“Ta bouche sur la mienne et ton corps au mien” (“Your mouth on mine and your body on mine”) are the first words heard on Cassiopée, Mara Tremblay’s seventh solo album. The opener, “Ton corps au mien” is typical of the singer-songwriter’s favourite themes: love’s ardour and tenderness, friendship and intimacy.
On this album, Tremblay returns to the essence of her beginnings, her own kind of rock, her untamed nature and, above all, the people. Some say work and family don’t mix well, but for Mara, the closer one is to their loved ones, the freer one is. And to her, that ideology also applies to work. “My kids are growing up and they play music,” she says, as if it’s self-evident. “It’s a dream come true, because they were too small to be in the band before.”
Cassiopée rapidly evolved into a family affair, where Tremblay bares herself even more than on the cover of 2009’s Tu m’intimides. The result is a warm, inspired cocoon that owes everything to this this kind of proximity. “My son Victor (Tremblay-Desrosiers) was there from the beginning,” she says. “It was obvious I wanted to work with him. No drummer understands me like he does. The first beat he ever heard was my own heart,” she continues, full of emotion. “We get along super-well. He doesn’t live at home anymore, so every time we get together to play, it’s a celebration. He’s incredibly open-minded and talented. He can play anything: jazz, rock, punk, rap.” Her other son, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, plays guitar, and co-wrote two songs on the album, while her ex, Sunny Duval, is all over the place as a player and lyricist.
“I contemplate nature, the stars, love, and friendship, and that’s all I need to create, now.”
Happiness, whether personal or familial, can be felt throughout the album. “The basic tracks for all the songs were recorded live,” says Tremblay. “It captures the energy that surrounds us, and in that energy, there’s a lot of love. I wanted this album to be like bathing in intense and positive emotions. I wanted to do something that was healing.”
Tremblay has always co-produced her albums, but on this one, she took a leap of faith and did it all on her own. “I was always involved in the artwork, the videos,” she says. “I always had a lot of freedom. I wouldn’t have been happy otherwise. I always did that, hand in hand with Olivier Langevin. He was just 18 when we recorded Le chihuahua (1999). That’s what I’ve always wanted, because I wanted to be able to say it is my music.” This time around, however, she admits to having somewhat lost touch with Olivier, possibly because on he was super-busy. “I said to myself, look, I’m gonna do it!” she says. “I used the same methods, and we’ve worked together for so long that I could hear him in my mind when I was working.”
Having re-acquainted with her rock ‘n’ roll self, Mara even takes us on a little punk rock journey on “Carabine.” And her rich singer-songwriter journey has allowed her to perceive beauty and finesse. “When I listen to Papillons (2001), I realize I’m still the same person, only less tormented. My kids have grown, but I’ve remained the same. In my mind, now, we’re all the same age!”
Even the slimmest idea now allows her to write a lot, since she’s gained access to a new-found serenity. “I threw away what broke me,” she says. “I contemplate nature, the stars, love and friendship, and that’s all I need to create, now.” She hopes her stories will become part of our lives when we listen to them. And that’s the message she took with her onstage during her album launch, earlier this month: “This song is about that moment when you no longer know whether you are friends, or something else. It’s happened to all of us,” she said before playing “Le fleuve et la mer,” during the release party for Cassiopée.
Beyond Mara’s rock sensibility lies a long and enduring body of work, that finds her constantly re-inventing herself. On this offering, it stretches for miles, and and quite naturally becomes an embrace, thanks to its underlying maternal pride.