The fire that consumes us, that warms us, enlightens, or destroys, exists in order to allow us to re-build better. No matter what shape it takes, it does so inside the house – or more precisely, under the roof – of singer-songwriter Karolan Boily. On her début album, Le feu sous le toit (The Fire Under the Roof), she ignites her own creative flame and pays a visit to her new emotions, one by one.
“Le feu s’éteint quand je ferme les yeux et que je choisis de m’oublier” (“The fire goes out when I close my eyes and choose to forget myself”), she sings on “Blocage.” “Je vois qu’il y a de la lumière. Le feu dort en toi. La chaleur reviendra, crois-moi” (“I see that there’s light. The fire sleeps in you. The heat will come back, believe me”), she says on “Braise.” on “Nulle part sauf ici,” she says, “On se met en feu pour s’éteindre comme on peut, peut-être qu’on se met en feu pour s’éclairer un peu (We set ourselves on fire to extinguish ourselves as best we can, maybe we set ourselves on fire to light up a bit.)”
“As I was writing the album, I realized the linguistic field of fire permeated eight out of my 10 songs,” says Boily. “I’ve always loved fire, and I thought the way I talked about it wasn’t redundant. A different side of me came out each time.” Those multiple states of mind also catch fire, in their own way, to create a grand allegory, a perpetual source of heat that swells in the heart. “I’m a soul pyromaniac, but I’m harmless,” she adds with a laugh.
There’s a string of life experiences in her first full-length album, which comes after a few years holding her own on the music scene, notably since the release of the EP Les éclats de verre en résistance (2020). “The fire at the heart of the album is somehow the flame I’m using to start from scratch all over,” she says. “I’m in a complete rediscovery of myself and in several aspects of my life. I can feel desire coming back to me, but I’m well aware that you need to be careful with desire.”
Musically, her desire was to capture what she learned after she first her songs go out into the world, in the midst of the pandemic. She then had to take the time to do things her own way, according to her instincts and at her own pace. “I wanted to be ready,” says the singer-songwriter. “I often feel like my songs aren’t fully formed. Now, I simply tell myself that I’ve done my best for every single thing on my album.”
Boily also believes it’s essential to wait for the right moment to approach record companies, which is why she hasn’t done so yet. “For now, I surround myself with people I like; that’s always worked out well for me,” she says. “I want to travel that road on my own.” She fully embraces her project’s independent nature, especially because she gets to keep control over each step – alongside her trusted partner-in-crime, co-producer Nikolas Benoit-Ratelle. “I need to fully understand what I’m doing,” she says. “I was hands-on. I’m exhausted, but I’m proud, and I know now what parts of a project I’ll need help with once I have access to a bigger team.”
Learning guitar at the age of seven to “be like my brother,” she drew the first outlines of an adolescence that revolved around music. And as she grew older, every kind of relationship – with family, friends, lovers – became a source of inspiration for Boily, who wanted to learn to sing even before she could read. “My mom would teach me the lyrics until I memorized them, so I could sing them during my singing lessons,” she remembers.
As far back as she can remember, writing has been a channel where Boily can express what cannot otherwise be said. “It truly stemmed from a need to understand myself,” she admits. “If something’s not in focus in my life, I write a song about it to pick it apart.” Among those kinds of songs, that allow their authors to distill a crisis in order to gain better insight, stands “Nulle part sauf ici,” which is about a spat. “We listen to each other, but we don’t hear each other,” she says. “The bridge between two people’s ideas is not connecting, and it just escalates so high that we can no longer come down.”
Le feu sous le toit will be launched at Le Ministère, in Montréal, on Feb. 6, 2024. Boily hopes that the introspection in which she’s shrouded herself since writing the album will resonate with the people who’ll be there to experience her music. “I’d love for the musical moment spent in my company to become a way to centre oneself,” she says. “To take a step back, better look at what we’re going through, and be in a better position to deal with what’s going on around us.”