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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Julie Doiron: Not so sad
Wednesday 17 November @ 00:01:29
by Rob van Alstyne
Julie Doiron’s music is usually described with a limited set of adjectives by lazy critics: depressing, downcast, lugubrious—you get the idea. Admittedly, the typically minor-key folk-rock explorations that Doiron favors tend to invoke thoughts of clouds and various muted shades of gray regardless of their accompanying lyrics, but Doiron’s plaintive fragile voice probably isn’t helping matters any either—this is a woman whose windpipes could make “Shiny Happy People” sound morose. That said, Doiron views her music in a different light.
Download an mp3 of Julie Doiron’s song No Money Makers.
“I think acknowledging sadness in your life and letting it out is not a
depressing thing,” claims the French-Canadian Doiron, 32, via telephone.
“We all do it. It’s what allows you to be able to laugh in the morning.
But we can’t ignore the fact that we feel bummed sometimes or miss people
that we love, that’s just how life is. I’ve never really felt that
my songs are depressing. I’ve always felt that my songs are quite hopeful.
They may be a little melancholy, but I hear the hope in it. I think it all goes
together—the music, the vocal melody, the lyrics—to me it ends up
being hopeful, even if the emotion I’m singing about is sad.”
Those who pay a little closer attention to Doiron’s music will agree with her
sentiments. Her latest batch of “hopeful melancholia” and sixth solo
album, Goodnight Nobody, provides the strongest example yet of Doiron’s
overlooked dynamism as a songwriter. Recording much of the album live in one day
with Parisian band Herman Dune as her musical backers, Doiron returns to the fuller
live-band sound for the first time since 2000’s Julie Doiron & the
Wooden Stars, (an album for which she won the prestigious Juno Award—the
Canadian equivalent of a Grammy with the slight difference that actual ARTISTIC
merit rather than record sales guide the judge’s decisions), and finds equally
impressive and wide-ranging results.
“Last year I read the Bob Dylan biography and then realized that was totally
what I wanted to do— just go in there with a band and record and not think
too much about it,” claims Doiron. “I specifically wanted Herman Dune
to back me up and I really wanted to get the whole thing done in one day. I didn’t
send them any demos and we were going on tour together in Europe. We did four
shows together and then our recording day was the fifth day of the tour. Each
night I played about three of the songs that I wanted to record so they could
hear them ahead of time. Then we went into the studio and did a handful of takes
of each one. We did as much as we could in one day—but unfortunately that
was only eight songs. So the next time if I want to try and do something like
that I think I’m going to give myself two days (laughs).”
one-day session yielded plenty of riches, from the winsome and near poppy album
opener, “Snow Falls In November” (of which Doiron says, “That
was my first time trying to write a happy song”), to the cathartic venomous
rocker “The Songwriter.” The full-band tracks are rounded out by three
tracks from another session cut with noted Canuck indie-rock producer Dave Draves
and “Banjo,” a sparse recording done in a friend’s apartment.
Nearly all of it was cut live, and the immediacy of the sound comes through, Doiron’s
methodical angular contstructions shot through with the spontaneous energy of
her highly talented, albeit unrehearsed, compatriots. And while the off-kilter
piano led “Dance All Night,” and its muted cacophony backdrop doesn’t
exactly offer sweet dreams, much of the album boasts a musical warmth rarely heard
from Doiron in the past.
A full-time musician and mother, Doiron’s current lengthy solo trek in support
of her new album means time away from family, a tough adjustment she commemorates
in song on perhaps the album’s strongest cut “Last Night, “wherein
a pre-tour Julie coddles her infant and readies herself for the coming feeling
of emptiness (“Last night I held you in my arms and I started to cry / And
you looked up and squeezed your hands onto my head like you knew why.”)
in general I find a huge inspiration,” claims Doiron as our conversation
nears its end. “I’ve been a parent now for 10 years and they’ve
kind of been through the whole musician trip with me. They’re very in touch
with how the business works and how many records we have to sell to be able to
buy a house. They see how hard you have to work to be able to do anything. I think
it’s good for them to see that. It’s also just total motivation, it
makes you work harder because you have to find a way to raise them and feed them.
It really makes you maximize your time. When the kids are napping or at school,
I automatically pick up the guitar and try to start writing songs because it’s
the only time I can. When you have no children you can just do whatever you want,
so songwriting is easier to put off. I think it helps you be way less self-absorbed
and egocentric. It helps you become a real person as opposed to like … a
Julie Doiron plays on Thu. Nov. 19 at the Turf Club with Matt Marka, The
Vestals. 9 p.m. 21+. $10. The Corner of University and Snelling Ave., St. Paul.
Download an mp3 of Julie Doiron’s song No Money
Find out more about Julie Doiron on her official
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