No one was more surprised at winning the coveted Francophone Album of the Year JUNO for 2017 than its recipient, Laurence Nerbonne. Laurence is the ex-lead of group Hôtel Morphée. Her debut album as a soloist, XO, took home the JUNO trophy in somewhat of an upset amidst fellow nominees of high profile. In making her album, Laurence had to break through the mould of the heavily entrenched folk-leaning musique Francophone in Canada.
“The hip hop or dance beats, it really was all done in the English language by the Americans,” Laurence says. “We Francophones have a tradition with composition, the French song, the folklore. When you look at it, it is nothing but folk music that is rhythmic. Our musical history is built around the guitar.” To do something more pop,” Laurence comments, “It’s so difficult to write in French! It’s so square, and also it takes a lot of words to convey a simple idea.” As progressive pop music has been handled successfully in the French tongue by artists like Ariane Moffatt, Mylène Farmer and her protégée Alizée, Nerbonne began an intense period of listening carefully to songs from Stromae and Christine and The Queens to see how the music, lyrics, and production all worked to deliver a pleasing modern Franco pop sound.
Laurence Nerbonne boldly left behind the rich tradition of folk, the acoustic guitars, the fiddles, to the colourful field of electropop where artists like Robyn and MØ roam happily. She swam against the current penning empowering lyrics, bold melodies, and danceable rhythms.
“People around me listen to what’s going on internationally: Beyoncé, Disclosure, et cetera. I don’t know if it’s because we [in Quebec] are not game or not ready, but the impression is that we never dare go there. We are very afraid to make pop because of what others will say.”
Nerbonne recently released a deluxe version of her JUNO-winning album XO. It contains three bonus tracks, one of which features Jason Bajada.
Laurence Nerbonne is originally from Gatineau, Quebec. In addition to her Juno Award win, she won the 2016 SOCAN Songwriting Prize in the French-language division for the song “Rêves d’été”. Music video for album opener “Si ton coeur bat” embedded below. iTunes