Catherine Major chose to not choose. On her fifth album, she’s taken hold of electronic beats and stepped away from the piano, so that she’s at the root of everything. Carte mère (Motherboard) is the geographic location where she stands, two decades into her career.

Catherine Major Poet Jeff Moran, the singer’s life partner, has penned all of the album’s lyrics, except for “Tableau glacé,” an homage to a friend lost to an illness. “This entire project started with music, and words came later,” says Major. Adds Moran, “The melody was already divided rhythmically, and Catherine had inserted onomatopoeias where words were required.”

He explains that Major sometimes wakes in the middle of the night to create or record the latest inspiration on her cellphone. “The idea was to respect her universe,” he says. “She was having a lot of fun with technology, and I’m used to writing for Catherine. We’ve been together for quite awhile. Our lives are quite similar, so we don’t need to say a lot to figure out what our day will be like.”

The couple is raising their four children in the countryside, and wanted this new album to be about that family cohesion – but also about all families, and all of the possible forms a family can take.

Their musical bond is magnified by Antoine Gratton, who penned the string arrangements, which were played by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of David Hernando Rico.

Two song titles – “Sanglot orchestral” and “L’espace occupé” – were contenders for the album title, but the idea of a motherboard was so compelling to Major that there was no other option after she found that idea. “It evokes a computer and everything I managed to do, for the first time, using technology. But it also evokes my role as a mother, which is so central in my life right now,” she explains.

Jeff Moran aspires to a form of poetry that supports a certain level of social criticism while remaining open-ended. He wants the words he uses to describe a “magnified” version of the commonplace so that they become universal . “No one ever avoids confronting illness,” he says. “Everyone understands carnal love, or the love of a child. That’s what I wrote.”

“I think people need to receive this emotional charge”

Despite that, the social commentary is a little more upfront on “L’espace occupé,” an invitation to think about Bill 21 (the Québec ban on religious symbols). “We felt the need to point out that it is unjust the excellent teachers can no longer teach our children simply because they wear a veil,” says Major. Jeff adds, “There are more vested rights and advances for trivial stuff, like installing a septic tank,”

Children inhabit the lives of both parents, and their songs. “This couldn’t be a more familial project,” says Major, who gave birth to a baby girl less than a year ago. Family has become even more central because of the self-isolation situation.

“It’s an intense album that’s in synch with these troubled times,” says Major. “Anyway, I never said I was light-hearted. What I’m doing right now is very rich, musically. The lyrics deserve to be read a few times. I think people need to receive this emotional charge,” she says about the density of the project. The omnipresent electronics are counterbalanced by strings. “The organic aspect of a symphony orchestra balances out the presence of machines,” as she puts it.

The online album launch happens on May 15, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET. “It’s rare that you sell a ‘ticket’ to go on the internet, but we need to think, collectively, about what we can do to properly compensate artists despite what’s going on,” says Moran.

Twenty years of music have left healthy furrows on Carte mère and Catherine Major alike, and she sees her happiness as a tangible difference in her life now. “I’m a lot happier now, and you can hear it,” she says. “We judge ourselves for a long time in life especially in the arts. There’s often that little voice that tells us to not do this or that, or tells us to not sing what we want to sing. So maybe now I’m within myself for the first time, instead of being beside me.”

The prolific 39-year-old writer is preparing his fourth album, a project where the oratory and rhythm of his words will, as always, be front and centre.

David GoudraultDavid Goudreault, who’s also a poet and a social worker, has an envious list of collaborations under his belt: Richard Séguin, Louis-Jean Cormier, Luce Dufault, Manu Militari, and Florence K., and the list may very well get longer.

“My album projects are more like studio trips,” says Goudreault. “I feel like exploring other literary genres. So, ‘la chanson,’ spoken word, rap are all ways to approach literature, ways in which I’m interested. To me, there are texts that are closer to the oral realm than the written one. It helps when you write a novel, there’s no doubt about it. There something about breathing and oratory that’s useful to a novelist.”

Goudreault has also penned songs for Forestare, Gaëlle, and Jipi Dalpé as well as Coco Méliès and Dominique Marien.

“I’m making a fourth album because I wanted to write songs with professionals, even though I’m a novelist first,” says Goudreault. “It’s books that pay for my house. I do it without subsidies, and it’s my money as a novelist that I invest in these album projects.”

“I write every day; I’m not so well-off that I can wait for inspiration to come,” he says. “So I sit down and work, every single day. I have commissions for columns, song lyrics, book projects, and what I write isn’t always good! If I was a careerist, I would only write books, but I want to explore. I’m a victim of my passions. I want to try everything!”

To wit, his role as artistic director of La grande nuit de la poésie, presented in St-Venant, Québec, co-organized by Richard Séguin: “it’s an important event from a literary standpoint,” he says, “but it’s a standpoint that also includes songs: I think it makes total sense to present Les soeurs Boulay, Hélène Dorion, Joséphine Bacon, and Manu Militari on the same stage in a single evening.

“We can easily move from one universe to the other. The example I always use during my workshops is the fact that Gaston Miron wasn’t a lyricist. Yet, the Douze hommes rapaillés project turned his poems into songs in an exceptional way. In reverse, you can easily print some songs and they become poems. Desjardins is a great example of this. Reading Desjardins is highly interesting. I showed up in his green room one night before his show, and he was reading one of my books. He looked up at me and said, ‘You write fucking well!’ That made my year!”

“The objective is to find that point of contact where there will be a meaning on both sides”

He recently wrote “Débrise-nous,” (Richard Séguin wrote the music), which became the first single off of Luce Dufault’s newest album, Dire combien je t’aime.

“I felt really free writing for Luce,” says Goudreault. “I would hear her voice in my mind, that powerful voice that evokes love and suffering.” That song was written during the night of the 2019 Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebrations, in his hotel room in Québec City, after meeting the singer for the first time the night before.

“Sometimes I write lyrics without knowing who’s going to sing those words, or even if it’s going to be sung by a woman or a man,” says Goudreault. “Other times I get commissions [like three songs on Florence K.’s latest album] with specific themes, so in those cases, I know exactly who’s going to sing my words, with the appropriate feeling. It’s also a good thing to have a guiding side.

“The objective,” says the lyricist, “is to find that point of contact where there will be a meaning on both sides. With Louis-Jean Cormier, on ‘Les poings ouverts [on the album Quand la nuit tombe], which we wrote together, the lyrics spoke to me because we’re each in a relationship with an immigrant woman.”

French slam star Grand Corps Malade (aka Fabien Marsaud), for whom Goudreault has opened live, co-wrote “Juste de la poésie,” which appears on La faute au slience, Goudreault’s third album, released in 2014.

He is, undoubtedly, an unrepentant trailblazer. Goudreault has toured three different shows, and his most recent, Au bout de ta langue, was presented more than 200 times. “Fabien taught me to be generous with your audience,” he says. “His cane isn’t a prop. Standing for two whole hours is incredibly demanding for him, and he goes the distance. Sometimes he goes off-script to chat with the audience. I find that very inspiring!”

Goudreault lived in Trois-Rivières, Québec’s capital of poetry, until the age of 18, and he’s the honourary president of the city’s literature festival. He remembers, “I was once forced to clean up graffiti I had tagged on some walls. So now, it cracks me up to see my words on a plaque that’s screwed onto those same walls. I’ve never said that in an interview!”

Several years ago, Storry was leading a double life. While studying opera at the University of Toronto, the Mississauga-based singer-songwriter was also pursuing a pop music career. She started working closely with a producer and they began dating. But he became abusive and forced Storry to become a dancer at a strip club.

“It was hard to not tell my friends and family what was happening. I thought I would be disowned if they found out I was a dancer,” says Storry. When the relationship ended, he took all the music they’d recorded together. Storry was devastated, but eventually it led to a musical rebirth.

Over four-and-a-half years, she wrote around 100 songs that fit with the themes of her life. As part of a forthcoming trilogy of autobiographical albums, Storry recently-released her debut album, CH III: The Come Up, based on her experiences leaving and returning to sex work, and combatting misogyny in the music industry and co-dependency in relationships. Working with her friend and musician Yotam Baum, she created an album that oscillates between genres with ease, ranging from soulful funk and R&B, to hip-hop and emotional pop, with Storry’s powerful voice always at the forefront.

“Now, it’s like my voice has blossomed in every way”

After she couldn’t find a producer for CH III, she decided to do it herself. “It was my first time producing,” she says. “I hired musicians and we recorded everything in three days, because that’s all the time I could afford. I thought to myself, ‘I have to fake it until I make it,’ and it worked. As women, I think we underestimate how much we know. I’ll see men who have a bit of knowledge act like they can do anything. It’s that audacity that gets them opportunities.”

Female empowerment is an overt theme on the album. Storry describe the song “Bow Down” as a women’s anthem: “I’m saying that women are the true rulers. We are the makers of all things,” she says. As for the hundreds of songs that were stolen from her, Storry doesn’t miss them at all. “At the time I had very low self-esteem, and those feelings translated into the music. You could hear how mousey and insecure I was,” says Storry. “But now, it’s like my voice has blossomed in every way.”