Patrice Michaud burst onto the scene with his second album, Le feu de chaque jour, and its massive single “Mécaniques générales” (which won the Prix de la chanson SOCAN in 2014) – now, he’s back with a third album where he’s allowed himself a few bold moves without turning his back on his signature simplicity. We flipped through his Almanach with him.

Success is a strange, savage beast. Most artists spend their whole career hunting it down, but once they’re face to face with it, some freeze and let it run away from them. When singer-songwriter Patrice Michaud crossed paths with it after “Mécaniques générales,” he stared it down and immediately tamed it.

“Popularity – and I say that tongue in cheek, because it’s not like people stop me on the street all the time – isn’t something that bothers me at all,” says Michaud. “I make music and release it on records in the hope that people will listen to my songs and come see me onstage. Art for art’s sake is not my thing! I seek a connection with the audience, and even though it was sometimes tough to manage work and private life in the past few years, I don’t regret a single thing.”

Michaud’s candour could surprise some, but it’s precisely that simplicity and directness that’s made him one of Québec audiences’ favourite artists. Michaud, like his music, is frank and accessible. His teenage-looking face sits atop a beanpole figure that bears no resemblance to any kind of rock-star stereotype. He has a knack for creating intimate and timeless songs, that are nonetheless anchored in their epoch, and that grab your heart before settling in your mind.

“When people do stop me in the street, I always get the impression they only half recognize me,” he admits. “Often, they’ll sing a bit of one of my songs to me, and I love it, because it means I’ve moved them with what I do in life, with the songs I write, not because of how I look. They don’t like me because I appear on game shows or talk shows on TV, but because of the one thing I want to do in life, and that makes me really happy.”

“I’ll never go in a studio thinking, ‘OK, I need “Mécaniques générales” number two.’ There’s no shorter path to disappointment!”

So Michaud certainly isn’t complaining about the fact that he struck a chord in such a vast audience with “Mécaniques générales.” And although past success is never a guarantee of future success, he also knows that his excellent current single, “Kamikaze,” is in heavy rotation on both commercial and public radio. This first impression bodes well for his upcoming Almanach album.

“I’ll never go in a studio thinking, ‘OK, I need “Mécaniques générales” number two.’ There’s no shorter path to disappointment! Still, I have to admit that it somewhat changed my approach, because it allowed me to develop my interest towards the efficiency of pop songs. It basically is with that song that I’ve grown from the pared-down folk sound of my early days. But let’s be clear, ‘Kamikaze’ has nothing in common with it, one way or the other. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure it was the right material for a single.”

A Fresh Start

Michaud is the first to admit it: Almanach is his most heterogeneous album to date. He hasn’t abandoned the folk-rock sound he’s been perfecting since he began his career, but one can still sense an openness to new sounds and new ways of doing things. First, a desire to groove, but foremost, a desire to challenge himself, one that his new collaborator, jack-of-all-trades producer Philippe Brault, understood right away.

“If I compare myself to certain people in my entourage, I can readily admit I’m not much of a music connoisseur,” Michaud admits. “But I’ve caught up in the last two years; I probably listened to more music during that time than in the rest of my entire life! I’ve tuned my ear to production values, and also quite a bit to the search for certain tonalities. Before I started, I spoke to Philippe about what I was looking for, and a lot about my favourite band, Doctor Dog [a Philadelphia band that’s very influenced by the sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s]. His face lit up immediately, because he understood that we were going to have fun.”

But although the recording process was fun, the birth of Almanach wasn’t easy. Inspiration just wasn’t there, and Michaud was left wondering when he would actually be able to write again, until a proverbial fairy godmother crossed his path. “A new friend (TV host France Beaudoin), who I call my benefactor, lent me her cabin so I could retreat to write, and it really helped,” says Michaud. “That’s where I created, quite rapidly, the song ‘Anse Blanche.’”  That magnificent and contemplative song features the guitar work of Brad Barr (of The Barr Brothers) and Michaud’s decidedly very apt writing, where he sings that the St-Laurent river is his “Main” (referring to Montréal’s St-Laurent Boulevard, dubbed “The Main”).

Also, in order to flex his composer muscles, he also found inspiration in others, notably deciding to do a French adaptation of the song “Temazcal” by the American supergroup Monsters of Folk (M Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket). “Thing is, I don’t speak English, so I adapted their song in a very liberal way,” says Michaud. “It was a simple writing exercise, but when we actually produced the album, I thought it fit perfectly at the tail end of it.”

It’s been said before: Michaud has a knack for finding the right phrase. His carefully and passionately crafted lyrics are at the very heart of his approach. But don’t you go congratulating him for the magical phrase around which “Kamikaze” is built (“Love is not a thing / It’s a place”). It was lifted straight out of Réjean Ducharme’s novel Le Nez qui Voque. Call it poetic sampling.

“It’s not the first time I nod to a writer, but here it’s the very core of the song, so we needed to clear it with the publisher, Gallimard,” says Michaud. “It’s something I launched in the universe without any hopes of success. I actually believed that the odds were 90% that I wouldn’t even get a response, 7% I would be denied, and a small possibility that it would work. And they said yes! It means a lot to me, because Ducharme is a huge influence for me.”

The People’s Almanach

On his third album, Michaud admits being at peace with the idea that he “writes the same song over and over,” and he also introduces new voices. There’s Ariane Moffatt’s voice, majestic and ethereal on the duet “Les terres des la Couronne,” and also that of Loïc, his four-year-old son, who is the narrator on “Tout le monde le saura,” a grave yet luminous text that akin to a prayer for an uncertain future.

“I’d promised myself I wouldn’t include a spoken word piece on Almanach because I’d done so on the previous two albums<” says Michaud. “But since I rarely keep my word, I ended up doing it with that text, but I didn’t want to read it myself. We tried all kinds of versions: male, female, polyphonic… and after testing it with my son, I found that the piece took on a whole new meaning. He probably didn’t understand what he was saying, but he did it with an immense smile, and I was very moved by his interpretation.”

It’s also from this piece that the album’s title comes, the strange Almanach which Loïc pronounces like it’s some kind of exotic fruit. “I have a love-hate relationship with my song titles,” says Michaud, when asked about the meaning of that title. “That’s because I’m the biggest fan of titles, in all art forms, and that’s made me extremely exacting about my own. This one came late in the process, but I like Almanach, it’s a beautiful and slightly intriguing word. The almanac was a book that compiled important information on harvests, moon cycles and weather patterns, as well as anecdotes, recipes and useless news. In other words, it was a grab-bag of the practical and the useless, both sacred and profane, and it was originally distributed by door-to-door salesmen. In the end, it reminded me of what I do quite a bit…”

The image is indeed quite appropriate: one easily imagines Patrice Michaud as a door-to-door poet, wandering country roads to pitch his songs to the good people. He’ll settle for wandering from venue to venue during his upcoming tour, which begins in February – and which we imagine will be a long and fruitful one.


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On a cold, mid-December 2016 night in Toronto, there’s a man singing onstage at The Royal Theatre – usually a movie house – on downtown College Street. Though he’s backed only by a guitarist, and says almost nothing in between songs, his every raspy vocal turn and physical move is rapturously greeted by a sold-out house. Strangely, he’s singing in almost total darkness for the entire performance, with just one dim spotlight from directly overhead – like a shadow in the night.

Clearly, this is one singer-songwriter (and SOCAN member) who appreciates the value of mystery – and who, perhaps, is striving to make it all about the music, while handily maintaining his anonymity, and protecting his personal life.

Meet Allan Rayman, hotly tipped as one of Toronto’s (and Canada’s) next-big-things, due to break out worldwide in 2017. Rayman has already signed a worldwide deal for his 512 Productions label with Communion Records, run by Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett; played a sold-out small-theatre tour of North America, headlining over James Vincent McMorrow; grown a rabid cult audience for his music; and is doing a First Play Live performance taping for CBC in Toronto today (Jan. 24, 2017).

But since he steadfastly refuses to be interviewed (for now), and offers no explanations of his work, we’re left on our own to interpret the sound and sense of his music, and the imagery of his videos.

Sonically, Rayman sets his gruff, soulful, sometimes folky vocals and R&B melodies against hip-hop beats. Both on his first album Hotel Allan (initially dropped as a free download), and live, he’s used voicemail messages from a female voice who’s in conflict with him. Lyrically, writing in the first-person, he tends to darkly describe the wreckage of romantic relationships, and often conflates love, sex and death with a heavy sense of dread. It’s intense, and usually riveting. Sample lines include, “I’m a bad habit that you can’t shake,” “I need a selfish kind of girl,” “I am the reason that you let me go.”

Visually, Rayman’s work is even more fascinating. In the videos for three songs from Hotel Allan (“27,” “Beverly” and “Graceland”), the visual aesthetic is that of low-budget, 1970s, updated-film-noir, American “road” movies. He released them one at a time, then revealed a greater purpose by combining them into a narrative short film, The Wolf and The Red Dress –  that saw his male and female leads meet in a diner, make love in a motel room, deal with her presumably shooting him, and awake in an earthly afterlife. In “Beverly,” the shooting is performed by a woman in a wolf mask, a recurring visual motif in his videos. And elsewhere: during the intermission at The Royal Theatre, eight girls in wolf masks and summer dresses lingered, and posed for selfies, on the lip of the stage. For the video of the song “Faust Road,” he used what looks like an old German-expressionist, black-and-white film of the Faust story from the 1920s, solarized and slightly “treated,” visually.

Rayman releases his second album, Roadhouse 01, on Feb. 24, 2017. The first single, “Repeat” –  a duet with the equally fast-rising Jessie Reyez – that premiered on Zane Lowe’s Apple Beats 1 program, no less – delves even deeper into his attraction to darkness and fear. As Rayman writes:

She swingin’ moods just like my mother do
I see the tension overcoming you
The cruel intention starts to shine through
I couldn’t help but fall in love with you

Rayman is poised to conquer the mainstream. But does he want to? As he writes in “27,” “I feel this fame is pending / With all my idols gone I’m afraid of 27.” Like The Weeknd before him, Rayman is hiding in the shadows as he makes his first few albums; if, when, and whether he ultimately chooses to step fully into the light, and even embrace it (like The Weeknd did) is anybody’s guess.


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SOCAN’s author, composer, and publisher members know it all too well: one’s environment can significantly influence songwriting and composing. Creating music away from home can sometimes trigger new ideas and collaboration, as well as unexpected and refreshing influences. Similarly, dreams of breaking onto a foreign market are hard to accomplish without being physically present in the coveted territory. In order to meet those objectives – stimulate songwriting, composing, and the exporting of music – SOCAN has, for many years now, offered its members free access to its SOCAN Houses in Los Angeles, Nashville and, recently, Paris. These are arguably three of the most important hubs of the global music industry.

For SOCAN’s A&R director, Rodney Murphy, the organization’s capacity to offer lodgings to its members in Los Angeles, Nashville and Paris allows it to positively influence their careers on a national and international level. “SOCAN’s ability to offer our writer, composer and publisher members accommodations in these cities has played a huge role in enhancing our members’ careers, on both domestic and global markets. SOCAN members from across Canada use our international houses for the creative development of their craft, allowing them to connect with their fellow creators and music industry contacts in those markets, often with the help and facilitation from SOCAN A&R representatives. Ultimately, our goal is to do our part to seed the Canadian music ecosystem, and help grow the careers and business of our members around the world.”

Paroles & Musique asked a few of its members who’ve stayed at one of the SOCAN Houses in the past year to share their impressions, and find out what their objectives were, and how they came to fruition, thanks to their presence in those foreign territories.

 

PIERRE LAPOINTE

Pierre LapointeSinger-songwriter Pierre Lapointe was one of the first to stay at the SOCAN House in Paris, a private apartment in the ninth arrondissement, near the Pigalle metro station, just a stone’s throw from the legendary Moulin Rouge, La Cigale, Les Trois Baudets and “guitar street.” “I frequently stay in Paris, and I know that accomodations are the most expensive part of those stays,” he says. “Revenues aren’t always the main reason that makes us want to spend some time in Paris. So knowing you don’t have to worry about the cost of accomodations in your Parisian budget is extraordinary.

“The goal of this trip was networking and songwriting. I met with some people who run a record label there, and with whom I’m quite likely to work with in the coming months, and I met with my concert production team. I worked on writing and researching arrangements for new songs with David François Moreau, and also with Matali Crasset, who’s in charge of designing the backdrop for my next stage show (Amours, Délices et Orgues), to be presented at the Maison Symphonique. So, co-writing songs that’ll be on my next album, and work on my next live show, both benefitted from my stay at the Paris SOCAN House.”

 

 

 


ROYAL WOOD

Royal WoodToronto-based singer-songwriter Royal Wood stayed at both the Nashville and Los Angeles SOCAN Houses in 2016. To him, there’s nothing more important than co-writing constantly, and networking, to quickly develop one’s career: “To make it in this industry, you need to be highly creative,” he says. “But you also need your music to land in the right hands and be able to count on a team you believe in. Good music without a solid team, sadly, won’t help you pay the bills. As my father would’ve said: ‘It’s like winking at a cute girl in the dark. You know you’ve done it, but she doesn’t’.’

“Nothing is more inspiring than a change of environment or scenery. For example, looking out the window at the L.A. SOCAN House and seeing the sun set on the hills and the palm trees of Silver Lake. The energy of the city and the cars driving by. The smell of the dry desert air. Staying at the SOCAN House allowed me to create songs that captured moments that I could not have captured otherwise.

“My most recent stay was in Nashville. After I signed my publishing deal with peermusic, I stayed at the SOCAN House to work for two weeks. During my stay, I wrote new music every day, and I was able to attend meetings with my manager and team. It was all very fruitful. I’m going back to Nashville early this year because I was so inspired by how successful that last trip was.”

 

LE COULEUR

Le CouleurFor Montréal electro-pop band Le Couleur, their stay at the Los Angeles SOCAN House was an occasion to collaborate with Eric Broucek, a renowned mixer who’s worked with several DFA Records artists (LCD Soundsystem, Shit Robot, The Juan McLean). As Le Couleur’s manager Julien Manaud, of Lisbon Lux, explains, “Our goal was, on the one hand, to finish the mixing of the Pop album in the studio, while also starting to develop a network in L.A. I attended a SOCAN party where I met quite a few people. Among them was American agent Pete Anderson. We stayed in touch for several months after that. He really enjoyed Beat Market’s Sun Machine album, and set up two showcases in Los Angeles in January 2017.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


BOBBY JOHN

Bobby JohnAside from his solo career, singer-songwriter Bobby John is signed with Les Éditions Bloc-Notes Musique and has invested a lot of energy in co-writes for other artists, such as Serena Ryder, Olivier Dion and Maxime Proulx, to name a few. He stayed at both the Nashville and Paris SOCAN Houses in 2016 in the hopes of creating contacts in the U.S. and in France, and to check out the local music scenes. “When I went to Nashville and Paris, I had the chance to explore the musical universes of those cities, and I met incredible people who inspired several songs,” he says. “New technology is a great communication tool, but it’ll never replace the creative energy that happens when two songwriters work together in the same studio. That, in my opinion, is how the best collaborations and solid relationships are built.

“Producer/songwriter Éric Collard came with me when I went to Nashville. Thanks to the help of my team at Bloc-Notes Musique, we planned a full week of co-writing and networking. When we came back, we had six potential songs for the album, new ideas about production and recording methods, and made contact with new co-writers for future visits. There’s no doubt that our week at Nashville’s SOCAN House was very productive.

“Not long after, we were invited to co-write with several other songwriters in Paris. I had the chance to work with phenomenally talented artists. A total of nine songs were written during my stay in Paris and, there too, my list of contacts grew considerably. My week at SOCAN’s Paris House could not have been more productive and positive.

“In both instances, the location was ideal. Nashville’s SOCAN House is located in a quiet area, so we were able to set up our equipment and not have to worry about disturbing the neighbours. The songwriters with whom we worked didn’t all have studios of their own, so we used the SOCAN House as a meeting and recording space on more than one occasion. It’s really super!

“As for the Paris SOCAN House, the location is magnificent. The apartment is in a small building in a really interesting and music-oriented area, just a few steps from the metro. Once again, my week was filled with writing sessions and meetings. Being so close to my meetings was ideal. I thank SOCAN for offering its members the opportunity to use the SOCAN Houses, because without them, we wouldn’t have been as productive!”


PAUL-ÉTIENNE CÔTÉ

Paul-Étienne CôtéPaul-Étienne Côté has won several SOCAN Awards in the National and International Television Music categories and is the founder of Circonflex, a musical agency. The prolific composer stayed at the Paris SOCAN House mainly for networking purposes: “The SOCAN House is ideal: it’s Pigalle, it’s central. It’s like living in Montréal’s Mile End, but times 3,000. It’s perfectly located amidst the best venues, terrasses and bistros, and it’s next door to the ninth, second and tenth arrondissements. All of the Paris music industry is a stone’s throw away. I would use the Vélib [a bike-sharing system] to travel everywhere I needed to go from the SOCAN House. I even went all the way to Clichy on one of those bikes because the SOCAN House truly is near everything (but also because I needed to burn all those calories from charcuteries, foie gras, baguettes, escargots and babas au rhum).

“Besides, being able to get accommodations for next to nothing is incredible. It allows you to invite potential clients to dine and drink champagne rather than citronnade. When I was there, I met several new producers, with whom I worked with just last week on four fabulous projects!

“Here’s an anecdote about my stay at the SOCAN House. On October 9, 1871, Victor Hugo moved rue de La Rochefoucauld. He lived there from 1871 to 1973. In 2016, it’s the SOCAN House that’s located rue de La Rochefoucauld, and its members stay there.”


For more information about the Los Angeles SOCAN House,
click here.

For more information about the Nashville SOCAN House, click here.

For more information about the Paris SOCAN House, click here.

 

In the exclusive interview below, conducted by Paroles & Musique Editor Eric Parazelli via Skype, Carole Facal (a.k.a. Caracol) takes us on a guided tour of the SOCAN House in Los Angeles, where she settled down for a week to work on new songs. She also took this opportunity to make new contacts with the help of her record label, Indica Records.

 


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