Coup de Coeur Francophone : Jeanne Laforest’s Sophisticated Pop

Interview by Théo Reinhardt

Additional Information

Jeanne Laforest is a singer-songwriter from Quebec City. She presents a sophisticated pop style in which choir and strings make her compositions shine. Her album released last year, Puisque les heures nous manquent, is a striking work that blends the intimacy of the lyrics with the serious tone of the rich arrangements. With a musical and academic background that crosses the ocean – from McGill in Jazz to Finland – the artist has much to offer and fuses her different horizons into a harmonious vision.

Jeanne Laforest will perform at Le Verre bouteille on November 6 as part of Coup de cœur Francophone, a showcase festival highlighting new forms of francophone creation across Canada.

PAN M 360 took the opportunity to speak with her. On the menu: her solo career, Nordic folklore and the strings on the latest Radiohead album.

PAN M 360: How long have you been making progress in the musical field?

Jeanne Laforest: Yes. I started playing piano as a child. I was immersed in classical music. My father, who was a musician, taught me. I also did a lot of choir. When I got to high school, I started wanting to do popular music, and I was very attracted to improvisation. That’s why I wanted to take a little detour into jazz. So I went to CEGEP in jazz pop and then to university in jazz, with a student exchange to Europe. In university, I was able to dabble in a lot of other things, like contemporary music and more improvisational stuff, and it gave me a great mix to sit with when the pandemic arrived.

I was able to delve deeper into songs I’d been writing since I was a teenager. Because I’ve always had a dream, or a need, to write songs and have a project of my own, and the pandemic made that possible. And that led to the album I released a year ago.

PAN M 360: You studied Nordic folklore at the Sibelius Academy of Music in Finland, among other things. What does this background bring to Quebec?

Jeanne Laforest: My relationship with the choir has always been omnipresent. In Finland, traditional music is vocal music, sung exclusively by women. I took lessons there because I was interested in this tradition. There’s this sound that I really wanted to learn more about. I also discovered that there are a lot of similarities between folk songs over there and here. In general, too, life in Europe made a big impression on me. So it’s all these interests that came across on the album.

PAN M 360: After studying music for a long time, you’re now doing concerts, playing at festivals and winning awards. Is this a logical progression for you? Do you see this as something that “begins”?

Jeanne Laforest: I’d say it’s starting for my own project. But I’ve been working in music full-time for several years, so it’s also something that adds to the diversity of other things I do. But it’s true that a solo project is different. There’s something more intimate about presenting your texts and having to take responsibility for them. This debut has been a learning experience. Compared to a year ago, I’m more relaxed, and above all happy to be able to get my band together. I’m going to cherish every opportunity I get to do so, and I feel grateful to have a small place in this very rich amalgam of Quebecois chanson.

PAN M 360: Have you always wanted to do a solo project?

Jeanne Laforest: Initially, I would have liked to have had a band, to write with several people. But it’s hard to find the right people to do that with. During the pandemic, the need to do something and release something took over. But it was a slow decision because for a while I wanted to have an artist’s name, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to put my name forward. But in the end, that’s what happened, and I don’t regret it, it’s going well.

PAN M 360: Listening to your music, we notice the importance of string arrangements. Do you have a particular reference, or a favorite string piece that inspired you?

Jeanne Laforest: One album that really stood out for me in terms of string treatment was Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. When I discovered that album, I listened to it over and over for months. It was from that album that I wanted to learn how to write for strings.

PAN M 360: This album fascinates me too. “Glass Eyes” and “Burn The Witch” in particular, for the strings.

Jeanne Laforest: Yes! And it’s a bit of a fly-by-night approach. They’re not just pretty, harmonious sounds, and that’s good because it shows the aggressive, violent side that the instrument can have.

PAN M 360: Because it can say a lot about the artist, and it’s fun to think about, what would be your greatest dream musical career?

Jeanne Laforest: God… I really wouldn’t hate to do shows all over the world. For my project or for someone else’s project, if I could go and play in Japan, in Germany, in faraway countries, I really wouldn’t hate it. That’s my unattainable dream! (laughs) And it would be interesting, through that, to measure myself against the different receptions people have to live music around the world.

PAN M 360: Finally, what can we expect from your concert at CCF? Are there any surprises in store?

Jeanne Laforest: I have a tendency always to want to do lots of things and complicate my life. I was wondering if I should keep it sober, a show that does the first album… but I’m thinking of tweaking a few things, inviting someone, adding a little fly touch, yes. It’ll still be a surprise!

PAN M 360: Certainly! Thanks, Jeanne!

Jeanne Laforest will be performing on November 6 at 9pm at Le Verre bouteille as part of Coup de Coeur Francophone. Tickets are available HERE!

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