Acceptance into one’s local music community is an important component in the career of any singer-songwriter. To be equally embraced by two communities is a major bonus, one for which Rose Cousins is deeply grateful.

The P.E.I-raised, Halifax-based Cousins is a key member of the folk/roots scenes in both Halifax and Boston. Her American connection is vividly showcased on her compelling new album, We Have Made A Spark. Her third full-length CD, it was recorded at Boston studio Q Division, produced by Bostonian Zachariah Hickman, and features a large cast of area musicians and backing singers.
Cousins has set down roots within the Boston scene over the past decade. “The people there have really lit a spark with what they’ve taught me,” she says. She traces her interest in that scene back to the late ‘90s. “I was learning how to play guitar and I was really attracted to the singer-songwriter style. I was listening to people like Deb Talan, Kris Delmhorst and John Gorka, and it seemed like everyone was filtering through the Boston area. I was hungry to connect with the places and people I was listening to, and every summer I’d look for a folk festival there to go to as my vacation.”

“I don‘t think the details are important. I think the emotion in the song is important.”

A turning point came in 2002, when Cousins played an open mic night at legendary Boston folk haunt Club Passim. That led to an invitation to perform at the Cutting Edge of Campfire benefit festival, termed by Cousins “the beginning of my becoming part of that community.”

Fittingly, her Boston CD launch for We Have Made A Spark came via a performance at Club Passim in February. “Almost everybody who plays on the album was there, and it was just amazing,” recalls Cousins. The fact that she’s recently been playing U.S. dates opening for Gorka further indicates the peer respect she’s earned there.

The eloquence of her songwriting and purity of her voice have long made Cousins a favourite on the Maritime circuit. She’s won PEI Music and Music Nova Scotia Awards, a 2008 East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for Female Solo Recording of the Year (for her album If You Were For Me), and, in 2011, ECMAs for Female Solo Recording (The Send Off) and SOCAN-sponsored Songwriter of the Year.

Cousins has been delighted to witness the success of East Coast comrades like Jill Barber, Catherine MacLellan, David Myles, Meaghan Smith, and Old Man Luedecke. “All the Atlantic regions have such an amazing variety and high level of talent. I feel I’m part of this very cool graduating class,” she says. “We all started at similar times, plugging away and meeting each other. Now everyone is doing it full-time and finding success with it.”

A signature of Cousins’ style is the unflinching honesty of her lyrics. Emotion is the real spark behind her writing, she explains. “I’m spurred by an emotion I’m feeling, ” she says. “It may be a notion I haven’t quite figured out and the writing of the song may help me do that, or it may be a pure emotion that’s harder to talk about than write about. In order to write I need to feel the thing I’m writing.”

We Have Made A Spark has been termed a “breakup” album, but Cousins disputes that characterization. “It’s not a breakup record, in the standard sense of the fact that I may have been with one person and broken up with them, ” she says. “That’s just not the case. I’m into my ‘30s now and there are chunks of time when you’re wrestling with certain things. There comes a point where you assess patterns you have, and people in your life, and things you are telling yourself, and you have to check in on those things. See what serves you and what no longer serves you. I think the record has a lot of that. It’s not about one particular person. It’s about the part of me that has to let go. I don‘t think the details are important. I think the emotion in the song is important.”

She acknowledges that she’s drawn to darker themes in her writing. “I guess I look at sadness and introspection as a little more interesting, ” she says. “There are more unexplored caves, nooks and crannies, with things hiding in them. It feels more complicated when you feel sad than when you feel joyful, and that attracts me to it. That doesn’t mean I’m a miserable person.”

Carving out time for writing is an increasing challenge, given her hectic touring schedule. “There’s not a lot of uninterrupted down time when I’m on the road,” she says, and mentions an annual retreat she’ll be taking in June. “I’ve done it for the past two years, and I’m so excited for that. No phones, no computers, just a lake and woods. That is the best time to figure out what I’m actually thinking and feeling.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Translations prior to Fall 2013 are currently unavailable. 

FM Le Sieur est un cas spécial dans le domaine des compositeurs de musiques de film. Introduit à notre oreille par le biais d’un groupe pop dans les années 80 (Tango Tango, gagnant de L’Empire des futures stars en 1989), François-Maurice (d’où le FM) est devenu, de fil en aiguille, l’un des compositeurs de films les plus prolifiques et recherchés au Québec. Il cumule une bonne douzaine de trames sonores de longs métrages, parmi lesquels tous les films d’Alain Desrochers, de La Bouteille à Gerry. On retrouve aussi dans cette liste Nuit de noces, Mambo Italiano, De père en flic et Le Sens de l’humour, tous des succès au box-office québécois.

FM Le Sieur a également apposé sa touche personnelle sur une dizaine de téléséries, parmi lesquelles C.A., Musée Éden, Nos étés et Music Hall, Les sœurs Elliot, Les Bougon, Charlie Jade, une coproduction internationale tournée en Afrique du Sud, et Being Human, adaptation américaine de la populaire série de la BBC. En tout, le compositeur cumule pas moins de trois Prix Gémeaux et neuf nominations aux Prix Génie, Jutra et Gémeaux.

Lorsqu’on évoque sa période pop pré-cinématographique, FM Le Sieur a le réflexe de l’autodérision : « Tango Tango, tout le monde haïssait ça , je ne sais pas pourquoi, s’exclame-t-il en riant. Maintenant il y a plein de petits bands qui font de la pop, mais dans ce temps-là c’était ben sérieux la musique, on aurait dit que c’était mal vu de faire des trucs plus légers. Mais avant même qu’on commence à monter le répertoire de Tango Tango, j’avais fait de la musique pour les premiers courts métrages étudiants d’Alain Desrochers à Concordia, vers 1986. J’y ai rencontré Erik Canuel, et par la suite [les futurs réalisateurs] André Turpin, Podz et Pierre Gill. Ce qui fait que lorsque l’aventure Tango Tango s’est terminée, j’avais déjà entamé une carrière de compositeur dans le domaine de la publicité, mais toujours dans le but d’en arriver au cinéma. »

« j’avais déjà entamé une carrière de compositeur dans le domaine de la publicité, mais toujours dans le but d’en arriver au cinéma. »

Celui qui se décrit comme un boulimique de cinéma et qui achète parfois les trames sonores avant de voir les films, peut citer autant Ennio Morricone que Maurice Jarre ou Philip Glass (dont la classe de maitre, à laquelle il a assisté lors de son court passage à l’Université McGill, l’a convaincu qu’il pouvait se débrouiller seul). Malgré tout, il ne s’en cache pas, il est issu de la musique rock et pop et croit que c’est ce qui l’a aidé à se démarquer : « Ça m’a permis d’utiliser mes influences au moment où a débuté cette vague de métissage de la technologie aux orchestrations classiques, à la manière de Danny Elfman (compositeur quasi attitré du cinéaste Tim Burton). »

« Mon but c’est de faire ce qu’il y a de mieux pour le film, pas d’imposer ma signature, » précise FM lorsqu’on lui demande comment on arrive à se forger un style particulier tout en composant pour des œuvres cinématographiques ou télévisuelles aussi diversifiées. « Il faut être caméléon, traduire ce que le réalisateur entend pour son film. C’est lui le capitaine du navire. Et les gens qui connaissent ça vont remarquer un style qui s’en dégage. Mais les réalisateurs ne cherchent pas des compositeurs qui ont une signature sonore, ils cherchent des compositeurs qui seront capables de faire matcher parfaitement de la musique avec leurs images. La sensibilité au cinéma est plus importante que la signature sonore. »

Justement, parlant de sensibilité, partant de la prémisse que la quête des acteurs et actrices est d’être le plus possible dans la vérité des émotions, comment sent-on que la composition musicale est en adéquation parfaite avec l’aspect dramatique à l’écran? « Je le sens, tout simplement, répond FM instinctivement. Des fois quand je réécoute ce que je viens de faire, si je n’aime pas ça, j’ai comme un inconfort viscéral, il y a quelque chose qui ne marche pas. C’est un signe que je suis soit en train de me battre avec le dialogue, soit ça ne commence pas à la bonne place ou que c’est trop chargé, ou encore que ça manque de oumpf… C’est vraiment un feeling qui ne ment pas. Mais c’est sûr que si au départ la magie dramatique n’opère pas à l’écran, ça rend mon travail encore plus complexe. »

L’homme compose en général seul dans son studio maison, improvisant les partitions au clavier ou à la guitare en faisant défiler les images. Un copiste, un orchestrateur et des musiciens parmi les plus chevronnés (souvent de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) ajouteront leur expertise dans le processus. Pour celui qui n’a jamais complété sa formation académique, cette collaboration constante avec des musiciens bourrés de diplôme a été intimidante pendant longtemps. « C’est un vieux complexe que j’ai développé à force de travailler avec des violonistes qui jouent depuis l’âge de neuf ans. Et un jour il y en a un qui m’a dit : “FM, nous autres on est là pour jouer, si toi tu n’étais pas là, on n’aurait rien à jouer.” Je n’ai donc plus de complexes avec ça. Il y a des choses qui s’apprennent, mais mettre de la musique sur des images, tu l’as ou tu ne l’as pas. » Et, de toute évidence, FM Le Sieur possède remarquablement bien ce don!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Though the members of MonkeyJunk may have decades between them age-wise, they share a common musical goal: to push the boundaries of the blues.

Steve Marriner, the band’s front man, is in his late twenties, lead guitarist Tony D is on the cusp of fifty, and drummer Matt Sobb falls somewhere in between. But with 12 Maple Blues Awards, a Canadian Independent Music Award, a Blues Music Award and a 2012 Juno for Blues Album of the Year (for To Behold), the generation gap isn’t slowing them down. “We’ve arrived at the same place,” explains Sobb, “but we got here on different roads.”

While all three grew up playing and listening to the blues, they also bring decidedly different musical influences to the table. “Steve is well versed in stuff that’s new,” explains Tony D with a laugh, “but I still think of stuff from the ’80s and ’90s as new music!” But Marriner says it all contributes to a sound they like to describe as “swamp R&B, soul boogie, and bedroom funk,” rather than anything that fits neatly into a single category.

When the trio first joined forces in 2008, they had no plans for making it big. Marriner, who plays harmonica, keyboards and baritone guitar, had been playing a weekly gig at Irene’s, a popular music venue in the band’s hometown of Ottawa, when he asked Tony D to accompany him. “We just wanted to have a good time on Sunday night,” he laughs. When the pair realized they were on to something, however, they called Sobb and told him he was in their new band. “We said ‘hey, we just started a band called MonkeyJunk, and you’re the drummer!” recalls Marriner.

Once they got together, things ramped up quickly. Within a month, the trio had recorded four songs, and a year later, they had their first studio album in hand. While all three shape the songs, Marriner handles most of the lyric writing, a process he says is getting easier as he learns to trust his gut. Their creative process may be mysterious and chaotic, but the band is happy with the way things are working out.

With a new album in the works, a touring schedule that includes the U.S. and France, and an ever-expanding legion of fans, the members of MonkeyJunk are keen to see what else the future has in store. “We’re just going to keep pushing the envelope,” says Marriner.

Track Record
• The name MonkeyJunk was inspired by a offhanded remark vintage American blues artist Son House made in a filmed interview. “I’m talkin’ ‘bout the blues. I ain’t talkin’ about monkey junk,” he said. The expression struck a chord with the band.
• MonkeyJunk deliberately has no bass, an homage to early blues music where it was common not to have one. Instead, Marriner plays baritone guitar.
• The band’s influences range from traditional blues (Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters) to soul (Otis Redding, Al Green) to their current listening (The Meters, Little Feat, JJ Grey & Mofro, Derek Trucks).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *