Her parents had decided to move the family to the middle of nowhere to make sure that she, her sisters and their brother wouldn’t get into any trouble. But even tucked away in the Southern Manitoba rural town of Aubigny, marijosée (without a capital M) lost none of the impetuousness she displayed as a five-year-old. Every now and then, she would plan to run away from home, surreptitiously fill her backpack with food and head for path leading to the main road. “I inevitably turned back before reaching the road because it was so far away,” recalls the musician, whose first full-length album, Pas tout cuit dans l’bec was recently released.
Music came into marijosée’s life around that same time. Her Franco-Manitoban parents used to drag the kids to mass every Sunday. “My dad sang in the choir,” says mariejosée. “He had such a loud voice you couldn’t hear the other singers. It was embarrassing! He eventually signed me up for the choir too, because he and my mom wanted us to be able to sing in French. During long car rides, they used to make us translate our favourite English songs into French. That’s how Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’ became ‘Penche-toi sur moi’,” she recalls, laughing at the literal translation. Obviously, it worked. Although perceptible in person, the singer’s English accent is almost impossible to detect on record, as if she had assimilated the peculiar musicality of the French language through osmosis.
“Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,”
Then came the traditional piano lessons. Before each session, the teenager used to stick her used gum under the piano because her teacher didn’t allow chewing. After accumulating an impressive collection of multi-coloured flattened bubblegum balls, she switched to voice lessons, but her own way: “Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,” she says. “This provided me with new ideas and techniques to choose from as I was trying to discover my own voice. In the end, I think that jazz was my greatest influence. I’m extremely attracted to that music style because of the freedom it allows in terms of improvisation and sudden rhythm changes. Let’s say it agrees with my borderline personality disorder,” she giggles.
Departing from the electro style of her 2011 first EP Rebondir (Bouncing Back), marijosée’s new album explores jazz influences, coloured by sometimes unpredictable, sometimes warm vocal effects and replete with standup bass lines and jumpy percussion.
“Jazz has been the other great discovery of my career,” marijosée explains. “When I switched from singing lessons to percussion lessons, my voice and my phrasing changed. I started singing more rhythmically, separating words more clearly and experimenting with sound.” She now writes her own vocal melodies from rhythms she drums on any surface she can reach. “I wrote the album’s title track from a beat that turned me on. That song tells the story of how my family encouraged me to go for food instead of for a music career.”
“Pas tout cuit dans l’bec,” is not the only selection addressing marijosée’s career as a singer-songwriter. “Promesse de la fontaine” (“Fountain’s Promise”) contains the answer to those who encouraged her to move to Quebec for the sake of her career. “It’s not that I refuse to leave Manitoba because, in a way, we don’t have all the tools we need here,” she says. “Grants are fine, but I don’t have a record or management company at my disposal. At the same time, I don’t want to move just to try my luck in Quebec. If I were to receive a concrete offer, I might change my mind, but re-locating to Montreal to keep my fingers crossed and stand on a street corner with my hat and my guitar… That’s not my bag.”
And if most of the other tracks of her album deal with the complex relationships that exist between marijosée and men, the reason simply is that she thinks that all the men she’s met since breaking up with her former husband were “stupid idiots.” But that’s another story. “Stay tuned, and when you listen to my upcoming second album, you’ll find out if I’ve finally met the right guy,” she jokes. At press time, marijosée was scheduled to perform across Canada with dates in France and Switzerland in the summer months.