Last spring, Franco-Ontarian singer-songwriter Dominique Nadia released Intime humanité, her fourth album, thanks in part to the Ontario Arts Council. This country/folk/pop recording, created with contributions from a number of well-known SOCAN members – star lyricist Marc Chabot, as well as Yvon Rioux, Frédéric Dorval, Sylvain Poirier, Manon Charlebois, Mario Trudel, François Dubé, Mathieu (PetitBig) Leduc and Peter Venne – addresses some serious concerns, while presenting a humorous view of other aspects of life. Following are some comments the thirtysomething artist shared with Paroles &Musique as she visited us on a hot and sticky summer day.
“I fell in love with the stage at seven when I was given tickets for a René and Nathalie Simard concert,” says Nadia. “I was not only dazzled by the songs and the music, but also by the dancing, the energy, the stage sets. I can still feel the attraction as I remember this today.”
As soon as she was able to write, Dominique Nadia started penning songs and, with parental encouragement, took ballet classes; joined a choir; won a public speaking contest by telling her schoolmates all about the excitement of watching a live performance of the famous Simard child performers; got herself a ghetto blaster with a mic when she was nine; kept up her karaoke and theatre activities; won the 1995 Eastern Ontario Personnalité Opti-Jeunesse award… and was on her way to a life in the arts.
Born during the year of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics that made Nadia Comaneci (whose name she was given) a household name around the world, Dominique Nadia has stars in her eyes as she describes her dual passions for pop music and the promotion of the French language.
“I’m from Ontario, and even though I live in Gatineau, Quebec, at the moment, I still consider myself a Franco-Ontarian,” she says. “I need to be involved in that community and to stand up for the French language. My parents were both from Quebec, and we spoke correct French at home. It’s important for me to write in my own language, and the only bilingual cut on my most recent album was a commission from the Missing Children and Adults Association. My songs are not meant to re-invent the French language, but I believe that they convey my passion for my culture and for life itself.”
The voluble and extroverted singer-songwriter considers her recently released fourth album to be her most mature to date, and also her first as an independent, uncompromising artist. “I’ve stopped listening to those pretending that a recording needs a strong common thread,” she says. “This album is exactly like me – it’s eclectic, mult-ifaceted, focused on self-realization. I have so many interests – I can be funny, I can talk about philosophy, whatever. I used to live a more compartmentalized life, but this time I wanted to piece all these different components together.”
This in itself should be quite a feat considering the many aspects of her life, as a mother of two young children, the spouse of another musician (guitarist Frédéric Dorval) with whom she occasionally performs, an actor in children’s theatre under the stage name of Do (she completed a tour with Pattes de velours in June), a model, photographer, and anything remotely connected to her life project as a singer-songwriter.
“I’m not a competitive person,” she says. “I actually hate competitions. I do these things so I can express myself and absorb the energy of the people I come in contact with in the creative professions. When I’m onstage communicating with my public, I know I’m in the right place.”
Having grown up listening to Vilain Pingouin, Les Parfaits Salauds, Jean Leloup, Luc De Larochellière, the songs of Marc Chabot – one of her mentors – and Patrick Bruel, Nadia is a fan of the Quebec music scene at large, but admits being partial to the works of 3 Gars su’l sofa, Cœur de pirate and the Swiss artist Jérémie Kisling.
Her writing method, like everything else about her, is unique. “Some songs will keep running through my head for quite a while before I’ll finally sit down and write them out,” she says. “Lines will come up when I’m in the tub, anywhere. I put no pressure on myself. Besides, for this last album, I wanted the music to be composed after the lyrics were in place, and not the other way around as was the case for my previous recordings. I did not give myself any deadlines, being my own producer.”
Calling herself a rudimentary musician (“I strum the guitar, that’s about it”), she has participated in a number of training workshops with by Marc Chabot, Nelson Minville and Mario Chenart, and benefited from Manon Charlebois’ advice on lyric/music fusion.
Everything Dominique Nadia learns ends up being shared with the Franco-Ontarian community. “I’ve sometimes conducted my own workshops,” she says. “I’ll also help colleagues fill out grant application forms. You’ve got to share your experience with others. I have lots of ideas, I’m a creative person and I do not make comparisons. Each album and each work is unique and exists for a reason. In my opinion, you cannot compete with others. There can be a dog-eat-dog attitude in the [music] industry that I don’t like personally.”
Nadia was in Montreal to sign a contract for a solo concert she is to perform in the Place des Arts Studio-Theatre on March 6, 2014, as part of Week-ends de la chanson Québecor, a series presented in partnership with SACEF (the society for the advancement of Francophone pop music), where she will be performing an intimate acoustic concert with her partner Frédéric Dorval. More dates will follow this fall and next spring. Stay tuned on www.dominiquenadia.com.