Jeff Moran doesn’t take songwriting lightly. The Québecois singer-songwriter loves to write; he’s been writing for a long time. He gives writing workshops to share his love of creation. He cultivates precious moments during which words take the power. “I protect this phenomenon called writing. I’m learning to let the words guide me, to let go, more and more,” he confides. Following the release of his fourth album, Le silence des chiens (The Silence of the Dogs), Moran has noticed that his style has grown increasingly personal. For this new project, he decided to let the lyrics dictate the music, and the result is a collection of 13 very direct and intimate moments.
Moran’s poetry remains voluntarily mysterious. “I love the images that someone like Léo Ferré would create when he would wax lyrical,” he says. “I love when things remain a little vague, so that you can interpret them differently.” He says he’s not worried about what the audience understands, because he believes that part of the work belongs to them – not unlike the experience of looking at an impressionist painting.
Singing didn’t come easy to Moran. For the first thirty years of his life, he was simply unable to, and had to face his fears head-on, and tackle his insecurity. It happened many years ago, when he pitched some of his songs to Francine Raymond. “Your songs are superb, but so personal. You will need to take care of it yourself,” she basically told him. The advice stuck, and the author became a singer. He is proud of the road he’s travelled since. “I would love to have Robert Plant’s voice, but I have the voice I have, with its limitations and its charm,” he says. “Singing opened me up, made me less tame. I was, and still am, a rather timid guy. I’m more the listening type, but I’m able to talk about myself when the time is right.”
He catches these moments on the fly, when inspiration rears its head in the whirlwind called life. Now a father of four, the eldest just graduated from high school and the youngest born just a few days before this interview, Moran keeps his antennae out pretty much all the time. Armed with his guitar, a pencil and some paper, he’s inspired by his charmed and eventful life, surrounded by kids and friends – and by his partner Catherine Major, also a singer-songwriter whose career has kept her busy for the better part of the last 20 years.
As his albums come and go, his music, which he writes in close collaboration with Thomas Carbou, has become more and more sparse. Where 2012’s Sans abri was a progressive music trip, with Sylvain Coulombe manning the drums, the new album is a much more tranquil and personal affair. Moran cites Daniel Lanois as one of his main influences, and one can clearly hear it on Le silence des chiens, especially on the song “Corruption”: the atmosphere, the effects, the guitars, the intimacy one feels right from the first few notes…
Moran’s praise for the virtuosity of his collaborator of the past eight years is boundless. “Thomas Carbou works so hard! His idea bank is endless, he’s an impressive musical reference,” says Moran. “He knows me so well that he knows how to respect who I am while remaining open and constructive, bringing ideas and sounds to the table in a perfectly natural way.” The two musicians recorded the album on their own, very simply, in September of 2015. Every morning, after they both dropped off their respective kids at daycare or school, they would work on a song, recording and mixing it in the afternoon.
Moran is a humble man that thrives when he creates. He feels a sense of wonderment at his own songs, just as a child would. After four albums and a collection of texts (Dans ma tête), he felt it was time to do something different. The song “L’orgueil,” one of his most personal to date, could mark a change in the way he expresses himself. It’s totally different musical direction, still with Thomas Carbou, that could take him to a more electronic, visceral sound… who knows? For the time being, Moran is content to keep loving life, and being inspired by it.