While busying himself with his 70s covers project and other endeavours that capitalized on his singing talent, Sylvain Cossette has let 12 years slip by since he released any original material. The soon to be fifty-year-old songwriter has, however, resurfaced: Le Jour d’après, the new album he launched this fall, effortlessly floated to the top of the Francophone charts.

The joy of singing is in Cossette’s blood, and he has a knack for communicating it. The three volumes of his 70s project that saw him covering anglophone classics of the era reached the magical threshold of 400,000 copies sold and 400 stage performances. But, you see, there’s no way Cossette can limit himself to being just a singer. “I’m very involved in my shows: I do stage design, I script, I do a lot of stuff, but creating an album from start to finish, writing everything and getting the creative high, whether it’s by writing a song in a few minutes or by toiling over it for weeks on end, that is truly exhilarating.”

 

A Family Affair
At home, Cossette is surrounded by all kinds of instruments: guitars, a harp, a piano, a sitar. Throughout the years, he’s used all of them to compose songs that he’s kept for himself or offered his beloved wife, Andrée Watters, or to others. When he embarked on the project that became Le Jour d’après, about a year ago, his first impulse was to take three songs out of his drawer of saved songs. A fourth one was added to the line-up, but he wasn’t satisfied. It’s the ideas that came after that guided him. “Feeling like writing an album is nice and all, but you still need to know what to do with it, because sometimes it comes to you as a torrent of inspiration and you have to be ready to embrace it. You need to keep a cool head, to be able to understand what is sending you this or that way, good or bad.”

The man decided to turn to his loved ones to help him inform his material. His daughter Élisabeth, brother François and lover Andrée all joined their voices to his. Reine, his sister supervised the proofing of the lyrics while his other daughter, Judith, was in charge of documenting the process in pictures. It was, clearly a family affair, but the creator also recruited the help of Louis Côté (K-Maro, Shy’m) as co-producer, but still making sure he resisted the temptation of sounding too trendy. One must bear in mind that even though he loves pop music ever since his early days as a member of Paradox and the beginning of his solo career in 1994, Sylvain Cossette has never tried to be trendy. Instead, he let’s the verses come to him as they are, sprinkling a little British flavour over them before singing them in his timeless voice.

“I’m one of the most undisciplined guys there is, he says laughing. I don’t do voice training, I never took singing lessons, I can’t read music. [. . .] It’s like I still have a teenager’s voice despite being almost fifty. The only discipline I have is that I’ve never smoked, never did any drugs, I drink very little and I don’t go out to bars after my shows. . .”

 

Guided by Passion
For many artists, musicals can be incredibly useful launch pads, and as soon as their careers take off, the go solo. Cossette refuses to restrict himself to any one code of conduct. Following his 1999 album Humain, he joined the ranks of the immensely popular musical Notre-Dame-de-Paris and, a few years later, in 2006, also played in Dracula and co-created Les 7 alongside André Ducharme. A true lover of this music and theatre hybrid, he has also co-created a second one with Andrée Watters, but they will only reveal it to the public when they deem the timing is right.

Sylvain Cossette likes to say that he has no career plan and just goes with the flow of what excites him at any given moment. That is why, notably, he will not close the book on the 70s adventure, for one thing. Lately, however, there are a few certainties in his life: he will tour for Le Jour d’après in the fall of 2013 and his next album of original material will come to fruition much faster than its predecessor. “I like to leave doors open to all kinds of life situations. If I get up one morning and I feel like writing an album, I do it. A musical? I write that. I never close doors on anything because I love surprises.”


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  • One thing that has really helped me is to be moving – whether it’s on a train, boat, or car, or even walking around my apartment while I’m writing, instead of sitting in one spot. 
  • Try writing lyrics on newspaper. It rather distracts you because there are other words underneath. That means yours don’t seem so final. The words underneath may spark something else too.
  •  Always change the key up. Learn the song in other keys, and that helps keep you from getting bored.
  • Change instruments. I’ll go to a ukulele, or piano, or try open tuning.
  • There is one tip from John Lennon: never leave a song until it’s done. You may never get that spark, that excitement, back. If you get an idea, finish the song, even if you have to miss your best friend’s funeral. Finishing that song is more important than anything else.

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  • Martina: “If someone was going to start in this music, I’d say write from the heart and bring some soul.”
  • Dan: “I’d start with writing a really good song, because nothing happens without that.”
  • Dan: “Get it remixed: There are literally hundreds of remixes of Dragonette songs, and that really helps proliferate your sound.”
  • Dan’s recommended plug-ins and software: Ableton Live, Logic Audio, Softsense, Battery, Addictive Drums, Omnisphere, Trillium, and Apollo. “And get the most powerful computer you can afford to run all this shit.”

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