Myriam Gendron

MYRIAM GENDRON – Forgotten Tradition And Revisited Literature

The Quebecoise folk singer-songwriter Myriam Gendron, is back with her third LP “Mayday” out via Thrill Jockey Records on the 10th May. “Mayday” presents an even more syncretic fusion of oral traditions and literature characters. Discover more about it with our interview.

The Quebecoise folk singer-songwriter Myriam Gendron, is back with her third LP “Mayday” out via Thrill Jockey Records on the 10th May. Usually, they say that the third one is the “make it or break it” album. And it is. Indeed, “Mayday” presents an even more syncretic fusion of oral traditions and literature characters. Discover more about it with our interview.

Myriam Gendron Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

So, Myriam, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you? And now this period is treating you?

Um, well, I’m busy with the preparation of the record coming out in a few days. So, um, I’ve been busy dealing with, you know, just organizing the tours and the record releases, the merch, making T-shirts, making posters. So, it’s a lot to handle, but it’s good.

A condensation of facts

Well, let’s talk about this fantastic record. I had the time and honor to listen to it before speaking with you. I wanted to start just basic right now like, what can you share about its general album production? Because it comes off after a long hiatus due to your maternity. And the death of your mother is on the dark side of it. So it’s a sort of condensation of facts.

Well, yes, I mean, it’s, it’s only been two years since the previous record came out. For me, that’s not very long. The big pause was between the first record and the second. This is pretty fast. I mean, I’m, I came back from a tour in, you know, end of 2020 to 2022 was very rough here. Because so much was happening at the same time.

Quitting the job

With the music, it’s started to get bigger. And I had a full-time job and two young kids at home, and my mother passed away. And it was all it was crazy. Hectic. And so when I came back from the last tour of the year, and then I, you know, I had quit my job right before leaving on that last run of dates, because it was just too much to handle.

Nothing to do

And so I came back home, I guess, in January 2023. And all of a sudden, you know, I had nothing to do. I had no job. And I was very, very tired and sad. I mean, I had a lot of grief that I had to deal with that I hadn’t you know, managed to deal with because I was so busy. It was good. I mean, playing so many shows during that time was hard energy-wise. Still, at the same time, it helped me a lot, you know, to express just my emotions.

However, still, it was I mean, it was a lot to deal with when I came back home it was like okay, this is all of a sudden no job it was the first time in my life that I was in this position you know to have like nothing on the calendar to nothing to escape basically. So yeah, because I guess like many people work was a way of escaping.

Myriam Gendron Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

From a situation to another one

You know, how does it feel to have nothing on your hands? Yeah, because you pass from an almost a situation that only looks like from my external point of view a burnout-inducing situation to another. Tech’s exact point of access the same Yeah, not being so there is no balancing need to manage?

Well, I didn’t really at first, I’ve cried a lot. Some days I just would lie in bed all day. Just not able to do anything and some other days, it would be the opposite I would look for things to do in the house. I fixed a lot of things in the house that year. I painted all the walls I fixed all the, all the holes in the walls were fixed, like all that stuff. But then I had a sudded urge to make a record. This is what I’m going to do this year.

Myriam Gendron project

So this became my project. Luckily, I got some money from the government to do that. I’ve listened to a lot of music while painting my house. Then, I’ve started to writing songs. It went pretty quickly in about, you know, five months the record was written. And then it was, you know, how to record it? Who am I inviting on this record? So it was just, yeah. It helped a lot, you know, to write songs.

Yeah, I couldn’t understand how because you’re speaking from a situation where I was too busy. And I, I had nothing to do. Then when I was listening to the album, the feelings that I had with me constantly were like, I felt transported to another world, full of darkness and hope at the same time. So now I understand from your reply, all these extremes in your album? So, how did you balance this?

Finding a balance

You’re right, that’s pretty much what the album is about, it is trying to find a balance because I mean, life is full of contrasts. And we are full of contradictions. And we hold it all within, you know, we, we can be, we can be gentle, we can be violent, we can be sad, we can be happy, all of that’s possible.

The meaning behind the title of Myriam Gendron “Mayday”

But when you are too much of one thing, then you lose your mind. And, it was the record was kind of a journey into that kind of challenge of finding, you know, the middle point where you’re comfortable. And I guess the title “Mayday” also evokes that because it’s a cry for help. But there’s also a lot of light and a lot of hope in May.

It’s also the month in which my daughter was born. And it’s the month my mother passed away. The month of May of 2022, was full of contradictions. You know, everything was sunny blooming, so pretty outside. But we learned on May 2, that my mother was going to die, and she died on May 28. So it was it was all very, very fast. And during a time when I had a full-time job, a very, very busy month at work, the month of May was the worst month for what I was doing. In terms of I mean, yeah, and, but then I had to take care of my mom, I had my two kids and, you know, had shows planned and it was just so I felt that in May 2022. And I guess that’s why I called it me, do.

Myriam Gendron Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

“La Terre Brulee” and “La Belle Francoise”

I studied for five years French in high school. And that was handy when I was listening to the lyrics together. And what it means there are a couple of songs: “La Terre Brulee” and “La Belle Francoise”. I want to ask you for more insights about these two songs.

In general, I have a hard time explaining. I don’t know what I wanted to say with that song. I kind of just let the symbols you know, appear. And I have a general idea of what it’s about. But I’m not. I mean, it could be other things. And I like to keep it open to interpretations because some people have said to me, this is what this means and other people it’s different. And I like that. I like the fact that it can hold a variety of interpretations.

Free intrepretation of Myriam Gendron songs

Yeah, for me, it’s like, I mean, “La Terre Brulee” If I will watch aside the meaning of brulee, it’s something barren rounds were before it was something quite nice, full of life, and then something happened and it picked In a barren wasteland, that’s how I interpret the song. But even here, even my interpretation can have a lot of connection with people. I mean, it’s quite an open interpretation even for me.

Yeah. Because it can be that that land that we’re talking about, it can be the actual Earth’s, you know, talking about the environment. And yes, that’s going on in that department. It could also be like, politically, or it could be an interior land, you know, where everything is burned. And there’s nothing left except a few flowers here and there that bloom and die, you know. So, yeah, it’s, it could be anything. It’s trying, I think it’s trying to find the lights, you know, and the hope that there still can be when everything is falling apart.

Dorothy Parker and LaBelle Francois

I also had the time to listen to your older albums. And what I always like is that you always bring literature in your albums. The sun, you You brought a poem, I thought. Yeah. Dorothy Parker and LaBelle, Francois. I wanted to ask you, why did you choose these poems. Which meaninh have for you? So these strong characters, I found that also in these two women that you have to pick down in the songs.

Yeah. Um, well, about literature, I guess. That’s kind of where I come from. That’s, I studied literature. It was my, um, well, it’s still a passion. I worked in a bookstore for almost 15 years. So literature is a big part of of me. And I think yes, I integrate it in my in my songwriting, I think I have a very literary approach to, to lyrics. And, well, the first record was made from poems by Dorothy Parker. I don’t know if you got that.

Yeah, I did some researching.

What I did, I chose a few poems from the Dorothy Parker anthology, and I put them to music. So, um, so that’s obviously a very literary album, then the second record was mostly based on traditional music. Yes. So you could you could still call it literature. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a form of literature, these stories that have traveled…

Myriam Gendron Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

The oral tradition according Myriam Gendron

…through oral tradition. It’s, it’s also something academic…

I came to songwriting through literature and through this process of just taking what’s already there, and transforming it, reshaping it, to create something modern, that feels natural. To me, in my mouth today. It’s not about you know, looking behind. It’s something that resonates today, at least that’s what I try to achieve.

With this third record, there’s more of what you would call original songwriting, but it’s still the same process of finding inspiration in what’s already there. It’s maybe a little less obvious than on the two first records. But I think that even when I’m writing an original song, it’s always in a relationship to see something that’s already been done before. I think all art has to be that way. Maybe it’s not always so obvious to artists who are creating that they’re just reshaping something that’s already been done. I don’t think you can really be new.

The shape is what matters

I don’t want to say that everything has been said. But it is kind of.

Kind of. We’re all the same stories. It’s just the shape. That’s different. And it’s us. I mean, we are different, we are new, we are unique. But what we’re doing is just, yeah, reshaping something. So we each have a very unique way, probably, of how we work. Not necessarily, but we can try to find a very unique way of reshaping but we’re always reshaping. I take that very seriously and I really acknowledge that it’s part of the process and creation. I don’t know if I’m losing track of your question here.

Myriam Gendron Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

The two elements in Myriam Gendron music

No, no, no, I understand that now. Because I see two different elements. The oral site, so the traditional songs that are portrayed throughout the, the years orally without any sort of transcription, sort of there are there are transcription if you go to search them, but generally are sewn like oral, and then there is the literature. And art is one of those while the LaBella. Francois? Yes, the oral tradition. Yeah. And they meet each other in a world that you have created, actually. And I find it really fascinating. Because if I didn’t read the the credits, I really didn’t know. So that’s also the magical side of that.

Yeah, like to blend things. I I’m happy that you say that, because I don’t I think the there’s no clear line between, you know, the traditional stuff and my stuff, it has to really blend. That’s what I’m trying to achieve.

The collaboration with Marisa Anderson

This time you have collaborated with Marisa Anderson and Jim White is with which you are going also on tour in the US, how does collaboration or how what the collaboration between Marisa and did it happen?

Um, well, I’ve been a longtime admirer of Marisa‘s work. But, I never really thought I would make a record with them. I had met Marisa a few times. She was a huge inspiration for my second record, because she also works a lot with traditional music. She tells stories, incredible stories with just an electric guitar. And I find that absolutely fascinating. And yeah, I look up to her. For all of that, and just the way she is, is she you know, she’s such a authentic person and has such strong integrity in everything she’s doing. I just really like her.

Photo by Justine Latour
Photo by Justine Latour

The first meeting with Jim White

I’ve been a fan of Jim White for years too. And I met him. I met him end of 2022 during a tour I was doing in the States. And we played in a festival and Jim was there, he was playing with Bill Callahan. And, and so I, when I saw I wasn’t expecting to see, I didn’t know he would, he would be there. So when I saw him backstage, I got a bit nervous. And I talked with him a bit, and the connection was good. Then he came to see my show.

And obviously, I came to see his show with Bill. And it was so good. He was so good. I just I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. Afterwards, in the backstage I had had a few beers, and I was a bit, you know, uninhibited. And I went up to him, and I just looked at him and I said “Can I hug you?” And he’s like, “Yeah, sure”. And so we hugged.

The collaboration with Jim White

And then, you know, a few months later, he wrote to me and asked if I if I would like to open for a show he was doing in New York. So I did that. You know, we talked a bit, then I left and that was it. But apparently, the way it happened is quite funny. He months laterI had written my record, I went to see solo Marisa‘s show in Montreal, She was solo. It was in probably May of 2023 and, I went to see her show. And I went up to her and I said “Hi Marisa. I’m Myriam Gendron. Do you remember me?“. And she’s like, “Myriam Gendron? Oh, yes. Yes, I was hoping you’d be there”. So I was like, oh, you know, a bit surprised because I wasn’t sure if she knew about me.

Two planets aligning

And so I was like “Okay, nice. So yeah, I have a record that I’m working on. And there’s this one song where I really feel like, you know, I would really love for you to play on it with with Jim.” And do you think, you know, you’d be interested in doing that? For me, it was a long shot. I really didn’t expect much from it. But then she said “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this. I was just with Jim, two days ago”.

And he said, “do you know about Myriam Gendron, I think it would be nice to collaborate with her”. So Jim had just, basically talked about the idea. And then I was there asking her if they would like to play on my record. So it was like, kind of a crazy thing, you know, written in the stars. And so then it you know, I was really happy they came, they came a few months later to record three songs with me. And yeah, they’re so great. They’re great musicians.

Myriam Gendron future

My last question is about touring: is Myriam Gendron planning to come Europe to bring this amazing album live together with them? And specifically in The Netherlands?

I am going to tour Europe in November, but not with Jim and Marisa. It’s going to be a solo tour. So so I’m playing in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany. And I’ll finished in Vienna. Unfortunatly not this time, I won’t play in the Netherlands in which I was there in 2022 at the festival Le Guess Who?.

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