“I’m Leaving You is a personal victory,” Florence K summed up after describing how the creation of her sixth album had helped her weather one of the worst storms in her life. Strong and radiant, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who hours earlier had hosted the latest installment of her Ici Florence show on Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, announced that she was now ready to open a new chapter in her career.
Florence K’s most recent collection of luminous songs betray the dark moments she was living through as she was creating them in the wake of a painful breakup with her daughter Alice’s father two years ago. Despite lingering doubts about her ability to regain her self-confidence, I’m Leaving You, her chosen therapy, has been her most successful achievement so far.
The new album covers an extensive emotional palette in songs like “Remember Me,” a gut-wrenching, yet pretty ballad reminiscent of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” or like “Don’t Come Around Here Anymore” or “You’re Breaking My Heart (Mi Droga).” But there not an ounce of self-pity in sight, and Florence K made sure of that. “We’re not dealing with Hole’s Live Through This here! I love that album, but I was not trying to come up with my own tale of woes,” she warns.
“The songs on this last recording are telling my story. They’re about me, and I can live with that.”
Instead, I’m Leaving You was written and recorded in what can only be described as a blissful creative state in Los Angeles with Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell’s ex-husband, who has produced recordings for the likes of Melody Gardot, Herbie Hancock and Tracy Chapman. The album’s 10 selections also include musical contributions from David Batteau and David Baerwald, and were mixed by Tchad Blake, “the guy who mixed the Black Keys’ El Camino,” Florence K enthuses. “I can’t believe my luck!”
Her whole California experience was “magical,” Florence K marvels as she reaches out to her iPhone to sample some of the demos she recorded at the time.
With the help of Larry Klein, Florence K worked on expanding her musical colours by adding more pop- or soul-sounding tones to the Latin sounds of her earlier Bossa Blue or La Historia de Lola albums, while at the same time adding new depth to her compositions. This was far from being a radical departure, the musician explains, but a carefully planned new development: “We tried every possible way of mixing Latin, jazz and pop roots. I have a good knowledge of Caribbean music, and Larry introduced me to the East L.A. style, and one of the album’s cut, “You’re Breaking My Heart,” clearly has a Mexican sound.”
For the first time, Florence K also allowed herself to draw inspiration from her own experiences for her lyrics. Her Bossa Blue album, she admits, was based on events involving people she knew rather than herself. “I was only 21 at the time. That couldn’t have been me. I was appropriating stuff,” she giggles. This time, however, the stories came from her true life, with just the right amount of poetic licence. “The songs on this last recording are telling my story,” she says. “They’re about me, and I can live with that. It’s nice to be able to step back a little and get some perspective.”
The new release’s promotional tour was underway with a Montreal concert at the end of February, and others planned for France, English-speaking Canada and, more importantly, the U.S., where dates had already been set in a few small venues or events attended by music industry professionals. The new Florence K is poised to conquer the world, but just one step at a time. “Things are moving,” she says, “my pawns are in the right positions. When I was working on this album, I was not thinking of the places I would be playing those songs. It never occurred to me. But it’s interesting to see how all this is panning out now, where it’s all going.”
A 2014 JUNO nominee in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category, Florence K is ready for the big time, and if this means playing small U.S. and European venues for some time yet, she’s willing to pay the price. With an attitude like that, who’s going to stop her now?