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!”

While everyone had given up hope, on May 15, 2020, Jimmy Hunt released Le silence, a new solo album re-connecting (mostly) with the acoustic guitars heard on his unforgettable debut solo album in  2010. Inspired by the “darkest period” of his life (marked by a break-up, his father’s death, and turning 40), the short, 23-minute album brings together in an atmosphere of familiar strangeness – sometimes reassuring and sometimes anxiety-inducing – with lyrics that are at times not much longer than 14-word haikus.

Now settled in the small town of Maria, in Québec’s Gaspésie, the leader of the rock band Chocolat came down to Montréal last December for five days in the studio, during which he recorded 10 heady meditations (almost mantras) on the splendours, and more often  miseries, of solitude. He worked with the help of a few old chums (including bassist Maxime Castellon and drummer José Major) and new friends (keyboardist Benoit Parent, Hôtesses d’Hilaire guitarist Mico Roy). “I’d never recorded at that time of year, when the days are very short” says Hunt. “We drank warm drinks. It felt like Christmas.” But since a Jimmy Hunt album wouldn’t be a Jimmy Hunt album without a modicum of eccentricity, Le silence also contains a song about microbiomes.

The following conversation is about the evocative power of minimalist lyrics, the pressures created by the cult status of the Maladie d’amour album, and the freedom to create whenever you feel like it, instead of when the industry demands it.

 Your song about microbiomes (Vieux amis) could be bizarre, even ridiculous, if it weren’t for the last verse, where you ask the question, “Who is me?” Is this a question you’re finding more answers to as you are grow older?
“No, and that’s what’s so fascinating. When you’re young, you think you know yourself, but the older you get, the less you do. It’s not clear what’s giving the orders – is it the species, our senses, our microbiota? We’re governed by many things, but we realize this with age. We can perhaps steer ourselves a little better, yes, there may be a better pilot flying, as far as our relationship to others is concerned, but who we are? [Scared laugh] I am so unaware of it.”

It’s generally felt that when an artist is singing in the first person singular, she’s talking about herself. There are a few songs on this new album where your “I” seems to refer to a fictional character, particularly in “Les Gens qui m’aiment,” where the narrator seems to be particularly full of himself.
“The ‘I’ of my songs is less and less chained to me. But it’s a fact that the ‘I’ of “Les gens qui m’aiment” is an absolutely narcissistic ‘I,’ who’s talking about the world we’re living in right now. Many people convince themselves that thousands of people love them, and convincing yourself of such a thing is unhealthy. The people who are convinced of that may not be people you can trust. Certain politicians, certain celebrities may think they have that power.”

You seem to me to be a fairly down-to-earth person, but is that a method for you to turn away from that part of yourself, now that you’re living far away from Montréal and the music industry?
“No, I never contemplated becoming a mega-star. This has always worried me a bit, when I started out, when I realized that people I didn’t know were looking at me in a strange way. People are intrigued by well-known people, and it bothered me a bit. Personally, I’d rather look at other people than being looked at by other people. It was kind of spoiling my game.”

On “Jazz engagé,” from the Chocolat album, you sing – in a very satirical way, on “Fou fou fou mon minou,” – that you“ have a black belt in poetry.” In my view, you seem to be particularly distrustful of a poetry whose beauty might be too ostentatious.
“When I’m writing my songs, I give a lot of thought to this need that many people feel to make poetry stylish, cute, even charming and glowing. You can do with less than that. In the case of the new songs, those were excerpts I took from longer lyrics because those were the parts I was interested in. That kind of minimalism fascinates me: saying a lot with very little. Often, the very little can encompass big ideas. Then the challenge I find interesting is managing to make the music the continuation of the message.”

 The lyrics for “La Chute” are the album’s shortest. You say, “In February, the Fall flows behind its blue coat / A tireless chorus no-one is there to see,” then the music becomes increasingly distressing. Does that mean that you have an anxiety-inducing relationship with beauty?
“Once again, it harks back to solitude. The lyrics are saying that the sound of the flowing water is perfectly beautiful, but there is no-one to see it… At times, solitude can somehow lead to inner peace, but it can also be quite scary. I thought that fitting the two emotions together was a fun idea.”

How do you deal with the kudos you continue to receive for your Maladie d’amour album of 2013? It was named best album of the decade on the Esprit critique show a few months ago.
“Of course, it’s quite flattering, but afterwards, it certainly puts some pressure on what comes next. I’ve tried not to fall into the trap of wanting to fulfill expectations, even if I know that when you listen to an album you love, you’d like there to be a follow-up. The follow-up often spoils things…

[The success of Maladie d’amour] legitimizes the fact that I chose to make music my life activity. It gives me some confidence. When I did Maladie d’amour, I took risks, I was switching from guitar to synthesizers. They’re commonplace in Quebec now, but when Maladie d’amour was released, there were few of them, and the response was strange. It wasn’t that warm. When I started touring, many people told me they liked it better before.”

That photograph on the new album cover, is that a knife?
“It’s a dagger that you put on the tip of a gun barrel. It belonged to our dad. He’d been keeping this forever in the chest of drawers in his bedroom. I remember, when we were young, my brother and I used to rummage through our parents’ stuff, and the knife was, like, off limits. It ended up on a wall in my in my Gaspésie house to hide a nail. I wanted a reference to my dad on the album cover. With everything I’ve lived through, I loved the symbolism of the knife inside its sheath, as if it had chilled out. It may be less of a threat now, but it’s still a knife.”

 You belong to a very select group of artists, in Québec, who seem to be doing exactly what they want. You make records, you perform shows when you feel like it…
“If I’d wanted to be forced to do things, I would have looked for a regular job! [Bursts out laughing] All of this is there to protect what really matters; that is, my love of music.  Shows are a bit of a music-business thing. You get into a sort of money machine, there’s a specific rhythm to things, and you risk becoming disillusioned. There are magic evenings when things go right, but there are hard ones, too. I go slow. Doing shows has damaged lots of awesome creators, lots or artists who’ve chosen to self-destruct as a way out. It’s because I don’t want to forget that I say this: You’ve got to be careful with public life and show-business.”

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.”