Some meetings can completely change your professional career by opening new creative paths. Such was the case for Québec composer and musician Denis Sanacore who, in a strange twist of fate, was offered the opportunity to create the score for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movie The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.

It all started in 2012, and turned out to be an extraordinary story that unfolded over a period of two years. Sanacore explains: “I came back from spending the weekend in Burlington with my wife, and Suzanne Girard had left a message on my voicemail. She was asking me to send some demos of my work for a possible movie project she was keeping confidential for the time being. I had three days. I was happy, but taken aback. I’d never done this before.

“The day after sending my demo in, I got another phone call inviting me to meet director Jean-Pierre Jeunet [director of Amélie]. I was floored. I showed up, my hands were frozen and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. Jeunet told me he was charmed by my compositions on MySpace and by my demo, and that he was looking for a Québec-based composer for this co-production. He asked me to compose some music, no strings attached, and that if he liked it, he’d use it.”

“I’m doubly happy, because I created some of the music with my wife on the violin and my daughter Léa who sings on one of my favourite pieces.”

Denis Sanacore, T.S. SpivetThis proposal left the musician’s head reeling – he who, up to now, had earned a living running a music school in Saint-Hilaire, on top of performing in festivals, at weddings, and the like, alongside his wife Rachel Carreau.

Sanacore left the meeting with a copy of Jeunet’s storyboard, and melodies already swirling around in his mind. He rapidly realized the limitations of his 12-track home studio. He then headed out to Steve’s Music Store and bought a sound card and a copy of ProTools. He also signed up for a training session. “I had a lot to learn, but I was incredibly motivated,” says Sanacore.

He found inspiration directly in the characters and their emotional arcs. He created a theme for each of them, a musical signature that defined each one. And that’s when he faced his first challenges. “Transposing oneself emotionally into a character is a lot harder than you can imagine,” he says. “You must recall your own grieving. You must also be able to boil down your creative flights into very precise little chunks of time. You need to be able to stick to the core magic of a melody throughout the whole creative process.”

But Sanacore was on a roll, and he kept sending new music to the director. The two artists met again while Jeunet was in Montréal to shoot at Mel’s Sound Stages. Jeunet showed him one of the scenes to which he had attached one of his pieces. “I was blown away,” says Sanacore, wide-eyed. The pair finally reached an agreement. Jeunet confirmed to Sanacore that three of his themes will be used in the movie. But once the movie finally came out, all of the musical themes in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet were his creations. “I’m doubly happy, because I created some of the music with my wife on the violin, and my daughter Léa, who sings on one of my favourite pieces,” says Sanacore.

What followed this wild adventure with Jeunet was just as brilliant. In 2014, Sanacore was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium — one of the most prestigious awards in the field of film scoring – alongside Steven Price (Gravity) and Daniel Pemberton (Uncle). He also won the Best Film Music Award at the 2015 SOCAN Awards Gala in Montréal. And he released an instrumental record titled I Am out of the desire to re-focus himself around his own musical creations.

Creating music for a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie does not the world change… “I’m still a music teacher,” says Sanacore. “And I still play with my wife at all kinds of events. The difference now is that I have an agent in L.A. and I’ve received offers.” However, those offers he’s gotten so far are quite different from his musical instincts, and they beg one question: Should he be versatile or stick to his personal songs? Sanacore hasn’t quite found the answer yet, but he dreams of diving right back into the movie world, composing “music that opens your heart.”


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Laurence Jalbert’s supple voice has been heard in the collective ear of Québec since the early ‘90s, and a bit before that, for those who knew her former band, Volt. Her voice has a smooth timbre that can run the gamut of emotion; a voice that can express rage, hurt and blows taken; a voice that celebrates human warmth, love and everything that unites us with our peers. The Rivière-au-Renard-born singer has always had a knack for singing songs in a way that both stirs and comforts, some of which she wrote herself, others she was gifted, as is the case on her new album, Ma Route, to be released on Feb. 19, 2016.

She describes this new album in these words on her Facebook page: “It’s an album filled with smiles, hopes, real life and real people! It’s an album of many guitars, pedal steel, mandolins…” Laurence Jalbert’s 11th album came to be recorded in what can only be described as a state of grace: “Everything just flowed freely,” she says. “I woke up in the morning with a smile on my face. It’s an album that came about very simply, and I’ve never experienced that before. But I’ve waited a long time before finding Rick…”

“When an album beckons, it’s a bit like moose call: one needs to be patient. Things always happen when the time is right.”

MOOSE CALL

Ma Route was born of the search for a very specific sound. Jalbert devours all kinds of music. She left physical copies of albums behind a few years ago, but she goes on iTunes weekly and fills her iPhone and iPad with tons of new music that she listens to in her car. “I also revisit the repertoire of artists that are inspirations to me,” she says. “Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, T-Bone Burnett, they’ve all created roots environments that are, to me, very authentic. For a few years, now, I had this very specific sound in my mind that I wanted to re-create, and I was looking for the producer who would be able to take me there. Certain sonic environments just lift me, and I wondered: who can give me that?”

Then, one day, she heard exactly what she was looking for, and enquired who was responsible for it. It was Rick Haworth. She immediately texted him to find out if he was available to work with her. He answered four minutes later saying that he was. “That’s when I knew I was coming out with a new album,” says Jalbert. “When an album beckons, it’s a bit like a moose call: one needs to be patient. Things always happen when the time is right.”

The album has an autumnal aura, eleven songs that carry the feeling of earth and dead leaves. “Those roads, the heady and inspiring colours of fall, the cold of winter that freezes images, as well as time,” Jalbert writes in the album booklet. “The warmth of guitars, those wooden, campfire tones, they too go well with winter,” she adds. “With everything that’s going on in the world, I believe we need a little human warmth.” Throughout our interview, this leitmotif of comforting people comes up again and again. Jalbert’s new album that is full of the same kind of serenity as others impart to a wool sweater that they’ve knitted for a loved one.

BACK TO THE SOURCE

Ma Route is both the title of the album and of the first single. The song was written and composed by Catherine Durand. “When I started getting acquainted with that song, I remembered all those years on the road, paying my dues, freezing my toes off in a truck, driving for so long that it gave me kidney stones, having to sing with a bronchial pneumonia because it was raining in my hotel room,” says Jalbert. “I don’t work in such conditions anymore, but I did live through it all, and for a long time, because I needed music so much, and I still do. If I lived through such things, it was because I needed to meet people, and that’s what the song is about.”

At the other end of the road is the idea of coming home, which is why two of the new album’s songs are about settling down. Through the words and melodies of Bourbon Gauthier, and Rick Haworth’s mandolin, “Nid d’amour” is an ode to Laurence’s tiny house in Gaspésie, her little corner of paradise, where she seeks refuge every now and then. “Au printemps, ce sera la Provence/À l’hiver, la Suisse blanche” (“In the spring, it’ll be Provence/In the winter, white Switzerland”) she sings on that song. On “Je rentre à la maison” (“I’m coming home”), she also sings about going back to her roots, the very moment when you get home. “People who live in remote areas know that feeling quite well,” she says.

Then, right in the middle of the album, there’s a bit of sunshine; a duet with Guylaine Tanguay, the queen of the Québec country music festival circuit. Entitled “Une minute à moi” (“A Minute to Myself”), the song is a charming ditty about the daily lives of those women who never have a minute to themselves, “women like Guylaine and I who are always running around from morning ‘til night,” says Jalbert, “busy with a million things, from the kids’ homework, to cooking dinner, to answering e-mails, to walking the dog, to taking out the trash…”

The road, the home, the dog, all the little things of daily life are part of one song, and re-surface in another, too. On this new album, Jalbert openly flirts with country music. “It’s where I’m from and I like it,” she says. “When I started, songs like “Tomber,” “Au nom de la raison, or “Corridor” were, to me, Country & Western songs, and I was convinced I was going to get booed because of it! As I grow older, I’ve just decided to accept that that’s where I’m from. I’m coming home.”

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

Laurence JalbertSince Jalbert’s first solo album was released in 1990, the music industry has transformed itself completely. The golden age of album sales is over, and the rules have changed. Does she find it difficult to deal with these new parameters, that aren’t always in the favour of creators? “I just try to do what I do the best I can,” she says. “I’m part of this industry, so I need to adapt. The fact remains that we are expected to produce professional-sounding albums and concerts with limited means, even though things are just as expensive as ever; it’s not like we get a special deal just because we’re from Québec. Sometimes, I tell my agent: ‘That’s it, that’s enough,” but you need to be able to re-invent yourself. I keep touring and selling out venues. I leave the business side of it to my team, even though I always keep an eye on it. As long as people pay to hear me, I’ll keep going.”

As for her voice, it’s only gotten better with time. Jalbert brings serenity to her listeners. Her voice is connected to her heart, and life has shaped her as water polishes a pebble. “I have the voice of a 56-year-old woman who’s had a full life, who’s been stabbed on all sides, who’s had her fair share of good and bad news and who is the proud mom of two and grandmother of four,” she says. “I don’t sing like I did in the beginning; that would be like trying to wear the same fortrel pants for the past 40 years. Our voice is the mirror of our soul, of what we’ve been through. I’m still a strong, temperamental woman, but my impulsiveness has mutated into a quiet strength, and I believe you can hear it in my voice.”

This unique and immediately recognizable voice has been with us for 25 years, and it’s still as pleasant to hear as finding a familiar path in the middle of a forest; a path that leads us to a small, welcoming home.

Watch Jalbert talk about the first single from her new album, Ma route (French only):


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It’s mid-January 2016, and Ben Caplan is at a Mercedes dealership in Germany getting the brakes serviced on the rental vehicle that he and his band, The Casual Smokers, have been using for their tour. It’s no surprise that it’s due for a tune-up: since landing in Europe in mid-December, they’ve played a gig nearly every night, save a short break over the holidays – and there’s no end in sight.

After the European leg of the tour wraps, Caplan, whose girlfriend, Taryn Kawaja, is also a member of his band, heads directly to the United States for a month of shows. He’ll then go home to Halifax for a five-day break before carrying on to Quebec – all this after already playing 60 shows throughout North America in the two months immediately following release of his second album, Birds with Broken Wings, in September 2015.

“It’s about performing. The only way I know how to do it as my job is to play a show every day.”

But if he’s exhausted, Caplan, isn’t letting it show. “It’s what I do – it’s about performing,” he says simply. “The only way I know how to do it as my job is to play a show every day.”

Beloved for his enthusiasm and larger-than-life stage presence (a review in The Guardian recently described him as playing “the role of oversized ringmaster to the hilt”), not to mention his exuberant beard, Caplan is clearly at home before an audience.

Trained in theatre, he mindfully pushes the boundaries when he performs, working to straddle the line between the absurd and the authentic. “People want to connect and there is something about absurdity that lets people’s guard down,” he explains, “but then you have to do something real when it’s down.”

For Caplan, that’s where songwriting comes in. “That’s what I want people to connect with,” he says, explaining that while not every song is personal, even those he describes as “intellectual experiments” are about communicating ideas, no matter how theatrical the set-up.

While immensely confident onstage, Caplan admits it took him some time to embrace his voice as a songwriter. Acquiring his first guitar as a 13-year-old (“I played it incessantly!”), he later teamed up with childhood friend Joe Girard (who also contributed to the song “Deliver Me” on Birds with Broken Wings) in his hometown of Hamilton, ON, to form a folk duo. Girard wrote the words and Caplan stuck with melodies.

In time, however, he began working out his own lyrics. “I realized it was much more exciting to sing lyrics that I had written,” Caplan recalls. By the time he moved to Halifax to attend university, he had embraced songwriting wholeheartedly. Within two years he had written the bulk of the songs that make up his first album, In the Time of Great Remembering, which was released in 2011.

Caplan has since won a whole host of award nominations (and wins for Entertainer of the Year at the Nova Scotia Music Awards in 2012 and Rising Star Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards in 2013); performed three times with Symphony Nova Scotia (he proposed to his now wife onstage at one of those shows); and played at the U.K’s Glastonbury Festival, an experience he describes as a career highlight. In September 2015, his song “40 days and 40 Nights,” from his current album, spent several weeks in the Top 10 of the CBC Radio 2 Top 20 chart.

On Birds with Broken Wings – produced by hip-hop klezmer singer-songwriter and producer Socalled (Josh Dolgin) – Caplan pays homage to his roots by referencing many of the melodies he heard growing up in Hamilton’s Jewish community. It’s music that he’s found resonates particularly well with enthusiastic European audiences, where his shows are selling out on a regular basis.

“There’s something about that old European folk sound that connects with people,” he says. “I think it is foreign and exotic to both European and Canadian audiences,” he explains, “but what’s exotic to the Europeans is also a little nostalgic.”

While he’s planning for a third, yet-to-be-written album (“it’s coming – it’s gotta be somewhere!” he says), Caplan is happy to be on the road, doing what he loves, learning as he goes and seeing where it takes him next. “For now, it’ll be more of this, really.”

FYI
Discography:
Birds with Broken Wings (2015), Festivus Vol. 1 (EP, 2013), In The Time of Great Remembering (2011),
Publisher: N/A
SOCAN member since 2007
Visit www.bencaplan.ca


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