this morning because of my youngest one,” he explains.

This is not a trifling detail, for his loved ones – his paramour and their sons – are the muses to which we owe this fourth album. Songs are dedicated to them and even the creation process was totally dependent on the domestic realm: “I would wake up in the middle of the night with a melody and words in mind. I’d jot down the first verse and chorus and when I dried up, I’d go back to bed. I would go to the kitchen and record my voice, no guitar or anything, with my iPhone, making sure I didn’t wake anyone up. And I would pick up from there when morning came,” confides the spokesperson of the 2013 edition of Francouvertes.

Except it’s not easy to write about one’s intimate life without sounding mushy. Mara Tremblay, Julie Doiron and Michel Rivard all pulled it off. How did Dany deal with it? “I couldn’t have pulled it off 7 or 8 years ago. I’m 36 now, and life’s been good over the last 2 years, everyone tells me that I look happier and more serene than before, and they are right about that. So, since I felt ready to write about it, the process wasn’t hard at all. ‘Sarah’, ‘Robin’, ‘Lucky Luke’…: I wrote those songs with the utmost respect for the people I love. The thing is, they’re not always easy to sing. I was doing a showcase during a ROSEQ tour not long ago, and I almost started crying when I started to sing ‘Lucky Luke’… I guess I’ll get over it sooner or later!”

So, musically, it’s a return to a more organic and sensitive folk, which by no means signifies that it is stripped down. He tapped his usual accomplices and also surrounded himself with the dulcet tones of Les Sœurs Boulay, and the result is music that is firmly steeped in the wake of his masters’ work, Dylan and Neil Young, who Dany says he’s listened to a lot during those last 2 years. A few tips of the hat to his old band – Plywood ¾ – can also be heard, mostly in the use of a brass section. The harmonica is used to its full melancholy effect and the pedal steel wraps listeners in its languor. Here and there, a few rockier passages remind us of the artist’s Saguenay roots. Straightforward guitars that exorcise the album’s title’s “green demon”, a personal demon that he bumped into in a hallway in the wee hours of the morning.

One would be remiss to not mention “Parc’qui m’fallait”, a major song on this album and – let’s not mince words – in all of his repertoire. The song is about his relationship with creation and an artistic lifestyle and the ideals and frustrations that entails. It is at once a self-affirmation and a protest song: Placard bears all. “It’s the first song that came to me. I had to get it out of my system. I wrote the previous album expressly so that its song could play on the radio. It was a lengthy and complex creation process that I didn’t really enjoy. Plus, back then, radios all but completely stopped playing Francophone rock, so I kinda missed the boat on that one… As a reaction to all that, I gave myself full creative freedom for this new album. Raw Dany Placard, that’s what I like to do.”

A former cabinetmaker turned director (domlebo, Chantal Archambault, Francis Faubert, Louis-Philippe Gingras, Tire le coyote), Dany Placard sings about our relationship to money on “Parc’qui m’fallait”. “I was having this discussion with somebody rich, and they told me: ‘You live the good life, all you do is get drunk with your friends on weekends.” But when I told them what I earned in a year, he told me to give it up, that I made no sense… And I won’t quit, because it’s what I like doing the most in life. In that song, I open myself up with regards to what I do in life and the lifestyle I have. It is quite a somber song, even negative at times, but it ends well: with love. It was a first for me, exposing myself to such an extent. Even more personal songs came to me after that one, as if ‘Parc’qui m’fallait’ had opened a portal to a new dimension,” reveals the young ma who says he’s inspired by the careers of Louis-Jean Cormier, Julien Mineau and Olivier Langevin.

This honest and uncompromising voice will no doubt still be present on albums that are currently incubating. The “Printemps érable” gave rise to something that years to bloom, to be said, to be sung. We have not yet heard the last from Mister Placard. Thankfully.