The prolific 39-year-old writer is preparing his fourth album, a project where the oratory and rhythm of his words will, as always, be front and centre.
David Goudreault, who’s also a poet and a social worker, has an envious list of collaborations under his belt: Richard Séguin, Louis-Jean Cormier, Luce Dufault, Manu Militari, and Florence K., and the list may very well get longer.
“My album projects are more like studio trips,” says Goudreault. “I feel like exploring other literary genres. So, ‘la chanson,’ spoken word, rap are all ways to approach literature, ways in which I’m interested. To me, there are texts that are closer to the oral realm than the written one. It helps when you write a novel, there’s no doubt about it. There something about breathing and oratory that’s useful to a novelist.”
Goudreault has also penned songs for Forestare, Gaëlle, and Jipi Dalpé as well as Coco Méliès and Dominique Marien.
“I’m making a fourth album because I wanted to write songs with professionals, even though I’m a novelist first,” says Goudreault. “It’s books that pay for my house. I do it without subsidies, and it’s my money as a novelist that I invest in these album projects.”
“I write every day; I’m not so well-off that I can wait for inspiration to come,” he says. “So I sit down and work, every single day. I have commissions for columns, song lyrics, book projects, and what I write isn’t always good! If I was a careerist, I would only write books, but I want to explore. I’m a victim of my passions. I want to try everything!”
To wit, his role as artistic director of La grande nuit de la poésie, presented in St-Venant, Québec, co-organized by Richard Séguin: “it’s an important event from a literary standpoint,” he says, “but it’s a standpoint that also includes songs: I think it makes total sense to present Les soeurs Boulay, Hélène Dorion, Joséphine Bacon, and Manu Militari on the same stage in a single evening.
“We can easily move from one universe to the other. The example I always use during my workshops is the fact that Gaston Miron wasn’t a lyricist. Yet, the Douze hommes rapaillés project turned his poems into songs in an exceptional way. In reverse, you can easily print some songs and they become poems. Desjardins is a great example of this. Reading Desjardins is highly interesting. I showed up in his green room one night before his show, and he was reading one of my books. He looked up at me and said, ‘You write fucking well!’ That made my year!”
“The objective is to find that point of contact where there will be a meaning on both sides”
He recently wrote “Débrise-nous,” (Richard Séguin wrote the music), which became the first single off of Luce Dufault’s newest album, Dire combien je t’aime.
“I felt really free writing for Luce,” says Goudreault. “I would hear her voice in my mind, that powerful voice that evokes love and suffering.” That song was written during the night of the 2019 Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebrations, in his hotel room in Québec City, after meeting the singer for the first time the night before.
“Sometimes I write lyrics without knowing who’s going to sing those words, or even if it’s going to be sung by a woman or a man,” says Goudreault. “Other times I get commissions [like three songs on Florence K.’s latest album] with specific themes, so in those cases, I know exactly who’s going to sing my words, with the appropriate feeling. It’s also a good thing to have a guiding side.
“The objective,” says the lyricist, “is to find that point of contact where there will be a meaning on both sides. With Louis-Jean Cormier, on ‘Les poings ouverts’ [on the album Quand la nuit tombe], which we wrote together, the lyrics spoke to me because we’re each in a relationship with an immigrant woman.”
French slam star Grand Corps Malade (aka Fabien Marsaud), for whom Goudreault has opened live, co-wrote “Juste de la poésie,” which appears on La faute au slience, Goudreault’s third album, released in 2014.
He is, undoubtedly, an unrepentant trailblazer. Goudreault has toured three different shows, and his most recent, Au bout de ta langue, was presented more than 200 times. “Fabien taught me to be generous with your audience,” he says. “His cane isn’t a prop. Standing for two whole hours is incredibly demanding for him, and he goes the distance. Sometimes he goes off-script to chat with the audience. I find that very inspiring!”
Goudreault lived in Trois-Rivières, Québec’s capital of poetry, until the age of 18, and he’s the honourary president of the city’s literature festival. He remembers, “I was once forced to clean up graffiti I had tagged on some walls. So now, it cracks me up to see my words on a plaque that’s screwed onto those same walls. I’ve never said that in an interview!”