Tire le coyote“Recently, I taped an episode of the TV series Microphone with Louis-Jean Cormier,” says singer-songwriter Benoît Pinette – better known as Tire le Coyote since the release of his first album, Le Fleuve en huile, in 2011 – on the phone from Québec City. “We were singing together, and that’s when I realized how he puts tonic accents on this or that syllable, whereas I put them elsewhere. It’s funny how each singer has their own way of doing things and writing, isn’t it?”

To each their own. For a long time, people said Pendant was mimicking someone else – Neil Young, mostly. Because of the musical signature, but mainly because of his falsetto, so reminiscent of Young’s 1970s heyday, especially 1972’s Harvest and 1974’s On the Beach, his folkier and more intimate albums. “It’s how I sing, and that’s that,” says Pinette. And, just to be perfectly clear, he absolutely doesn’t have to justify the way he sings to anyone. “When I started tinkering with the guitar, I was listening to bands like Radiohead,” he says. “That’s how I learned to sing. I don’t even need to strain; I can give several concerts a week and my voice is still good!”

His writing, however, is very singular. Désherbages, his third album – notwithstanding a first EP released in 2009 where he strictly penned the lyrics – appears to be his most polished so far, yet retaining his instinctive way of stringing words and images together. He’s the first to admit that as a lyricist, he’s an aesthete, an impulsive writer.

“I rarely work from a theme or a precise idea I want to express,” says Pinette. “Phrases, images, come to me in segments, and I knit the song using those bits.” Though he might sing like a young Neil Young, or a Thom Yorke, only Pinette himself can write the kind of stanza that opens “Toit cathédrale” (“Catherdal Ceilng”): “Les clichés ont le vent dans les voiles, à qui la faute / Quand les aimants ne collent plus sur le frigidaire de l’autre” (“Clichés are riding high, whose fault is it / When the magnets no longer stick to the other person’s fridge”).

Or, for another example, on the haunting, atmospheric rock psalm “Tes bras comme une muraille,” one of the album’s outstanding tracks: “J’espère faire valser les vieux fantômes / Jusqu’à la limite de nos origins / Pour qu’on puisse donner au soleil son diplôme / Le ménage se fera sans garantie légale / Je regarde au loin mes fenêtres sont sales / Faudra au moins s’assurer qu’elles donnent sur l’avenir” (I hope to make old ghosts waltz / All the way to our origins / So we can give the sun his diploma / The clean-up will be done with no legal warranty / I look into the distance, my windows are dirty / Let’s at least make sure they look to the future”). Tire le Coyote’s poetry is like no other, using simple words that rhyme nicely, and pretty images that illustrate profound and all-too-real sentiments.

Two exceptions to the rule are hidden on Désherbages. At one end of the album sits “Jeu vidéo,” a skillful French adaptation of Lana del Rey’s “Video Games,” or rather, a Québécois adaptation, with stanzas such as “L’ivresse est “stallée” sur ta peau” (“Drunkenness is stalled on your skin”), as he uses the word “stallée”, which is a typical Québec Anglicism (the use of an English word in French). The other surprise is “Le ciel est backorder” (another example of a Québec Anglicism), and its subject matter is serious: “Quand ton corps est une cage où on enferme la maladie / Tu veux reprendre le tirage sous prétexte de tricherie” (“When your body is a place where illness is caged / You want to do it all over, feeling there was foul play”). “That’s the one song on the album where I had a precise idea before I started writing it,” says Pinette. “A friend was seriously ill, in and out of the hospital regularly, and an example of strength and resilience.”

For his new album, Pinette restricted himself to a pre-determined period of writing, contrary to his habit of “writing almost all the time, especially on tour.” His previous album had taken him on the road for more than 18 months, introducing him to new audiences. “I took a break in September of 2016,” he says, “in order to work on my next album. It was the first time I did such a thing: devote myself entirely to creation. I’d decided to write the whole album in three months. The goal was to be done by January.”

The writing sessions were interrupted by numerous distractions, and weekends in the countryside with his family – stepping away from the blank page only to come back to it stronger. He then gathered his partners in crime, Simon Pedneault (who produced Gabrielle Shonk’s debut album) and Benoit Villeneuve (a.k.a. Shampouing) to breathe life into this musically varied album – more so than its predecessors, in any case – where each song seems to inhabit its own landscape, raging from pared-down folk to rock explorations. “I listened to Andy Shauf a lot,” says Pinette. “Especially The Party. His way of writing rock songs inspired me.”

Inspiration is necessary. Then, it’s all about putting your own tonic accent on it.