Singer-songwriter Vincent Vallières’s single “On va s’aimer encore” (“We’ll Still Be in Love”) met with such success when it came out that one could have easily ignored the fact that the artist had been preparing for this runaway hit with four previous albums before the 2009 release of Le Monde tourne fort – Trente arpents (1999), Bordel ambiant (2001), Chacun dans son espace (2003) and Le Repère tranquille (2006).
Life changed for Vallières in 2010 when he sent “On va s’aimer encore” to Quebec radio stations without really knowing how things would pan out. Public reaction was both unexpected and tremendous, with the song remaining listed on sales charts for more than 100 weeks.
Now in the studio to write his sixth album, Vallières casts a humble and realistic look on what he calls a major piece of luck in his life, and thanks heaven that it didn’t come any earlier. “That hit song came at a time in my career when I was already grounded in the music industry with a fan base and record sales,” he says. “But there is no denying that this song was a game-changer in terms of mainstream acceptance. Obviously, I would like the same thing to happen again with another song, but you have to recognize that if there is a lot of work behind every title, there also is a lot of luck in the equation.
“It’s a matter of timing between a particular song and the times we live in. Had this tune come out six months earlier, it might not have played on the popular media… I’m very happy to have had that life experience and the opportunity to sing night after night. Right now, however, let’s say that my main worry is how to retain the fans I had before ‘On va s’aimer encore’ came along.”
Once again finding himself entrenched in the songwriting and recording process smack in the middle of the summer season, Vallières remains acutely aware that he’s always been able to call on his longtime colleagues to help him “arrange” his new pieces.
“I envy those who can do everything by themselves,” Vallières admits. “Not me. I believe that what I can do best is bring in promising raw material, and then I need other people to refine and polish my arrangement ideas from the rough outlines I can provide. Basically, I’m a band guy. I’ve been working with the same musicians for many years, and I believe that they, too, think we’re a real band. They started at the bottom with me, and we’ve climbed up the ladder together. For this, I’m extremely grateful to them.”
Now that a lot more people will be looking forward to the release of his next album, does Vallières find the creative process harder? “It depends,” the songwriter replies, searching for the right words. “When I come in to work with the musicians, and I already have a great song I believe in, and the lyrics are already in place, things work out fine and arrangements tend to come more easily. Otherwise, you have to spend more time working on structure, tonality, tempo – and sometimes it just won’t work, there are things missing here and there.
“We recently racked our brains for three days on end on a song with the working title of “Loin” (“Far Away”) that finally produced satisfying results, to the point of being one of the better pieces we’ve come up with for our current project to date. At other times, once we realize we’re fighting a losing battle, we give up. It’s also because we care about originality and efficiency, even for pop tunes that we know ourselves are not going to make music history. By the time we consider a song ready, we’ve made all possible efforts to make sure it will get listened to from beginning to end.”
Since he entered the business in 2009, the music landscape has changed to the point where new technologies have seriously impacted the creation and distribution of musical works, and Valières believes that musicians must adapt and adopt new ways of doing things.
“You have to look for the new benefits and not resist change,” he says. “What makes the music industry uniquely strong at the moment is the fact that it has helped democratize art and discover new artists. This being said, it’s obvious that, in the Quebec micro- market, the song supply side exceeds the demand side. For me, this is a positive situation that calls for self-analysis and an increased desire to succeed. The fast pace of technological change systematically puts musicians off balance. But one thing never changes: a great song is a great song. I believe that great music and great artists will always end up rising to the top.”
In spite of the complexities and pressures of today’s music business, and of the birth pangs of songwriting, Vallières has retained a disarmingly simple attitude towards his creative contributions: “Personally, I try to make songs for the enjoyment of people who are not necessarily musicians themselves,” he says. “I think of Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so climbing into their car and playing my record to enjoy some kind of release.”
Those “still in love” with great songs should definitely be looking forward for his next opus.