Here’s the latest edition in our series of stories on those happy creative meetings of two songwriters. In this edition, the duo we met is also a couple, namely Jorane and Éloi Painchaud, whose autumn has been a busy one – thanks chiefly to the launch of their original soundtrack for the 3D computer-animated movie La guerre des tuques.
Our conversation occurred virtually, with the artists comfortably seated in their home studio on the Laurentians, while I was in downtown Montréal. “We’re not that used to joint interviews,” says Jorane, while her husband, songwriter and producer Éloi Painchaud, smiles by her side.
The creative duo have had a very auspicious autumn, notably when it comes to awards. A few weeks ago, Jorane won the Félix Award for Best Instrumental Album of the Year for Mélopée. It’s her second Félix award, but “the first time I got the privilege to go onstage to receive it,” she says. “I couldn’t attend the gala the first time, and they never actually gave me the trophy.”
She was also recently awarded the prix André-Gagnon de la Fondation SPACQ for her entire body of work in instrumental music, as well as the prix Gaston-Roux of Théâtre du Nouveau Monde for her soundtrack to the stage version of Le Journal d’Anne Frank. That’s enough awards to deservedly celebrate Thanksgiving.
Something else that keeps the couple busy is film soundtracks. In 2007, Jorane composed the music for Un dimanche à Kigali, earning her a Jutra award. “Jorane has always made film music, even before she was actually commissioned to compose for a movie,” says Painchaud, as a way to describe his wife’s music.
Together, they scored Daniel Roby’s Louis Cyr: L’Homme le plus fort au monde (2013). As we write these lines, they’ve just seen the release of La guerre des tuques 3D and their work on Jean-Philippe Duval’s La Chasse-Galerie: La Légende will hit the silver screen just in time for Christmas.
“For La guerre des tuques 3D, we were initially asked to write songs,” explains Painchaud before being interrupted by Jorane: “That’s Éloi’s strong suit!” “Obviously, I come from the pop world, given my work with Okoumé and Jonathan [NdR, Éloi’s Brother],” he adds. “It’s one of the important axes of our collaboration with the film’s producers. They needed five mastered songs, five musical themes that we developed in different directions, folk-like for more intimate scenes and more orchestral for action scenes.”
The couple toiled on the movie’s soundtrack for nearly two years. “In the beginning, we worked from pencil drawings they would send us!” says Jorane. Their compositions for the film all have a common thread, which is a typically Québécois folk flavour, rather like a backdrop throughout the movie. But, Painchaud insists that none of this would have been possible without the help of arranger Tim Rideout (who also collaborated on Louis Cyr) and Ian Kelly, who translated the songs into English.
Kelly also ended up being the soundtrack’s producer and supervisor. “We had to seek artists and call them to invite them to join the project,” says Painchaud. “We were incredibly fortunate that Céline Dion accepted our invitation to collaborate.” Says Jorane: “Bear in mind that Céline is part of the generation that grew up a fan of the original movie, and she has kids, too.”
So where did the idea of a choral reprise with Marie-Pierre Arthur, Marie-Mai, Louis-Jean Cormier and Fred Pellerin come from? “We thought long and hard if we should cover it,” says Painchaud. “If we should invite Nathalie Simard to participate. Finally, it was Fred who had the genius idea. He said, ‘Why don’t we do a We Are the Tuques?’”
Jorane and Éloi’s creative process doesn’t happen in a fixed framework, and each project is approached in its own way. “When we sat down with Jean-François Pouliot [La guerre des tuques 3D’s director], I took a ton of notes,” says Jorane. “He wanted the songs to talk about this and that. That was our starting point. Sometimes, Éloi would spend the whole evening in the studio, looking for ideas. Sometimes we work independently with our guitars and then share what we’ve come up with.”
“There aren’t just two ways to write a song, there are a thousand,” adds Painchaud. “ For certain songs, we ping-ponged back and forth with sentences, ideas, melodies. For others the process was much easier.”
To Painchaud, his companion is more of a melodist. “Her phone is loaded with melodies,” he says. “Whenever she has an idea for a melody, she records it with her phone, humming. That’s very often how we begin working on a song.” As for him, he thrives on giving life to those melodies, using his guitar as well as his lyrics. “I love to write,” he says. “I’ve written since I was a kid. A song is a very specific narrative within which you can say anything you want. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than writing songs.”
“Passion is what’s most important,” adds Jorane. “At the beginning of our relationship, we didn’t work together. The first few years, we weren’t in any rush to work on each other’s material. But we’ve always been each other’s first listener, giving advice. We needed some time to get to know each other on that level, so we took our time.”
What Painchaud appreciates about their work as a duo is being there during the very embryonic stages of a work. “I think the very first draft of a song is always extremely fragile,” he says. “We listen to each other, support each other. Jorane is so full of ideas, she’s often my fuel. She feeds me, artistically.”
“You need to find the positive aspect of each other’s work and push it in the right direction,” summarizes Jorane.
You can visit Jorane and Éloi Painchaud’s home studio in the heart of the Laurentians here: