Lesson of the day: don’t trust your eyes. To wit: Geoffroy, ex-contestant on La Voix [the Québec franchise of The Voice TV singing competition]. Three months ago, he released an English electronic pop album titled Coastline: Silky smooth, melancholy, romantic sounds, simple yet expertly crafted verses, collaborations with electro-pop peers such as Fjord and Men I Trust. Everything required to harvest plays on Spotify and YouTube, right where it needs to be. Yet behind the polished and charming image is a young man who knows the business inside and out, and talks about it with the same driving passion that fires his musical career.
Let’s talk business for a moment in this online magazine otherwise dedicated to songwriters, composers, music publishers and their work. Having been selected for the first SOCAN showcase at Printemps de Bourges in April 2017, when interviewed Geoffroy, he was also getting ready not only to sing for the French market, but also to do business as the only Québec singer-songwriter invited to participate in the Accelerator segment of the 51st annual MIDEM in Cannes, June 6-9, 2017.
And he’s no stranger to MIDEM. “I went a few times when I worked in the biz,” he tells us the day before his departure for the French Riviera. “After I graduated, I was hired by the Analekta label, and they’re always at MIDEM. Classical music is booming in Asia, and there are always a lot of delegates from China at the event.” He also went back while he was getting his Master’s degree in industrial management of arts and music in Spain.
“As an artist, it’s useful to know how to talk to your manager, your publisher, your label people, it’s useful to know all the aspects of this trade.”
“I’ve always had one foot in the business side of things and the other in the creative side,” says Geoffroy. “I’ve always made music for my own enjoyment, but I never had the guts to put my creative stuff forward. I’d never planned to become an artist as a ‘Plan A,’ so I built a solid ‘Plan B’ to work in the business, something that I was not only truly interested in, but also very useful to me now. As an artist, it’s useful to know how to talk to your manager, your publisher, your label people. It’s useful to know all the aspects of this trade.”
Geoffroy has always played music “without ever taking it too seriously,” he says: piano lessons starting at about eight years old, then guitar and drums, followed by singing lessons “to come out of my shell and prove myself that I could sing.”
In the spring of 2014, he participated in the popular La Voix, and released his first EP, Soaked in Gold, the following year. “That first EP allowed me to gauge public interest,” he says. “Bonsound got involved in the project, and that’s when I thought, ‘OK, maybe there’s some potential here…’ I forged ahead and took two years to write and record Coastline, and now here we are.”
Just a few hours from boarding a plane for France, where he’ll perform onstage and go through three booked-solid days of meetings with industry types from all over Europe – where his music is already getting quite enviable attention. Geoffroy has already signed with a booking agency, and may hire a radio tracker to ensure that his songs, available as downloads, are nonetheless played.
“The music industry is fascinating because it’s constantly evolving,” says Geoffroy. “There’s no formula for success, apart from having a good song, of course. After that, it’s a lot of strategizing, of different ways to market the music, various segmentation strategies. It’s super-interesting…”
Obviously, singing in English is one of those strategies to maximize a song’s impact, but in his case, it wasn’t a calculated choice: “I grew up in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce [a predominantly Anglo neighbourhood in the Western part of Montréal] in a family that was not only Francophone, but Francophile. Yet I also grew up with Anglo and bilingual friends, and I went to school in English.”
Add to this mix the influence of American pop music and “it just comes out better in English,” says Geoffroy. “I tried writing in French, but I was never satisfied with the result. But never say never, as they say. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Haitian music, a lot of kompa. I know it’s very foreign to French pop, but I feel like exploring that.”
But just out or curiosity, where does that tinge of a British accent come from, then? “Funny you should mention that,” says Geoffroy. “Others have remarked on that, too. You can hear it on songs like “Trouble Child.” When I was recording the album, I was listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. I think I was kind of playing a character, and recorded it in that mindset.”
Another misconception about Geoffroy is that he sounds like he’s from Québec City, which, lately, is teeming with English-singing electro pop artists. “That’s because of La Voix, where I met Gabrielle Shonk,” he says, referencing the singer-songwriter at the forefront of that Québec City musical tribe. “It’s through her that I met that whole gang of musicians and producers. They’re all super-nice and cool to work with, people like Men I Trust and Fjord. It just felt natural and fun to collaborate with them; I wasn’t thinking strategically. And you know, people in Québec City have much smaller egos than Montréal people, so they’re much nicer to work with.”