What to do today in Montreal


Elisapie, the pop challenge & Travelling Love

Local chanteuse Elisapie, freshly Juno-nominated and about to play a sold-out Montreal show with a newly expanded band this week, explains the folk-to-pop transition on her latest record.

Elisapie. Photo by Raphaël Ouellet
Freshly Juno-nominated local chanteuse Elisapie (née Elisapie Isaac) plays a sold-out show with her newly expanded band this week. It’s a culmination of a music career that began over a decade ago with Taima, a duo with guitarist/composer Alain Auger that reflected her Inuk roots and complemented her media and documentary work. Travelling Love is her sophomore solo LP, a follow-up to the more folk-oriented There Will Be Stars (2009).

I spoke to Elisapie in October, the day her record was released. From the back of a cab, minutes after a live MusiquePlus interview, she provided insight into her transition from folk figure to pop singer.

Lorraine Carpenter: What was your vision for this record?
Elisapie: It was like I had a calling; a feeling in my stomach, in my spirit, in my heart. I was experimenting with songwriting. I used to wait for inspiration to come, and sometimes it would take forever — it was like waiting for Jesus to arrive, and he doesn’t. This time it was more instinct and feeling. I was in the mood to challenge myself and give myself a time limit. I’m the laziest person; if you told me to just hang out for a year and do nothing, I would happily do it. So it was really exciting for me to say I’m going to start writing in January and have an album by May.

LC: There’s a clear stylistic shift, to a more pop sound.
E: Writing sad folk songs is really easy for me, but writing pop songs is a lot of work — to make it intelligent and at the same time fun and catchy, without overdoing it: the perfect pop song. The Beatles have done it, but it doesn’t come naturally for many songwriters.

I decided to write with Manuel Gasse and Gabriel Gratton, the local musicians I’ve been touring with for the last three years. They’re amazing! You can give them any instrument and they can play it, and our harmonies are so much fun because we sing so well together.

I said, “Guys let’s do two, three songs just to get me started. Let’s improvise for a week or two and see what we come up with.” It was so impressively productive, so I thought, why stop now and go hang out in my corner, depressed, and write folk songs? I wanna groove! I was in the mood for that, and [thematically] I was focused on love and travel. I had really inspiring themes; it was like writing a show more than an album. It was very intense, but so much fun. ■

Elisapie plays Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc) as part of Montréal en Lumière on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 8 p.m., $25/$28, SOLD OUT

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