Three years after winning the Petite-Vallée Song Festival competition in 2003, actor and singer-songwriter Viviane Audet released Le long jeu (The Long Play), a well-crafted debut album whose theatrical statements sometimes didn’t do justice to her genuine personality and musical talent. Almost eight years later, her second album, Le couloir des ouragans (Tornado Alley), finally reveals a delicate folk-pop artist with a more intimate, luminous and melodious style.
Audet’s new direction is indicated right from the jacket of her new CD, which shows a woman who appears to be running away. “That image was chosen for a purpose,” Audet confirms. “I wanted to leave my first album behind. I needed something more suggestive and less aggressive. I performed my first album as if it were going to be my last. I gave it my all! Bori said to me, ‘It’s strange, but after listening to your songs, we still don’t know you. There’s a veil in front of your songs.’ I took it wrong at the time because I didn’t know what he meant.
“Creating is a truly intimate experience. It’s not something I could share with anyone.”
“Then, I turned 30, and was able to take off my actor’s mask for this recording, which I wanted to be more personal and more restrained. During my last years as a film and television actor, directors used to tell me, ‘Try not to overact – the camera will catch your eyes and facial expression.’ I probably learned from that,” the 32-year-old Gaspé region native now admits.
The reasons Audet took so long to release a second album were her increased activities as a stage and television performer and, on the music side, her need to change record and production companies, create a new repertoire and build a new team. “I took voice lessons and got involved in projects that helped me morph into a musician, such as scoring Rafaël Ouellet’s Camion [with boyfriend Robin-Joël Cool and Erik West-Millette]. I opened my horizons while freeing myself from residual influences. I developed a taste for folk songs in their purest essence. I became interested in seeking the cleanest possible arrangements. I’d be lying if I said giving birth to this new album was easy, but I’m glad I didn’t give up, because this is the creative project I’m the proudest of,” the multi-instrumentalist musician sums up.
And rightly so. Audet wisely surrounded herself with talented people for her new recording venture: the Acadian poet Georgette LeBlanc and authors Baptiste and Émile Proulx on the lyrics side, and, on the production side, Philippe Brault (Pierre Lapointe), whose well-crafted and subtle arrangements enhance the album’s songs. “Composing is candy compared to the pains of finding the right words,” Audet explains. “I do my composing work alone at home in the morning. That way I feel that, as I just came out of sleep, my mind hasn’t been contaminated yet by the outside world. It’s my blank page. I put my hands on the keyboard, press the record button on my iPhone, and start the process. First, I look for a theme. I’m really shy. I can’t work if there is anyone next to me or even in the same room. Creating is a truly intimate experience. It’s not something I could share with anyone.”
After a pause, she adds: “I suffer from the syndrome of not liking anything I write. A couple months later, though, I can look at what I did and not find it quite as bad! I never throw anything out because I know I will see it in a different light later on. I truly have a love-hate relationship with writing, a problem with looking at myself objectively. That’s the reason why I love surrounding myself with authors. It helps me breathe easier. Plus, I love teamwork,” she explains.
Asked to name her main musical influences, Audet lists Patrice Desbiens, Thomas Fersen, Barbara, Chloé Ste-Marie, Gilles Bélanger, Yann Perreau, Juliette Gréco, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. “And I should also mention Richard Desjardins, this amazing poet of everyday life with frequently four-dimensional lyrics. This kind of songwriting inspires me,” she says.
Besides scoring Rafaël Ouellet’s next film (Gurov et Anna) with her partner Robin-Joël Cool, Audet is scheduled to perform opening slots for Louis-Jean Cormier and Isabelle Boulay during the next FrancoFolies de Montréal festival. This will be followed in the fall with a Montreal concert and the release of the first EP from her Anglophone folk project Mentana (with Cool). “I see myself as a communicator first and foremost, whether it is through a song, a character, a story or a feeling,” she says. “I need to communicate vocally, to be onstage. This goes all the way back to my childhood. I’m comfortable with that today, and I enjoy performing as part of any kind of project. I hope I’ll be able to do this for many years to come.”