INTERVIEW – Meeting with Désarroi, the touching folk project of Marc-Antoine Gagnon, in the running for the Francouvertes 2020.
It is at the Atomic Café in Hochelaga that the meeting is given with Marc-Antoine Gagnon from Désarroi as part of his visit to the Francouvertes scheduled two days later. The covid-19 is already in everyone's mind, and that morning the competition had not yet been postponed.
It is however very beautiful this Saturday noon. Spring and the beautiful days are in everyone's mind and visible on the mines, cheered up by passers-by when one leaves the cafe and one goes quietly on foot, to the Nativity-of-the-Holy-Virgin, the 'favorite church of Marc-Antoine where the wind is blowing very hard.
Désarroi is a young project that I like. Soft and melancholic folk with a high pitched stamp, which twists your guts a little while passing but which does a lot of good. Participations in various competitions, passages in residences, an old abandoned project, and finally Désarroi. Two EPs on the counter, but only one that really matters. Second try: Time to beautify my scars, released last February. Three beautiful crooked songs. The opportunity to learn a little more about Désarroi.
True or false: does an artist's stage name necessarily define the music he does?
I think in a way it is true but maybe not for everyone. I chose "disarray" because that was what stood out in my songs. I didn't want it to be my name that was prominent. It's long, I don't like it and I don't find it catchy (laughs). I also like the spirit of a band in full in a name and that it is not Marc-Antoine and the…
True or false: Hochelaga is THE neighborhood in Montreal where you have to live when you are a musician?
False, I don't think (smile). It’s a neighborhood I love because when I came to Montreal three years ago, that’s where I found an apartment. It’s very québ ’as a place! There are many other areas where English is predominant. Here, it's full of people like my neighbors in Rimouski. I like this familiar side, comforting and not too exotic for a little local guy. But I’ll see myself in another neighborhood, it’s no more important than that.
True or false: you absolutely have to go through competitions to break into the Quebec music industry?
It is not mandatory, but it is very good visibility. Not everyone gets to program everywhere, who is good with social networks and who has this facility of reaching the public. It’s also a big plus to get known in the industry. Big promoters are not necessarily going to move to a small show at the Quai des brumes when they don't know anyone.
The voice for example is a mixed competition, but it will reach a much wider audience. It's the step to take to make yourself known in Quebec. I participated in it when I was 17 years old. I went to the blind auditions but my always (("Crowd From Here" by the Roommates) was flat, too monotonous for my voice. It didn't do much. Afterwards, I was glad I didn't go any further because the other young people laughed at that, it was semi-well-regarded.
"Emptying your mind is like therapy. "
True or false: are you necessarily an unhappy person when you write sad songs?
True… (laughs). No ! For a time I guess … It didn't come out of the blue, there was a more difficult period. I’m relatively happy in life and I think it’s a way to get through this. Emptying your mind is like therapy. We empty our emotions by putting them on paper. It frees up. It takes up and down ! Most artists will be bipolar… maybe not diagnosed (laughs). But this is my personal experience, surely there are a lot of people who are able to write super beautiful texts having had a super beautiful life.
True or false: does listening to sad songs help in life?
True. There is some comfort in the sense that you will think that the artist understands you and that he comes to put your hand on your shoulder. This is how I see it. I only listen to sad songs (smile).
True or false: writing sad songs is easier than happy songs?
True ! Sad songs are more natural. When you're fine, you don't feel the need to write, you live your life, you go out … I'm not someone who writes a lot. I write more out of necessity. I started at the beginning of CEGEP because I participated in Cégeps en spectacle and I wasn’t tempted to perform like high school yet (lycée editor's note). I didn't want to limit myself to that.
"I love the French language and I am happy to bring this language to life. "
True or false: writing in French is more poetic and romantic than in English?
True, when done right. You can quickly fall into ease with French. I think it's harder to write good texts in French than in English but also to write good poetic texts in French. I love the French language and I am happy to bring this language to life in a context where English takes precedence over everything.
True or false: songwriters write in the evening, with a glass of scotch in hand, looking at the moon?
False! I’m in the notes and dictaphone apps on my phone. Everything happens there, with technology in our hands. Romanticism is old, it's over! Sometimes I sit down and write. The residences are super practical also because you have the framework with people who do that. Writing exercises help me a lot, with pre-established constraints and parameters. Otherwise, these are thoughts when I am not able to fall asleep or I am walking on the street and I see something that makes me think of a rhyme …
True or false: playing with musicians is cooler and more fun?
True, I fell in love with this. It’s so much less pressure on my shoulders. I can stop playing, and just sing over it and it will work anyway! It feels good. When you're alone, everything you do has to be perfect because every little mistake can be heard. It’s more relaxed and inspiring to hear other people's ideas and to chat.
We started jamming at three in early December so that the foundation was solid. Then we took a break during the holidays. We really started the full rehearsals, at five, in January. I would probably have done something simpler if we had been scheduled earlier at the Francouvertes.
True or false: embellishing scars necessarily takes tattoos?
((laughs) I guess ! I didn't really see the title of my EP like that. It was just taking my wounds and changing them to music, because it’s the most beautiful thing. To embellish what I have a little darker in me. Otherwise, it just keeps spinning in your head. It’s like making lists for your week so you don’t always have to rehash them. It’s something I’ve figured out lately because it’s not been that long since I’m writing. Before writing, I just used words on tunes I wanted to sing. Then gradually it turned out to be good for my spirit and my zest for life.
"It was folk who came to pick me up at the start. "
True or false: a folk artist who made melancholic songs on the guitar will necessarily end up doing alternative electronic experiments?
It’s according to the tastes of each artist. I don't think I can do that because I'm not good with technology! I'm not someone who's going to go gobble (waste your time editor's note) in proTunes. I'm not interested at all, and I have no knowledge of it. On the other hand, with more worked guitar sounds, which will slightly distort and synthesize the original sound I find it cool.
But I'm still a pretty guy roots. It’s folk who picked me up with my favorite artist of all time, A.A. Bondy. Her first album is for me the archetype of folk. The americana country limit walks, I'm tripping over it. But I also grew up on Pink Floyd and rock, so the progressive also comes out a little bit in my music. I don't know where this passion came from. I'm glad it came out of the blue a bit because it gives me the impression of destiny. It's cool to think that there are things that we are predestined to do. Because I don't know what I could do other than music in life.
Soon (we hope) in concert as part of the Francouvertes preliminaries, alongside Jeremy Lachance and La Fièvre.
Interview by Emma Shindo (March 14, 2020, Montreal).