Published on May 27th, 2014 | by Isabelle Karamooz, Founder of FQM1
Interview with Alexandre Poulin for the release of his new album “Le mouvement des marées”
Interview Subject and editor: Isabelle Karamooz
Interviewer: Isabelle Karamooz
Editors: Isabelle Karamooz, KJ Jacques, Janice Kennedy
Interview transcript: Pascale Nard
Videographer: Pascale Nard
INTERVIEW CONTENT :
Isabelle Karamooz : Hello Alexandre
Alexandre Poulin : Hello
I.K. : How would you describe yourself in three words ?
A.P. : In three words, author, songwriter, interpreter. I get out of it pretty well !
I.K. : (Laughs). What was the path that you took to get into music ?
A.P. : It was a very long journey. I fell in love with words and music quite young and then I was already about ten years old, I knew that this was what I wanted to do later, then I was confident, I also gave everything I had, it is a job that is not easy, especially at the beginning, but life has been good to me and then I think I have a lot of flaws but also qualities, perseverance is one… I followed my path and eventually it began to work in 2008. Here we are in 2014. It’s been six perfect years for me.
I.K. : it seems to work well !
A.P. : Yes of course;
I.K. : Has music always been a passion for you?
A.P. : Yes, my father played guitar, my mother played the accordion. We did not do musical at home, but I still picture myself. I look at my father playing the guitar. I am standing in my playground park. I am very young, and otherwise It is the art I was in before I started music. I constantly drew. The day I touched a guitar I stopped drawing for music.
I.K. : At what age ?
A.P. : Around ten.
I.K. : Your songs are very personal, where do you find your inspiration?
A.P. : Well, I cheat a lot. With this in mind, I think many of my texts give the impression of being personal, but in fact they are not really. Writing in the first person of the singular using ” I ” is a folk tradition in fact – a way of setting a scene. This is probably also a way for me to be, probably I think, more emotionally involved myself, and for others to feel more emotion. If someone tells a story of someone he knows, that his cousin met, we are already less affected than if the person tells you ” It happened to me yesterday …” Already we are like this (interrogative face). We are curious to know so writing using “I” gives the illusion, I think, that the songs are so personal when they are not at all. Others are personal, it’s almost autobiographical but I jealously guard the secret on which is which. (This is autobiographical or not). As for inspiration, it’s really… I am a guy who loves meeting people, who also loves to listen to anything. For me a song hides everywhere. It hides on a corner table, a phrase stolen from two passersby I meet on the street that inspire me. It can come from anywhere, the important thing for me is just to be as I say ” on my radar.”
I.K. : Your 3rd album ” The movement of tides” released in October 2013 was written between Paris and Quebec . What is your relationship with Paris ? What inspires you about this city ?
A.P. : A lot of things… Even before Paris inspired me, I think this is the remoteness, the distance, the road, being away from home. My last two years have been busy with touring. It is a very good thing, but at the same time it makes this live different things. When one is a stranger to a city, I think for sure we inevitably see it in a different way. But what I had not anticipated however, it is that I would see my home in another way too. The more you go away from your home, the more you discover who you are and where you come from, your people, your country, also what is your difference. Making round trips between the two countries, helps me in many ways too. I try to make peace with myself, with exile, with boredom, turn it on its side and then to pull out the best. It is a little bit of all this that places one in a kind of vortex and that eventually inspires me.
I.K. : After tasting French cuisine, can one still swallow a poutine : the Quebec national dish?
A.P. : Honestly ? I dream of poutine ! (laughs). My god, after 3 weeks ! I think it is just what we said earlier. Where you come from ? What you have eaten since you were a child… It is true I miss all that. But it is true that French cuisine is… I reached Britain so oysters I am a fan of seafood.
I.K. : Crêpes !
A.P. : Yes crêpes too, it’s fun.
I.K. : Among all your record titles, which one do you prefer and why?
A.P. : It is difficult ! It is difficult!
I.K. : (Smiles). The questions are not always easy !
A.P. : No, but that is fine! It is even better ! There is a quite emotional attachment to the songs. I will draw a parallel that is excessively rude as are comparisons. It is a bit like asking a parent ” who is your favorite child. ” they love them all in different ways, but in proportion he loves them equally. A song is not as much like that ; I wander from one to another, I would say that right now the song: ” The movement of tides ” is still a song that overwhelmes me. It is a song… I guess some will see it as the story of a guy who cheats on his girlfriend (wife) while for me, it is a song about desire ; the main character of this song it is desire itself. It is the attraction between two bodies. It is desire that makes you lose your head, but not your heart. When you lose your head, that is fine because your heart can always bring you back, but when you lose the heart, your head will never bring you back. For me, it is a matter not easy to deal with, happens by surprise. It is a song which I am proud of, a very sensual song, but I think at no time does it becomes vulgar, on the contrary, I think I gathered words that become poetry, that make us understand exactly what is going on without ever being shocked by what is said. Currently, it is still a song that speaks to me much in its.
I.K. : What are your musical influences and favorite artists ?
A.P. : There are several. For sure folk music for me is still a striking influence as much in my younger years as now. It still is the kind of music I like, I still listen to it the most. A guy like Bruce Springsteen, even in his youth, his years at the time of Nebraska, which is a guitar album voice, which is a ” demo” in fact, that eventually came out, on which there are also a lot of stories that deal with little thing, but it is a beautiful album. Otherwise in French, a guy like Richard Desjardins. There is something in that man who overtakes me. His way of doing the job also is inspiring to me. It is not just what he says. It is the way he says it, it is how he defends himself. At the time, I was really in the middle of what I call a sort of Bermuda Triangle of influences on one side of American music which in Quebec I used to hear every day . Of course, Quebecois music was probably the anchor of all that. I think of the ” old ” musicians like Paul Pichet, Beau Dommage, Ammonium. At the same time, when I discovered French songs in my early teenage years, there was also like a wall that fell because I discovered that 1) we could write songs without a chorus, 2) put characters in the foreground which is less easy to do in what I call “more pop ” songs. I started mixing the three areas of influence to get to what I do today.
I.K. : Can you share with our readers your word or favorite expression in the French language ?
A.P. : A word! These days, I often use the phrase “melting pot.” It is a word that I find beautiful that may be perhaps less known in France. I find it pretty much better than mixing in fact. There is in the melting pot, which probably comes from the term half-blood, that was a mixture of white and probably of a colored person. There is an analogy with genes, chromosomes. Beyond that, a poetic theme is deep and subtle for me, a mixture of influences that gives an unexpected and wonderful result. These days, I love that term.
I.K. : What are your other activities besides music?
A.P. : Besides music, I read a lot. I am a big reader. I am a lover of culture, reading, watching movies. I also like to be fit so running even if it is intermittent, but I like it more and more. Naturally, when I go home after months of exciting tours, sometimes people think that right away we get a guitar… I arrive, my first instinct is not that. It is to cuddle, spend time with my girlfriend, watch TV, then to do normal stuff so it allows me to find some kind of balance. Nothing fancy my professional life is already sufficient.
I.K. : With which artist would you like to record a duo ?
A.P. : I will answer backwards. I just did one with a girl named Ingrid Saint Pierre who is a Canadian (Québec) artist that I like a lot for her writing. For her voice also, which is something very special, which is fragile without being weak. She does not “over- sing.” I am not a lover of those big voices. I love a tender voice that is content with what it is. Beyond that, it is true that Ingrid’s writing and how she sings touches me so much on the new album I wanted to do a duo with her. I asked her. She said yes so here it is. So for now I’m still “very” in the moment before thinking about a future duo.
I.K. : Maybe in the 4th album?
A.P. : Anything is possible.
I.K. : How were your first concerts in France ? What do you think of the French public?
A.P. : My first concerts in France were not easy. It was several years ago. I came here with two other artists as part of a foreign tour. We sold, I do not know what, there were not many people, a long way to go, between the dates, accommodation conditions were really not easy, but it was fine, it is the right way for me, it was a good lesson the man as well as for the artist. It was really hard but gradually people began to come. The first time I played « Au trois Baudets, » I will remember all my life. I was settled that same morning, I was exhausted. I was on stage with a part of a song called « San Francisco » and I heard people whispering the words. There I said « I am away from home. » Something is happening. From trip to trip, journey by journey, it was built very slowly. I think we have to build a career that lasts over time. To me, success in the job I do, never mind about the number of albums sold. To me, it is the number of years. That ensures the continued existence, but also you have a lot at stake of each album, how you manage to retain an audience without always giving them the same thing. To me, all this put together can make an enviable career or not. That is how I built it in France, and it is continuing to build. I am really not a star by any means. Little by little each time I try to reach a new level. I want to enjoy it before the next level, it is a privilege. The French public, I would say it is a very different audience than the Quebec public. At the same time, it is difficult to compare both since in Quebec I have been doing this for a long time. I also have an audience that follows me. The Quebec public is very very outgoing. They sing a lot. They cry. They are on fire and I love it. When the audience is cheering before the first song I say « We will have a nice evening. » It is very different in France, but it is not negative. It is a public which, maybe because of the accent, is a public probably who live, but makes French to be a little more attentive so they have less reflexes singing, screaming, but they are really present and that I love it. The songs that I do are stories, and it requires concentration. So I have two, which I like just as much, they make me live two totally distinct types of evenings.
I.K. : And the Swiss public?
A.P. : The Swiss public surprised me last year. It is practically a mixture of both. I was « Au chat noir » one night in Geneva. People were screaming in the back. People sang. At other times, it was super quiet. I have found a bit of Quebec and France in the Swiss public.
I.K. : Do you already think of the fourth album?
A.P. : No. I am very cyclical. The album just came out. I know ahead of me, there are between two and three years ; two years of tour of course, a third year of rest , of writing. I am exhausted after a disc. I said all that I had to say. Before nourishing myself with new stories, new friends, new adventures, I need a long rest. There are people who constantly write. I am not one of those. I would like to. It would remove pressure on me to say « I should make an album. » But I made peace with it. Doubt has become a fellow traveller. It allows me to push myself, to challenge myself, to always go further. For the fourth album my God I have way to go.
I.K. : What can we wish you for the future?
A.P. : Whether it continues like that. I love the progress. I say « my career » a big word for not much, but I like this progress. I feel like I can always make one more step, but onto something sure. The success (back to what we said) : there many definitions. Success compared to what is expected of life, compared to what is expected of oneself too. I just want to find a balance between that profession which gives me so much and takes my time too, my personal life, family and then people are still waiting to listen to my stories. When I will have that, the rest will follow.
I.K. : Thank you for the time taken to answer my questions and good trip to Quebec.
A.P. : With pleasure, thank you very much.