At the dawn of her forties, Dolbeau-Mistassini native Sara Dufour is all about integrity and greatness of spirit.

Sara DufourWe meet on March 1, 2024, at Montréal’s MTelus – where she wows the attendees of the Montréal en Lumière Festival with her infectious country touch. “This time around, I wanted something fresh and new,” she explains, about re-inventing her repertoire and stage show. “Transitions are important.”

Introduced to the public with her performance on TV talent show La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice) and musical variety show En direct de l’univers – both immensely popular programs – Dufour immediately got on board. “It’s all happening super-fast, and we’re super-excited because the tour just started last week,” she says. “I played 284 shows over a period of four-and-a-half years during my last tour. In 2022, I had so many shows lined up that I was under the care of a voice therapist.”

Flanked by seven musicians, the “fille du Lac” concluded her Montréal stopover with a rocking version of her song “Chic-Chocs.” “It’s a little more high-energy,” she warns us. “When I discovered the electric guitar, like Bob Dylan did [in 1966, to the great displeasure of many of his followers], I wanted to explore that. And even on my second album, I told Placard [Dany Placard, her composing partner], ‘I want tons of guitars and a wide range of sounds.’”

The singer-songwriter – who’s won a few accolades, including the SOCAN-presented Song of the Year Award at the Gala Country (for “Johnny,” which she co-wrote with Vanessa Borduas), as well as a Country Music Award at the 2023 SOCAN Gala – prefers improvising with the whole band when she fine-tunes her songs.

On vas-tu prendre une marche?, her new 11-track album, isn’t so much about her mother in heaven, as it is about her exodus from the big city back to her roots, a new beginning, a renaissance. “I’m still getting acquainted with my audience, anyway,” says Dufour. “I played in Dolbeau-Mistassini on February 22nd. That’s where I’m from, and it’s where I live! And yet, when I asked the people in the audience, almost three out of four were seeing me for the first time.”

Her YouTube channel is full of nuggets that she’s shared with us for eight years: “La tourtière à ma grand-mère,” “Le père Noël c’tun québécois,” “J’m’en va dans l’bois,” “Baseball,” “Chez nous c’est ski doo,” “Chez Té Mille”… “I take notes all year long” says Dufour. “I write about what I do on a day-to-day basis, what happens to me. I use my phone to record voice memos, audio memos, take notes. But to get there, I sometimes need to be in a different state of mind, alone. Inspiration doesn’t necessarily come to me through action. Sometimes I’ll get to the lake and I’ll need a whole week.”

The timbre of her voice, lying somewhere between that of Patsy Cline and Daphnée Brissette (of the band Bon enfant), is full of a completely natural integrity.

Under the wing of Les Cowboys Fringants

 Dufour has been invited onstage by Les Cowboys Fringants a total of eight times since 2018, including at Centre Bell, and at the Festival d’été de Québec, in 2023, just before Robert Charlebois’s performance. “I was on a mission,” she admits, “like a racehorse waiting for the gate to swing open. At the end of their show, the Cowboys invited me to play on “Marine marchande,” and I stayed on for “Les étoiles filantes.” It’s so cool, you know! At the Festival des Montgolfières, Karl introduced me at the end by saying, ‘Please welcome one of Québec’s most extraordinary singers!’”

Then, there was Karl’s birthday in October, at the Vieux Palais in L’Assomption, a venue managed by Karl’s widow, Marie-Annick Lépine. “His song ‘Pub Royal’ was his favourite of the repertoire, and at the end, he got up and bear-hugged me,” she remembers.

“It’ll be 12 years since I graduated from the École Nationale de la chanson de Granby, and through all that time, especially the last three years, I’ve come to realize that every little thing matters.”

Next stop, China! A dozen concerts there have been confirmed for the spring of 2024.