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.


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Fronted by the vocally gifted Sabrina Halde, Groenland – a six-member band with a brand new debut album – is taking the Montreal music scene by storm.

The Chase’s indie orchestral pop sound with electro undercurrents – for which Montreal (the city that gave Arcade Fire to the world) is known – is unmistakable from the first listen, with its lush orchestrations and exquisite compositional details. Released on the Bonsound label and solidly produced by Philippe B and Guido Del Fabro, this new specimen of the “Montreal sound” includes French lyrics à la Coeur de Pirate and English words à la Patrick Watson, a trend among a number of Quebec groups with French-sounding names.

And, of course, there is Sabrina Halde’s voice, a beautiful-sounding, perfectly-pitched and controlled Regina Spektor-like instrument, developed as a jazz singing student at Montreal’s Cégep Saint-Laurent. The artist, who went on to completed a minor in digital music at the University of Montreal, comments: “To some listeners, I have a pop-sounding voice, although we’re going in other directions musically, and this is why we’re sometimes compared to small niche indie bands.”

Over the past ten years, Halde’s partner, Jean-Vivier Lévesque (keyboards and programming) has been performing as part of Le Roi Poisson and Le Citoyen. The “Chase” of the band’s album title is a metaphor for the team’s professional quest. “At the risk of sounding a bit corny, I’d say our title is a reference to the huge challenge of making it with our music, not an easy life project by any means,” says Halde. “Managing to blossom out and searching for your own individual sound are valid quests and remarkable accomplishments in themselves.

“We were initially inspired by The Eraser, Thom Yorke’s solo album, but when we sat in front of our computers, we realized that we preferred working instinctively instead, more organically, more impulsively,” says Halde. “What young bands need, sometimes, is just to get out there and jam their songs in front of real people instead of sitting for hours on end in front of the computer looking for ways to put words on ideas.

“Naturally, we changed our minds about making electronic music – though it is now part of our sound – and we decided instead to create our own group and open it up to other musicians,” namely Jonathan Charette on drums, Simon Gosselin on electric bass, Gabrielle Girard-Charest on acoustic bass and Fanny C. Laurin on violin. “That makes three men and three women – an equal opportunity band,” Halde  laughs, adding that she really appreciates that “the company of other girls on those long road trips.”

The band’s songwriters remain halde and Lévesque, whom she calls JV. “As a rule, when we’re composing, once we get to the melody, words will slowly emerge, and this is when something starts to move lyrically,” says Halde. “I remember reading an interview with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver who was saying that before questioning the meaning of his lyrics, he allows words to place themselves naturally, playing around with them for a while. The editing work comes later. I love it when the music dictates the words.” While Halde begins work on various sections of a developing song, JV keeps an overall vision of the finished product, their respective roles complementing one another throughout the creative process.

How does halde deal with her role as the band’s frontwoman?  “I felt at home onstage from the word go,” she says. “I just knew that this was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. Of course, it takes time for things to take shape. It’s a bit stressing initially because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, so you take a big breath and jump in. Lifeless performances won’t cut it – what you need is high energy. I always knew that the pressure on the group really was pressure I was putting upon myself. We’re a gang, we hang together! That very thought energizes me.”


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The idea of creating a Latin music band came to Shantal Arroyo during a trip to Mexico in 2011. “One night in a Puerto Vallarta bar,” the hardcore punk band Overbass member remembers, “I complained about the American music that was always playing, and my friends said, ‘If you’re not happy with it, then set up your own band and come back here to play!’

“It was an interesting thought, but the people I was hanging out with at the time were not Latinos – they were all punks and metal-heads! But I knew that many of them were in the process of adopting second instruments, so I started recruiting for the new project. We ended up being 17 in the band, and it went on from there,” says the voluble Mexican-born musician.

Made up of musicians from Montreal’s alternative scene (including Grimskunk’s Joe Evil), the band initially hoped to expand both their repertoire and their appeal. “We felt like making a different kind of music,” says Arroyo. “All of us were very experienced and secretly pined for a taste of big venues. With this project, the whole Mexican market was opening up to us. We’d seen our Mano Negra chums go from bar gigs to big stadium concerts, and we were hoping that this would happen to us, too. Mind you, we knew this would be quite a challenge musically – singing is one thing, but screaming is quite another,” the 40-year-old artist muses.

As Collectivo’s early concerts included many Latin music covers, band members had some time to get used to the musicality of Spanish lyrics. “With this in place,” Arroyo recalls, “we thought it was time we released an album. But our first experience in the recording studio wasn’t easy. The room was so packed we couldn’t move when we recorded Hasta la fiesta… siempre! And this happened while the recording technology was moving from reels to digital. So making that album was quite a challenge!”

The band’s second opus, Especial, a more mature and diversified song collection, was released in 2005 and followed in 2011 with Tropical Trash, a more sonically mature offering partly recorded in a Montreal theatre. The clan’s latest effort, Jaune Électrik, came out this summer in a burst exotic rhythms and sunny, festive melodies typical of Colectivo’s energetic style, but with a significant change – French lyrics.

“Our first three albums were largely exploratory,” Arroyo explains, “but we felt the need to sing in French on the next one. That was to be our next thing. We had the album produced by Vander. We chose this ex-Colocs member for his energy and also because he is used to large, multi-ethnic groups, and can deal with people who don’t use technical words. Many of us are self-taught musicians, and we needed someone who could understand us.”

Does Colectivo use a special method to create its red-hot tunes? “There are three principal composers – Denis Lepage, Joe Evil and Joël Tremblay,” says Arroyo. “They bring in a rough outline for every song, and then we make the arrangements one section at a time, moving from brass to drums to percussions to strings. Working this way requires great humility, as all players work on their own small section of a larger whole. But we’re like family and aren’t afraid of criticizing one another. With time, we’ve learned to talk about what really matters. We just have to be careful not to take it badly. Our modus operandi could be described as well-structured chaos.”

Besides her mother (also a guitarist and singer) and her partner Joël (also a member of Overbas), Arroyo’s musical heroes include the Basque artist Fermin Muguruza, who co-produced the collective’s second album. “In my mind, he has a practically perfect track record,” she says. “Although he has been approached by major recording companies, he has remained true to his own values and creative vision. That’s remarkable.

“I value authenticity. We tried new things as a way to get more people interested and create a more commercial sound, but we felt terribly awkward doing it – like elephants in a china shop! We are punk artists first and foremost. We can’t forget that.”

Now boasting 11 band members (including eight original ones), Colectivo marches on, although at a somewhat reduced pace at the moment, as a few band members have recently become parents. Although music is her life, Arroyo has realistic expectations when it comes to the prospect of making a living as a musician.

“Everyone in the group has a day job,” she admits. “Nobody is making a living with their art. I have long since decided that music was the thing that was keeping me alive. But I also chose not to starve to death. Music remains my main occupation, but I refuse to compromise. I prefer holding two jobs and worrying about how to get it all together. This is what Colectivo means to me – a vital energy.”


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