Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” And I say, never were truer words written.

Before I begin any projects, my mantra usually goes something like this: “Let’s face it Frew, you’re about to begin the grind and feel the pain and the anguish, put in the hundreds of hours required to make it the best it can possibly be, knowing full well… that nobody could care less or give a damn about it!”

Does that sound a little too gloomy for you? Not to me. On the contrary, I say that mantra is enduring. I say it’s honest, and best of all I say it’s inspiring, because it screams the truth and it begs of me to prove it wrong.

And so, up I get and onward I go to start yet another outrageously difficult and exhaustive project… all the way, loving it. Oh and just for the record, I’ve been doing that for close to 40 years!

“You have to live and breathe, eat and sleep and care uncompromisingly, no matter what the challenges are”

That’s right, get it into your heart and brain that other than your mom and dad, your sister and her new boyfriend, maybe the mailman, some friends and perhaps a few diehard fans from the past, no one really cares whether you or I ever write a book, record a new CD or ever get a hit single on the radio for the first time – or ever again.

Swamped by the need for instant gratification, and having an overwhelming abundance of entertainment outlets available to them, the mass audience we crave is NOT holding its collective breath awaiting our next masterpiece.

Will Jim Carrey make a new movie? Will the Stones tour yet again? Will Sting ever put The Police back together for a final hurrah? “Zzzzzzzzz!” says the planet. So, if no one cares, then why bother?

Well for one thing, the alternative of “doing nothing” is just not an option, at least not to me. Secondly, getting a “real job” as my mother always said, even AFTER my success, doesn’t fly with me either. I’ve done REAL jobs, many of them, and honest and forthright as that is, nothing beats making music and performing. Well, does it?

So what, then, is the answer if no one truly cares? It’s simple. There are two rules of thumb that I live by:

1) YOU HAVE TO CARE. You and only you can make it happen. Read Winston Churchill’s words again. You have to live and breathe, eat and sleep and care uncompromisingly, no matter what the challenges are, no matter what the naysayers around you say, or tell you differently.

2) YOU and only you, have to do something REMARKABLE in order to MAKE THEM CARE, or at the very least “somewhat” remarkable to at least make them sit up and take notice.

Just when you think it might be over for him on the funny side of things, Jim Carrey takes on “serious” roles; WE sit up and take notice and he wins two Golden Globes. Just when we say, “The Stones are too old for this,” they build a bigger stage, plan a bigger tour, play in Cuba, and Jagger covers it like a 25-year-old. WE sit up and take notice. He doesn’t give us The Police, we moan, but then Sting joins forces with Peter Gabriel and tours and WE go “How cool.” Do you get my point? Something out of the ordinary, something a little “remarkable.”

I wrote a song for Glass Tiger as good as any pop song I’ve ever written, yet radio programmers and Top 40 said, “No, it ain’t happening.” Instead, I come back with an album of classic ’80s covers called 80290Rewind and suddenly, it’s a little remarkable. “Hey, have you heard the guy from Glass Tiger singing Madonna? How about John Waite or Simple Minds or Tears for Fears?” Suddenly people go, “Hmmm that’s cool, let me take a look at that.”

I leave you with this: I wear a tattoo on my arm that says NO SURRENDER. Those words mean so very much to me.

On August 20, 2015, after working my ass off for two months of straight singing for that new album, I went to bed and suffered a stroke in my sleep. I was left with total paralysis on my right side afterwards, a broken heart and a crushed soul. As I write this now, I’ve just finished performing for the first time since that stroke, on live TV this morning, and crushed it. Hit it right out of the park, on what is probably THE most unforgiving format you can do. Also, as of this writing, in four days’ time, I perform the first of two sold-out shows in my hometown of Toronto!

I rest my case.

 

 


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What do songwriters Sylvie Paquette and Steve Veilleux have in common? They both have put words in music. Except in their case, the words were those of Anne Hébert and Gérald Godin, just like Les douze hommes rapaillés and Chloé Ste-Marie have done for Gaston Miron. But the comparison ends here.

Last March, Kaïn’s singer took a break from his popular band to dive head first into the release of an homage to the politically active and outspoken poet, the late Gérald Godin, a magnificent opus titled T’en souviens-tu Godin?, a one of a kind outlet for Veilleux who created, in collaboration with his partner in crime Davy Gallant, sonic universes for a dozen selected poems.

As for Paquette, this week’s release of her Terres originelles is the result of four years’ work, a bold gambit of admiring sonic paintings inspired by the collections of poetry written by Anne Hébert between 1942 and 1997, an warm, serene and celestial album created alongside producers Yves Desrosiers and Philippe Brault.

In both cases, the motivation was a duty of remembrance. But beyond that, both artists have created major musical milestones in their respective careers.

sylvia“Singing and poetry have always gone hand in hand, says Paquette. Léo Ferré did it with Aragon. I’ve always done lyrics-based music and I’ve worked with people like Jean Fauque (Alain Bashung) and Daniel Bélanger, authors that are very close to their lyrics, but taking on Anne Hébert was a completely different adventure.”

This adventure took her to Kamouraska, the Québec region that was so beloved by the poetess: “I paid my respects on her grave, went snowshoeing on her land. It’s an intimate encounter with her poetry, free, kind of like prose, I had to let go completely, confides Paquette, I did not adapt her poetry in any kind of way, although I did create choruses, sometimes, but only by using a stanza or a few lines and repeating them. I approached it with utmost respect. We wanted something that showed a lot of restraint and where the voice was front and centre. Even in the final mixdown, there are no effects on the voice, but I stayed very true to the folk ethos I’ve been championing for years.”

 

steveveilleuxAs for Steve Veilleux, he admits it outright: “It was a creative process that is completely different from what I usually do. I stumbled upon Godin’s oeuvre and simply devoured everything I found: his poetry, his biography, his politics, all of it just captivated me. That’s why, ultimately, I decided to turn it into a musical essay. Of course I was totally outside of my comfort zone, but I was also totally inspired. I found myself a lot in this project, through musical exploration, by revisiting the way I write music because of such beautiful yet in your face images.”

“What I seek, above all, are melodies. Obviously, lyrics are a song’s soul, but the melodies have to be strong and accessible. Godin uses a very percussive language, it’s in your face, unpredictable, he was poetry’s black sheep. He uses joual, he doesn’t mince his words and doesn’t shy away from using swear words in his writing. He didn’t pussyfoot and was utterly proud of his culture.”

Michel Faubert is the one who offered Sylvie Paquette her first collection of poems by Anne Hébert, a book published in 1942 and entitled Les songes en équilibre (very loosely: balancing daydreams). Out of this book, the poem entitled Marine found its way into the final selection of 13 songs selected by Paquette as a magnificent vocal duet. “We’d never sung together, we were acquaintances. I was looking for someone who inhabits words and Michel is a raconteur. I suggested this duet over email and he replied seconds later saying: What a beautiful gift! Turns out he was just reading Kamouraska and he freaked out! I’m very pleased with the result, we sang facing each other, it was quite an intense studio experience.”

Veilleux too couldn’t be happier with the result: “Recording this album to me was like a rejuvenating experience, we did not set any limits, musically, and it reminded me of how simple and relaxing going into a recording studio can be. The songs a rock and all over the place at times, but other times, they are very sparse and vulnerable. The words dictated what the music should be. We practically did the whole album between just the two of us. In the end, what mattered was that not just Godin’s protest spirit came through, but also his touching side.”

The approach for Terres originelles was quite different: “The three of us were never together at the same time, explains Paquette, Yves and Philippe didn’t work as a duo. Most times, I would get things going with Yves, just guitar and voice, and later Philippe would come in and add colours and atmospheres. That’s how the whole album was done, never the three of us at the same time. In any case, Yves is a loner, he needs to be in his bubble. We need to be bothered, jostled a little when creating music. Take Rouler dans des ravins de fatigue, for example: I wrote the music and Philippe came in and put a light beat to it, and it worked with the rather heavy subject matter.”

“I enjoyed this kind of calm and serene exploration process so much, confides Veilleux, that I can’t even imagine working any other from now on. I would come out of the studio in ecstasy. Words should always dictate the way the music is played. They are just fragments of his body or work, but there were key ones that I absolutely wanted to be on the Album, such as Liberté surveillée and Tango de Montréal. His poetry put a spell on me, how dearly we miss someone like Gérald Godin!”
Sylvie Paquette

Steve Veilleux

 

 


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A wonderful mystery has dominated the BDS chart for the past year. Entrenched in the Top 100 for a year now, Alexe Gaudreault’s song, Placebo, stayed in the Top 10 for 46 weeks, including 7 weeks at number 1, earning her a SOCAN #1 Song Prize in the process. This tour de force was made possible thanks to a beautiful pop song off of her 3-song EP, an independent production that features her voice that balances between control and abandon. Placebo was the key that opened many doors: “There’s no way we anticipated such success. We knew we had a good song in our hands, but you never know what’ll happen next,” says Mariane Cossette-Bacon, the singer’s manager and co-author of the song with John Nathaniel.

Alexe Gaudreault’s first full-length LP under her own name will be released on May 20, 2016. Some may not yet know her face, but many were introduced to her during the 2013 edition of the popular TV Show La Voix. During the blind audition stage, the young singer had won over judges Marc Dupré and Marie-Mai’s attention thanks to her spot-on interpretation of Jacques Brel’s Quand on a que l’amour. She was eliminated during the second live round, but she was asked to be the opening act for ex-coach Marc Dupré’s live concert at Montréal Bell Centre next June 10 and 11. “The last time I was there was to see Cirque du Soleil, and now I’m going back to sing! I’ve got the butterflies just thinking about it.”

“You can’t fake emotion. Sometimes many takes are necessary. The recording of Placebo was wrapped at 3 in the morning with a blanket over my head!”

Aloud
Alexe Gaudreault P&M mai 2016 credit Ali Kay InStoryAlexe Gaudreault comes from Dolbeau-Mistassini, a town about 6 hours by car northeast of Montréal in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Québec, and one can tell just by her voice. She’s endearing and a perfect ambassador of the fun-loving side of the inhabitants of said region. Her great musical sense and nightingale voice come from her mother’s side of the family. “My mother, uncle and grandfather have always enjoyed singing, while my dad can’t even carry a tune whistling!”

Now 23, Alexe has sung in church choirs since her early days and also picked up the transverse flute when she was in high school. “I’ve never said ‘I want to be a singer’; music has always been a part of my life, simple as that.” Not only can she sing, but she’s great at drawing and signed up for an Art degree in cégep. When she was 19, she participated in the Festival de la chanson de Saint-Ambroise, a Francophone singing contest that acts as a springboard for young singer-songwriters. “That’s when I got hooked. After that I auditioned for La Voix and things rapidly fell into place.”

Although it might look like a fairy tale from the outside, it was really a question of talent, encounters and perseverance, as well as risk, efforts and instinct. “When I decided I was going to have a career in music, I knew I’d have to work really hard,” says Alexe during our meeting while munching on a bagel with cream cheese. We met at Café Lézard, in Rosemont, the popular Montréal neighbourhood where she relocated. Life after La Voix can’t have been a cakewalk. “That experience is all about performance: you have to deliver. It’s a great platform, but it all happens at lightning speed. I don’t want to take away anything from that program—it has changed my life—, but I do feel we come out of it a little lost at sea. Thank God, my mom was always there to keep me grounded. Soon after, I was lucky enough to meet the people that helped me evolve as an artist.”

John Nathaniel did not watch La Voix. “The first time I heard Alexe sing was on my Facebook feed, out of the blue, during a piano-voice jazz performance,” says the 32-year-old producer. “I said to myself: ‘That girl has something special, a tone,’ and I immediately wanted to meet her. I invited her to come over to my studio to listen to some music. We didn’t owe each other anything and decided to record a single, just to see where that would take us. It wasn’t long before that idea morphed into an EP.”

Mariane Cossette-Bacon, also 32, is John’s wife, Alexe’s manager and occasional chauffeur, as well as a lyricist and stylist. She holds a degree in fashion marketing as well as an MBA and has this to say about the crucial stage at which an artist consolidates their identity: “John and Alexe took time to research what Alexe likes to listen to, what moves her, what works with her voice, the sounds that inspire her. It was very important to come up with music that fit her like a glove. It’s likely that not all La Voix contestants don’t have the same opportunity, and luck, to be so well coached after their presence on that show.”

Six Hands, Three Heads, One Passion

 
alex gauderaultIt’s Alexe’s first album that is coming out on May 20, but all three of them feverishly await on the starting line. The album is a high quality, unifying and well-produced pop offering. The creative trio signed with Musicor, “which has no bearing on the artistic level, specifies John. They understand what we’re trying to do and gave us carte blanche. The success we had with the EP and Placebo made us realize that we really needed a team of true marketing experts.”

Australian singer-songwriter Sia immediately comes to mind upon hearing the song L’hiver. Other musical influence of John and Alexe can also be heard, and although the common thread is pop music, they both love moody and atmospheric artists such as Bon Iver, Coldplay, or London Grammar. Lyrics were co-written by all three of them with a fourth collaborator on some songs. All the music was created by John Nathaniel.

Their creative process has something intriguing. “We are highly disciplined, explains John who’s taken a songwriting workshop in Los Angeles. We plan work sessions in the studio. There’s no alcohol involved and no back and forth of emails. We truly write six-handed, tailored-made songs for Alexe. We are hard-working people and do not shy away from rewriting.”

Mariane: “We don’t strive for perfection, we strive for a convincing vocal performance, solid lyrics and a production that works with those elements.”

“Perfection is sterile, John adds. What we want is emotion, something raw. We’re instinctual and work very fast. From writing the lyrics to the final production, a song takes us three days to finish.”

The longest part of this process is for Alexe to place her voice: “You can’t fake emotion. Sometimes many takes are necessary. The recording of Placebo was wrapped at 3 in the morning with a blanket over my head!”

Alexe Gaudreault’s first album is true to who she is and is a perfect postcard of the process that led up to it. “Since moving to Montréal, I’ve evolved tremendously as a person, I think I have found myself! I’m still a bit of a baby, but I can say the little girl has become a woman. I left home, my family is far from me and, in the beginning, I found that quite hard. . . Luckily, I have a great entourage.”

The tattoo she sports on her arm reads, “Home is where your heart is”. If Placebo is a key, Alexe Gaudreault’s home is music and its heart beats at the tempo of a pop song.

Alexe Gaudreault Facebook page


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