Erwan Finds Peace in the Right Place

Interview by Jacob Langlois-Pelletier

Additional Information

With his Au bon endroit EP unveiled last Friday, singer-songwriter Erwan transports us into his enveloping, ethereal folk world, greatly inspired by the likes of Blake Mills, Louis-Jean Cormier and Patrick Watson. A few days before the release of his project, PAN M 360 met him at Picnic Vélocafé to discuss his young career and his second mini-album.

A graduate of the École nationale de la chanson in 2020, the Quebecker’s folk sound occasionally veers into rock and electro. Two years ago, Erwan made quite a splash with his debut EP Dis-moi où tu m’emmènes, and has since gone back to the drawing board to bring us his second project.

With Au bon endroit, the singer certainly doesn’t disappoint; on the contrary, he impresses. The soundtrack is organic, and his gentle voice blends in perfectly. On the project, Erwan makes frequent use of a toy guitar from the ’60s, to which he has added a rubber bridge and nylon strings, giving his songs a distinctive timbre. Through his meticulous songwriting, he tackles subjects such as anxiety, the sometimes dizzying hubbub of the city and the soothing effect of nature.

PAN M 360: To find out more about you, tell me a little about your personal history. When did you start making music?

ERWAN: I was born in Montreal and grew up in Pointe-Calumet. In the past, I took piano lessons and taught myself guitar. I also did choral singing with Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval. That’s what introduced me to singing. I started writing at the age of 11. More recently, I studied music at Collège Lionel-Groulx in Sainte-Thérèse, then at the École nationale de la chanson.

PAN M 360: Where does your passion for music come from?

ERWAN: Music has always been part of my life. My father listened to a lot of vinyl and I was exploring percussion at a young age. From a very early age, I was able to sing nursery rhymes by heart, and my mother couldn’t understand how I managed to remember them all. My relationship with music is very natural.

PAN M 360: Let’s move on to your second mini-album, Au bon endroit. The influences of artists like Louis-Jean Cormier and Daniel Bélanger are striking. Where do you draw your musical influences from?

ERWAN: Over the years, I’ve definitely listened to a lot of Louis-Jean and Daniel Bélanger. I’d also name Patrick Watson and Coldplay as big influences for me. These days, I seem to be getting into a lot of stuff with Spotify. It’s so easy to discover new music. Now it’s hard to focus on just one artist.

For this mini-album, I’d say I also went for rubber bridge sounds, which you hear a lot in California, with a rubber bridge over a guitar. I was influenced by Phoebe Bridgers, Blake Mills and Andrew Bird. At times, it sounds very indie.

PAN M 360: How long did it take to create this second mini-album? How did it all unfold?

ERWAN: We’ve been hard at work on Au bon endroit for almost a year now, but some of the tracks are 2-3 years old. Over the past year, I’ve mostly been recording at Makina studio in Montreal with Mathieu Quenneville, with whom I co-produced the project. He handled the mixing and acted as sound engineer. With the various musicians, we did two recording sessions for four of the project’s six tracks, like “Helena” and “L’hirondelle (au bon endroit).” We really recorded in one take, just like in the old days. I wanted to go for a pure, organic sound. Once that was done, I went back to Mathieu several times to work on the arrangements, adding my final vocals, synthesizers and guitars. For the tracks “Photosynthèse” and “Tant mieux,” I didn’t think it was necessary for several of us to create them, I needed more intimacy.

PAN M 360: Why did you need more intimacy for these songs?

ERWAN: It came about quite naturally, depending on the titles. Honestly, I also created with fewer people for some songs because of my budget. I thought “Okay, how can I do this song by myself.” I wanted an organic, more acoustic aesthetic for those songs, so I adapted to do it in collaboration with Arthur Bourdon-Durocher.

PAN M 360: What’s the story behind your project Au bon endroit?

ERWAN: During the creation of my microalbum, there were a lot of things that inspired me, like the pandemic. My move from the North Shore to Montreal also inspired me. I also love nature. In Au bon endroit, there’s this idea of wanting to get into the great outdoors and out of the city. During the pandemic, it wasn’t easy for me and I felt trapped in the city. The seasons also have a big influence on me. I love the sun and the good weather, and then when autumn comes, you get a bit more cooped up. That’s the kind of feeling I was trying to capture with my project. “L’hirondelle (au bon endroit)” is about living in the moment, observing the world around us and knowing how lucky we are to be here. “L’hirondelle (au bon endroit)” tells the story of a time when I broke down in Gaspé. It was the most beautiful thing that could have happened to me that day. I couldn’t go anywhere, I was stuck there and could only enjoy the surroundings. It was that song that guided the title of my EP, because there’s this concept of being in the right place at the right time. It kind of ties in with all the themes of the songs.

PAN M 360: Does this project give you that sense of calm?

ERWAN: I think so, that’s really what it brings me. As much as it brings calm, as much as it makes me feel in the right place. Some songs move more, others less, but in the end, it’s all about that spirit of inner peace and balance.

PAN M 360: Let’s talk more about your song “Helena,” how did it come about?

ERWAN: I wrote “Helena” and “Tant mieux “when I spent the winter in Rivière-du-Loup. I wanted to do a song with a first name because I didn’t have one, and I thought of Île Sainte-Hélène, where there’s the round. I thought Helena was more beautiful than Hélène, so I decided to go with that. Then I wrote a song in which Helena is caught up in La Ronde, in her fears and anxiety. She’s not able to get off her rides, she doesn’t know how to deal with them. We’ve just shot a music video for Helena, which will be released soon. I was able to work with a great team and I’m very grateful. We managed to create a great universe, and there’s dancing too. We expressed the theme of the song with a rather strange universe. I won’t say any more, but it’s coming out just before Halloween, and that’s no coincidence!

PAN M 360: What can we expect from you next?

ERWAN: There’s a launch on October 24 at Le Verre Bouteille in Montreal. Otherwise, I’m already getting ready to record my third EP. For each of my projects, I have specific themes. For the next one, I’m going to a cottage this winter. Last year, I went to a chalet and wrote six songs in the space of three days. It really just came out. There was something magical about it and I want to recreate that.

PAN M 360: How important is it for you to work on several EPs before embarking on a debut album?

ERWAN: I’m still an independent artist and I like to get more stuff out quickly. I’m definitely looking forward to doing a debut album, something really complete. I figure I’m trying to do something consistent with smaller projects. The album will probably be the next step for me!

Erwan will be performing at Le Verre Bouteille on Tuesday, October 24 at 8:30 pm for the launch of his EP.

Photo credit: Marc-André Dupaul

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