Valerie Carpentier lived through the tsunami of La Voix in 2013, after she won the first edition of Québec’s version of the immensely popular TV show The Voice. Her first album came soon after (L’Été des orages, now certified gold), as well as a tour that saw her perform in more than 50 cities across the province. Now, after a well-deserved rest, she’s back with a renewed, warrior-like energy – and a new album Pour Rosie, on which she penned 11 of the 13 songs. We met with the carpe diem-imbued singer-songwriter.
“I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was a child,” she says right from the start. “Writing songs requires a connection with oneself… I let myself live, I loved and lost, and I discovered parts of myself I was unaware of.” Evidently, Carpentier doesn’t shy away from describing her creative process. She goes on: “It’s in the face of adversity that you learn about yourself and grow.” Her genuine quest for authenticity overshadows the often clichéd nature of such statements, and it’s backed by a candour that cuts short any blasé or morose reaction. “I’m an optimist, it’s super important to me!” she says guilelessly.
“I’m so at peace with the music I write that I think I won’t even read the critics.”
Carpentier, who’s in tip-top shape, was inspired by the recent vagaries of a career that hit the ground running, a particularly tempestuous breakup, and her travels. “I’m so at peace with the music I write that I think I won’t even read the critics,” she says. “I used to be very insecure about my femininity, about my music, etc. I feel like I did a lot of things to seek validation from the audience, but I no longer feel that way… This allows me to truly go back to something more real and authentic.”
Her new full-length record has a clear thread, she says: “There’s a concept behind my album. Rosie is someone looking for love in all the wrong places. She a bit like an alter ego, someone extreme and lost at the same time. The further you get into the album, the more it’s me talking. In the end, I’m on my own, which is to say you need to find love within yourself.”
Musically speaking, she delves into silky-smooth arrangements, courtesy of Jean Massicotte (Pierre Lapointe, Lhasa, Patrick Watson): “He’s fabulous!” says Carpentier. “I can sometimes get weird and describe my songs as vignettes, like ‘It’s nice out, but the girl is sad and she’s looking at the boats by the pier,’ or ‘I’m in a train in 1960s France,’ and he totally got where I wanted to go with that.”
Once they both understood her “movies,” the pair struck the right balance about the substance. “I wanted ambiance, lots of textures, cute instruments, and Jean respected my intentions amazingly well,” says Carpentier. “I didn’t want the singing to be buried in the mix, I wanted the music to support and lighten the lyrics. It really is built around the lyrics, they definitely are songs.” Of course, Carpentier’s favourite instrument, her rugged and sensual voice, is once again the star of the show.
Content with such crystal-clear answers, we dare ask if the idea of writing a book might one day be tempting. “I’ll definitely write a book someday, no doubt about it, but I do believe I’m too young at the moment,” she says. “You need to have something to say and the stamina to see it through… I love the French language so much that I’d need to feel like I’m honouring it as best I can.”
She concludes with clarity and confidence: “I don’t think my mission is to make music, I think it’s more important than that.”