Released in 2021, her bilingual album, Ma délire / Songs of love, lost & found“, was a real hit on the folk circuit and in the music media far beyond Canadian shores. The quality of her writing and the melodic singularity of her voice led this bookseller, proofreader, and mother to embark on a new career as a prolific songwriter, touring with prestigious names.
Hailing from the Ottawa / Gatineau region, the Montreal artist gives us a glimpse of her recent creative activities and what’s to come: a new album in the spring, tours between now and then and, in our case, a Suoni concert this Thursday at the Sala Rossa.
Clearly, Myriam Gendron has carved out a place on the Montreal independent scene. Which more than justifies this conversation with PAN M 360.
PAN M 360: Your background is obviously folk, your love of literature is also obvious, and you have a deep knowledge of both English and French, which is quite rare. Was it a decision to express yourself in both French and English in your songs?
MYRIAM GENDRON: I don’t know how much of a decision it was on my part. I think it came about quite naturally because my first album was a musical setting of poems by Dorothy Parker, so it was necessary in English. But when I did this project, I didn’t really know I was going to make an album. I had no musical career, not even as a beginner. I was just playing for fun at home with friends. But when I started making these songs, I had no idea that I was heading for a musical career. It wasn’t really a career choice, not at all.
PAN M 360: And finally…
MYRIAM GENDRON: Eventually, I ended up with a set of songs. It became an album. And then after that, I had two children, and there was the family. And when I came back with Ma délire, seven years later, I knew I wanted to work with traditional music. Originally, I thought I’d do my songs mainly around traditional Quebec music. Eventually, I opened up to my multiple influences. Inevitably, they’re more to be found in the English-speaking world, Bob Dylan whom I listened to a lot when I was younger, and all that. Traditional Anglo music is very much alive, whereas traditional Francophone Quebec music is more nested and less present in today’s popular culture.
PAN M 360: Do you feel that traditional music has been abandoned by popular culture?
MYRIAM GENDRON: In Quebec? It’s still very much in the margin compared to what we see in the English-speaking world, where it runs through all the styles inspired by traditional and folk music, from jazz to experimental music and even pop. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still get the impression that in Quebec, trad music is considered a separate genre. There aren’t enough artists outside trad music who draw on this repertoire.
PAN M 360: So what you’re saying is that the folk tradition is more deeply rooted in Anglo-American popular culture than in the French-speaking culture of America?
MYRIAM GENDRON: I think it’s approached with less suspicion.
PAN M 360: It can indeed be perceived as a withdrawal into one’s own identity, hence the disapproval of some.
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes, exactly, it’s not forward-looking. What I mean is that there is a way of creating while talking about ourselves, talking about today, looking to the future, while drawing on this repertoire, which is what I’m trying to do. And that’s something we do a lot in the Anglo-Saxon world, but very little in the French-speaking world.
PAN M 360: So there must be some artists you really like in today’s folk scene, like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy?
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes, I love him. I’ll be touring South Texas with him soon.
PAN M 360: I fell right on the spot without knowing it haha!
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes, artists like Bonnie Prince Billy or Bill Callahan, another one I really like in today’s folk scene.
PAN M 360: Now, of course, you’re playing… You’re no longer on the momentum of Ma délire, the second album you released in 2021 with the success we all know. We imagine you’ll have some new songs to offer.
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes, I’m currently working on a new album, the writing is pretty much finished, and I’m starting to think about production. With the current deadlines for record production, however, it’s going to be a while before it comes out, hopefully, next spring.
PAN M 360: How do you work?
MYRIAM GENDRON: What I’ve done so far is record everything at home. And then afterward, I’ll see if I go into the studio to add other tracks by other musicians. It’s also possible that I’ll decide to re-record everything in the studio. We’ll be doing a few tests soon to see if I feel like it or if I’ll keep my homemade tracks. It’s not decided yet.
PAN M 360: You have young children, so we imagine that’s part of the reason for recording everything at home, isn’t it?
MYRIAM GENDRON: My children are five and nice. Yes, everything was done at home, a little less so today.
PAN M 360: On stage, do you perform alone?
MYRIAM GENDRON: Not always. Sometimes I ask one or two musicians to come and accompany me for a few songs, but it’s still a solo project, it’s not a band. For the moment, at least, that’s not where I’m heading. But sometimes, there are certain songs that would benefit from an extra melodic line, percussion, etc. So, when I can, I do it. On tour, however, it’s not easy. People have their diaries, and you also have to pay them. So for the time being, I’m touring solo. In Montreal, I sometimes invite artists.
PAN M 360: What about the Suoni?
MYRIAM GENDRON: At the Suoni it’ll just be me, but there will be artists from the same program with whom I could sing. Drummer Chris Corsano is playing the same night, and he’s playing on Ma délire, so … it’ll be the first time we can really play together on stage. There’s also Mamie Minch, a guitarist from New York who’s part of the same program. We’ll also be trying to do a song or two together.
PAN M 360: Will you be playing any of your new material?
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes. I’ll be doing some songs from my next album and some from the previous two. It’ll be a mix of all three projects.
PAN M 360: Are there any recurring themes in your songs?
MYRIAM GENDRON: I’d say that if I had to pick a theme so far, it’s mostly love songs. In fact, it’s written in the subtitle of Ma délire: Songs of Love. Dorothy Parker’s poems, set to music, are also love songs. Desire and love are very much at the heart of Ma délire. I’d also say that loss and mourning have taken on more prominence.
PAN M 360: Have you lost a loved one?
MYRIAM GENDRON: Yes.
PAN M 360: Sad. We won’t go any further and listen to you instead.
AT THE SUONI, MYRIAM GENDRON PERFORMS THIS THURSDAY, 8PM, AT THE SALA ROSSA. THE PROGRAM IS SHARED BY MAMIE MINCH, CHRIS CORSANO AND ZOH AMBA. TICKETS HERE