Seven years ago, Sébastien Lacombe erupted onto the scene with an authentic and warm folk-rock debut album titled Comme au cinéma. He launched his sophomore effort, Impressions humaines, in 2008, an album where his writing was still as delicate and endearing, but his compositions were definitely more pop and slick. His third, Territoires comes in the wake of a year-long trip to Senegal. A destabilizing, yet necessary exile.

“To me, if I don’t meet someone when I stop somewhere during a trip, it’s was not a good stop”

“It was a major life change for my wife and kids, and myself. We wanted to completely uproot ourselves and leave for two years. I left the comforts of city life for many reasons, the first of which was that I wanted to live a human-scale adventure. I craved exile, living elsewhere for a while. Plus, on an artistic level, my inspiration was gone. I’d totally run out of fuel. I was wondering what else I could contribute to the world of music. I was totally questioning the trade I chose. I needed new points of reference. And through the life experience a new project emerged: a new album.”

By adding touches of World Music (“Adouna”) and Electro arrangements (“D’où je viens”) to his rich folk palette, this third album is a proper portrait of his wanderlust (“Mr. Taximan”). It is the unadulterated product of Man’s two main sources of inspiration: travels and the people we meet in the process. “I love unexpected encounters. In Montréal, I was a creature of habit, a homebody. When you travel, your thirst for something new is reborn. That’s when you become more open-minded and seek human contact. It’s a kind of perpetual instability. It’s not hotel life, you meet everyday people. Your create a new bubble for yourself. I weakened myself by going to Senegal. I had no phon number, no friends. I had to talk to people to stay alive. No other choice. To me, if I don’t meet someone when I stop somewhere during a trip, it’s was not a good stop,” says the 40-year-old songwriter who won the Ma Première Place des Arts contest in 2003.
Now that this solid album is done, the tireless traveller is looking forward to working on his next stage show. One can clearly hear how excited he is about it. “The stage is increasingly important in our artistic lives. It cannot be ignored. That’s why my next peregrination will be a creative one. I came back from Senegal and other trips filled with images and I’d like to integrate them to my next show, which I intend to develop along three main axes: the French fact, travels and opening oneself to the world. I want to create a documentary/stage show and ask questions about where French fits in our modern world and in the music world. There will no doubt be an educational aspect to it all, even though I intend to remain in the realm of poetry,” says the creator.
This globe-trotting admirer of Félix Leclerc, Alain Bashung and Didier Awadi (leader of Senegalese Rap group Positive Black Soul) has a very down-to-earth—vision of what it means to be an artist in 2012. His only hope is to keep forging ahead in the realm of “la chanson francophone” while remaining open to any possibility. “My approach is dead simple: I’ll go where I’m invited. You shouldn’t overthink it. I’d love to export my music, but Québec remains my priority,” he says decisively.

Despite the fragility of a constantly evolving music business, Sébastien Lacombe does not intend to give up. Ever a hard worker, he remains lucid and knows he hasn’t said has last word yet. “It’s a fact that Québec artists work incredibly hard for very little revenue. We sometimes forget about it or simply don’t give a shit, but it’s still the truth of the matter. At the end of my African trip, I did ask myself why I should go on being a musician, and this is what I concluded: I haven’t yet reached the end of my adventure. As long as I have something to say, a message I need to share, and that it will be heard and appreciated—and that I will not hear that voice inside telling me to move on—I will carry on. Standing tall.”

In all likelihood, you know Frédérick Baron but don’t know you do. It’s nearly impossible you haven’t heard of the very many songs he’s penned on the radio, because he has been, hands down, the most sought-after lyricist in Québec’s music scene for ten years running. The list of artists he’s collaborated with is as long as it is impressive: Marie-Élaine Thibert, Annie Villeneuve, Bruno Pelletier, Marc Hervieux, Mario Pelchat, and Renée Martel all sang his words… Céline Dion tapped him to co-write the lyrics to “Entre Deux Mondes” a song that was sung by Marc Dupré.

But after so many years working in the shadows, the 37 year old writer now hopes to make it as a frontman with his second electropop album entitled Humeurs variables which he coproduced with Jérôme Minière and Lucie Cauchon. It’s a much more intimate affaire than Territoires Nord, his first concept album released 4 years ago. This time around, Baron relies on his poetic, striking and incisive penmanship to reveal himself on a very intimate level. He writes about hardships from his youth (“Maux-Dits”), proves to be surprisingly self-mocking (“Des goûts de luxe”) and unabashedly admits being afraid of growing old (“Sois jeune et tais-toi”).

But stepping through the looking glass is not as easy as it seems. Frédérick Baron says his work as a lyricist requires takes a lot from him and finds it hard to shed that skin. “People have a hard time establishing a link between this electropop album and my work as a lyricist. My work as a lyricist can sometimes become a little frustrating, casting a shadow on my singing career. But it’s also very helpful. It’s a double-edged sword,” muses the artist.

But, as a writer, couldn’t he simply give his more personal texts for other to sing instead of having to get on stage himself? Baron admits he felt the need to write for himself after all those years of writing for others. “In the beginning, I felt very comfortable being vicariously successful. I was self-assured, I had a huge team behind me, especially when you’re writing for Star Académie or Mario Pelchat. But, at some point, I realized it was just a customized way of seeing things, it did not represent who I am.”

Frédérick Baron is not entirely self-effacing when he writes for others, and he often offers some of his more poetic lyrics to certain singers. That’s how, for example, he convinced Bruno Pelletier to sing “Après toi le déluge”, a song about a very real breakup he went through. Pelletier even said it was one of his favourite songs. “Bruno Pelletier signs about my breakup, and that song is very painful to me. I’m even more moved that it’s sung by another artist. With Bruno singing it, it takes on an even deeper meaning.”

It’s worth noting that Frédérick Baron became a lyricist by happenstance. He arrived in Québec 1997 and hoped to become a popular singer. But, as fate would have it, things did not pan out the way he expected. Vincenzo Thoma, who collaborated with Roch Voisine and Lara Fabian, fell in love with his writing and asked him to write on the debut album of a young singer named Ima. One thing lead to another and Frédérick Baron’s career as a lyricist was under way. “Everything happened so fast and, 10 years later, I’ve collaborated on 50 albums and met all kinds of wonderful people,” he enthuses. “It’s definitely a most pleasant happenstance.”

But despite having written for some of the biggest names in the biz, Baron is still incredibly humble and hasn’t fully overcome his impostor syndrome, yet. On the plus side, the experience he’s gained with time allows him to choose which projects he wants to work on. As a matter of fact, he likes to compare himself to a fashion designer who has his unique style and who customizes his creations around his models.

Last November, he invited his friends on stage to sing some of the songs from his latest album in order to celebrate a decade of songwriting. It was a festive night where he invited artists with completely different styles. Indeed, it is rather hard to imagine any other circumstance where Ima, Catherine Major, Bruno Pelletier, Mario Pelchat and Alexandre Désilets would share the same stage. He believes there’s not better way of introducing himself as a lyricist to the general public.

Clearly, Frédérick Baron has no shortage of projects in the months ahead. He’s hopeful to get on stage and tour Humeurs variables in a few cities around the province. He’s also been hard a work on a mysterious TV series project for the past two years, but won’t say more about this new venture. Yet, after collaborating with Céline Dion, what more could he wish for? The lyricist says he would love to bump into Laurence Jalbert or Pierre Lapointe. Hark!


West Coast woods are tinder dry by the end of the summer, and composer Rudolf Komorous, whose house is surrounded by statuesque Douglas firs and cedars, knows it wouldn’t take much to ignite them. Yet many of the pieces he has written over the course of an extremely productive life are physically present in only one place: his home. He has packed his scores and manuscripts into suitcases – ready to roll them out the door if that fire materializes – but it’s like keeping one’s savings under the mattress. They’re close at hand, but they’re not really safe. Komorous turned 80 last year, however: “And I am thinking about my legacy,” he says.

Komorous came to Canada in 1969 from his native Czechoslovakia, where he was associated with the avant-garde Smidra group and its “aesthetic of the wonderful.” His oeuvre includes orchestral, solo, chamber and vocal music and two operas; he wrote his most recent composition, Minx, for Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble in 2010.

Having taught at both the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University, a huge part of his legacy is alive in the minds and music of the many composers who studied with him. But Komorous’ music will speak directly to future generations only if they know about it. Happily, a great deal more of that extraordinary music will soon be accessible to performers across the country for the first time.
Komorous hoped to consolidate all his scores at the Canadian Music Centre, which lacked at least three dozen works. He’s submitting both newer works and older, handwritten manuscripts, which will be cleaned up and scanned or typeset before digitizing. He has met a few detours, though, ranging from locating lost scores to re-translating titles and double-checking revised scores. Of at least one piece he’s confessed, “I think that the first version may be better than the last!”

Copyright laws prohibit the Centre from holding those pieces that were published commercially, so the CMC collection will still be incomplete. As Bob Baker, CMC’s regional director for British Columbia points out, “a publishing company’s priority is to make money, not promote a composer’s legacy. Fortunately, as a library, the CMC has a different mandate.” (Partly for this reason, the CMC has revamped its publishing activities, and performers can now purchase CMC scores, which are typeset and specially bound.)

In addition to the scores, Komorous has sketches, letters and assorted papers, which he originally intended to donate to the University of Victoria Library. But since the CMC will digitize these, too – storing originals safely in its archives in Toronto – it makes sense to have everything in one place.
And so the suitcases are getting lighter, even (at press time) as the first fall rains arrive.