Mirabelle, who we first knew as Laurence Hélie, dropped that name in 2020 to head into completely different music. Indeed, she surprised us with her first album Late Bloomer, whose mix of synth-pop and ethereal wave drastically moves away from the country-folk with which we had discovered it.
The singer from Beauce is back in force today with a new five-song EP, Flickering Lights , in which we can observe a certain renewal with the music released under the name of Laurence Hélie.
PAN M 360 caught up with her to talk with her about Flickering Lights , her creative process, and her process of reconciling with her old music.
PAN M 360: Your music changed a lot when you went from Laurence Hélie to Mirabelle. How do you think she has changed since your first outing as Mirabelle in 2020?
Mirabelle : When I decided to change my name, I really had to make a total break with Laurence Hélie to be able to go further in my ideas. I needed to find myself, listen to myself and stop compromising. Now that this cut has been made, I gave myself the right to go back to basics with the EP. For example, even though I still compose on acoustic guitar, I decided to give it more space on the EP. When I make music, it’s important that I do what I want. The music industry sometimes imposes constraints, but I have decided to do things as I feel, because that’s what makes me feel good.
PAN M 360: What is Flickering Lights about?
Mirabelle : I wrote the EP in the fall and winter of 2020, shortly after the release of Late Bloomer . At that time, I was going through a lot of anxiety because of the pandemic. Like many people, I felt a bit of a prisoner in Montreal. I come from Beauce, so I missed wide open spaces, my parents, my house. Writing the songs has served me as an antidepressant. Every day, I sat on the floor with my guitar in the bathroom, which served as a bit of a studio. It’s as if I needed to find myself, to breathe. I locked myself away to write songs about my need to breathe (laughs). The anxiety I experienced during the pandemic isn’t the theme of the album, but it’s what provided the inspiration for it.
There is a lot of nostalgia from my songs. “Acid Rain” talks about the time before the arrival of cell phones, which I sometimes miss a lot and “Good Sad Story” talks about how I miss my village. My favourite is “Worry Stones,” which is about times when things aren’t going well.
PAN M 360: What was your creative process for creating the EP?
Mirabelle : At the beginning, I entered the studio with Warren Spicer and Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux, who co-produced the songs “Acid Rain” and “Good Sad Story”. I listened with them to the demos I had recorded in my bathroom, and we absolutely wanted to preserve their essence; that’s why we decided to leave more room for the acoustic guitar.
Jean-Philippe Fréchette, known as Navet Confit , co-produced the other three songs on the EP. We are longtime friends; we learned to play music together and we had a band in high school. The friendship has not changed, we have the same complicity as before. He supported me in my ideas for the album, even if they might seem crazy.
It was spread out over a year, because things were slowly starting to pick up in the industry. Warren is in a group, so we only saw him two or three days at a time, then we didn’t see him again for several months. In short, the creation of the album was long and scattered, but I am very proud of it.
PAN M 360: What inspired you? Do you have any musical influences?
Mirabelle : It’s funny, but when I write music, I don’t listen to it; I’m really in my own little world. On the other hand, I think that Taylor Swift’s evermore and folklore albums helped me reconnect with my guitar. Also, I think I will never let go of my grunge upbringing. The way I write songs and sing will always be influenced by the music I made as a teenager. It seems to stay with us forever. My inspiration from the 90s has always been there, even when my name was Laurence Hélie.
PAN M 360: You have released three titles in French since you moved from Laurence Hélie to Mirabelle. After the release of Late Bloomer, you mentioned to PAN M 360 that singing in English allowed you to write with less restraint. Have you managed to overcome this need to detach yourself from your mother tongue?
Mirabelle : It’s all part of the confidence I found. When my name was Laurence Hélie, I often did business with authors; I wrote my music, but it was often someone else who co-wrote or wrote my lyrics. I think I didn’t have the courage to do it myself. The fact of having written an album in English allowed me to free myself and assume myself as a songwriter. I really enjoy writing my songs. I’m proud of my texts, I think they look like me. When I make music, I want to 100% endorse what I’m doing, which wasn’t quite the case when I was singing other people’s words. It has to be natural for me, and there it was.
PAN M 360: Why didn’t you want to sing in French on your EP?
Mirabelle : It just happened like that. No one imposes constraints on me. I had thought of putting a song in French, but when it came time to write the lyrics, they arrived in English and I didn’t want to force it. But there will be more!
PAN M 360: Do you sometimes miss your old name?
Mirabelle : I don’t think I was happy there and needed to take a break with Laurence Hélie. However, the other day, I was preparing a show with a colleague and we prepared a revival of Laurence Hélie at the Mirabelle. I really liked that! It made me something to listen to the song again to work on it and finally I found it not so bad. I had to go through something to be able to look back on the past and be proud of it. On the other hand, I don’t miss it, I’ve never been so happy with what I’ve been doing since I got Mirabelle. But I look at the music of Laurence Hélie with tenderness.
PAN M 360: What are your plans for 2023?
Mirabelle: I hope to do shows. I don’t want to stop writing, because that’s what makes me feel good. I also hope to return to the studio. My record company doesn’t know yet, but I’d like it!