Alexis Normand

Road trip #3 - Destination: doubt management

It’s been four years since I messed up the American National Anthem. It wasn’t the rough performance that shook me the most. It was the international attention that it generated… I felt small, worthless and was so very ashamed of myself.

I talk about it more on this road trip: 

I have since realized that difficult experiences, like that one, have the biggest potential to change my life for the better. This is why I recognize the importance of being in uncomfortable situations from time to time. The discomfort that I feel is proof that something inside me is evolving.

What was the last time that you felt uncomfortable or that you had come to a personal turning point? What did you learn?

Road trip #2 - Destination: sunsets

There is nothing more beautiful than the sunsets in Saskatchewan. When I take time to stop and admire them, I remember that my roots grow into the sky just as much as they do into the earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdZVgROkUGU

It was my mom that taught me this love for sunsets. 

Road trip #1! Destination: Johnny Cash

Have you ever read a poem and it felt like it had been written just for you?...this is the feeling I got when I read Daniel Beaumont's lyrics to Johnny Cash. I'll tell you more about it in this video:


Do you like collaboration? What would you get out of it?

I prioritize collaboration because it has truly changed my life. I talked about this more in depth HERE

New Years Resolution: listen to more vinyl

Do you make New Years Resolutions? I don't either! 

Normally, I don’t bother with them, but this year I decided to make one: listen to music more often. I’m not talking about passive music listening – the kind I do anyway while on a road trip in the car or the music I’ll play as background motivation while I work furiously on my computer. My resolution is inspired by a new record player I received for Christmas. I’m giving myself the challenge…no, the luxury to listen to music actively where I eliminate all other distractions and invest all my attention to the album in question. I turn my phone off, brew a good cup of coffee, press play and go! It makes me so happy! 

I’m a bit shy to admit that most of my vinyl collection (I only have about 10 in total) are hand-me-downs from my 96-year old grand-mother. One of them is a recording of Sts Donatien & Rogatien’s church choir – from Prud’homme, SK, recorded in 1961…I know, my collection has a long way to go!

Harmonium and Emmy Lou Harris have been on rotation for the past couple weeks, but my ears are begging for other things to listen to.

So, do you have any suggestions? What are the “must haves” of any vinyl collection? 

Hocus Pocus

Several years ago, I was billeted with a woman in Granby, QC, with whom I stayed for a couple weeks. I developed a beautiful kinship with this woman of strength who I found to be very creative; a photographer and a mom who is very proud of her two girls. We have since lost touch, but there are bits of our conversations that have stayed with me. She told me that, in order to succeed in life and in my projects, I will need two things:

1) A clear vision of what I want: one that is so clear that all my actions and projects are developed around it, even if that happens without me noticing. When the vision isn’t focused, I have more choices to make, my decisions are more difficult and there may be more detours, which in the end, fills me with doubt.

2) A little bit of magic.

I understood the vision/work part right away. This is the part that I have a bit more control and influence over. I’ve often called upon mentors to guide me in my artistic and professional development, but I remain an independent self-managed artist that does everything: I compose the music, I pay the wages, I apply for funding, draft the business and marketing plans, I cross the T’s and dot the I’s and lick the stamps. I’m used to seeing the steps - the work needed to get me to point B from point A. And I work really hard.

I had a bit of a harder time understanding the magic. It was like I was just waiting for it happen, waiting for something to fall from the sky. As if some important person would suddenly just appear in my life to show me exactly which path to take. I was naive (I still am at times!).

But I’m starting to understand: magic is something that happens over a period of time. For example, if it wasn’t for Les rencontres qui chantent- an artist residency organized by L’Alliance nationale de l’industrie musicale in which I participated in back in 2010, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet Marc Pérusse. Our paths crossed again a few more times and, eventually, he produced my new record.

I see now that it is sometimes impossible to know how point A will bring me to point B or C. There is a domino effect within that process that is totally out of my control. The only work I need to do is to trust it.

Important people don’t just fall from the sky, but they are always around. Some are nearer than others. When I ask the right questions, when I invite them to collaborate, and when I listen carefully, I am inviting the magic in -- to come play in my backyard.

New Album

Good Lord, there’s a new album on the way!

Eeek!! I’ve just heard the masters for my new album… I had a perma-smile on my face the whole time. I’m so excited to share it!

This album was built on one goal: I wanted to better myself as a singer-songwriter and erformer. I wanted to write the best songs, have more control over the sound, and most of all, tap into a more authentic and personal creative source.
I surrounded myself with a team that would light a fire under me and push me farther than I could go on my own, including Marc Pérusse at the helm as producer. Luc De Larochellière as my lyric-writing coach, and I also worked with other Québecois lyricists including Daniel Beaumont, Mathieu Lippé and Mélanie Noël.

The result is amazing! Marc did a really beautiful job of the production… arrangements that flow like honey… 

As for myself, I learned a lot: I developed a great respect for the creative process. I learned that sometimes it’s the song that dictates which direction it will go - not me! Sometimes creating a song (or makin an album) is a process that takes several months (or years!). Sometimes the song just won’t write itself and it’s fine to let it go. Sometimes it takes me a few months to understand how to interpret a song - find my voice, even if it was me who wrote the lyrics. When I give the process time to mature and breathe, it has time to truly take off.

To celebrate, I’m hittin’ the road with my good friend and Franco-Albertan Ariane Mahryke Lemire who’s also releasing a new album. We’re doing a western Canadian tour together - a double-bill and double album release from Vancouver to Winnipeg (but not in that order!). After that, I’ll continue eastward on my own for my Montreal release, on November 11.

I hope to see you out there!

Bizoux,

Alexis

ENTR'ARTS: Artist Residency in Banff

I’ve been meaning to share my reflections from the artist residency that I did in Banff in late August for a month now... Lately, I feel buried under a pile of administrative work for my English album launch. I’ve finally come up for air air ... yes! Breathing a bit feels good!

I spent a week in Banff to attend Entr'Arts - an artist residency organized by the Franco-Albertans Artists Coalition. The idea is to bring together western Francophone artists (and four from New Brunswick). This year, there were twenty of us: 12 visual artists, 5 musicians, and 3 writers.

This was the fourth time I’ve participated in this residency. I always arrive with a specific goal in order to make the most of my time. Those who know me well know that I literally organize all my time! During the last edition two years ago, I was particularly productive: in addition to enjoying yoga classes offered by the sports center, swimming laps in the pool and taking long walks in the woods, I had time to write three new songs and compose music for someone else’s lyrics.

This year, I arrived with two objectives: to plan out my new show and write a new tune. But I felt torn, unable to maintain focus, to abandon my expectations. No yoga, no pool, no walk in the woods ... my head and my mind were like the mountains smothered by the smoke of forest fires in the northern United States. Total fog.

I was working on different things with different people: my new songs with Marc Pérusse; performance/staging with Ghyslain Filion; branding with Gabrielle Bouchard ... I spent three days working on business without feeling like I’d made any progress at all! It's funny how I was afraid of disappointing myself - afraid of failing to do everything! I put even more pressure on myself and I hit a wall.

I decided to change my mindset by taking a trip to visit the visual arts studios, and Sabine Lecorre-Moore invited me to paint something ... it did me good! Almost as much as the bottle of red wine that I had bought myself (I chose the brand "Screw It" ... to reinforce the fact that I had to abandon my expectations).

Day 4: the last day of work. I woke up with a little headache and a bit of "I don’t care-ism“ - a kind of "f*ck it" tattooed on my forehead. I decided to abandon my expectations and go with the flow ... and the fog disappeared.

This year Entr'Arts reminded me of the importance of forcing things less. No! The importance of NOT forcing things. Sometimes the pieces are all there, you just have to drop them into place.

I recognize the value of time that I spent with Marc Pérusse (my album producer!) - we were able to discuss the vision of the album, choose the songs, and rework others. We had the opportunity to learn more, work more together - this stuff is priceless!

Ghyslain Filion helped me understand a SUPER important thing: I already have all the tools I need to let myself go on stage. I just have to let myself use them! When force it less, I’m less afraid, I have access to myself - to the core of what I want to express as an artist. My delivery is therefore more authentic. I have the tools that will allow me to share the dimensions of my personality that I never dared to explore.

Land of Living Skies

I am fascinated by the effect of my surroundings. In Saskatchewan, we’re reduced to a great simplicity where the landscape is one of epic proportions - larger than life. There is a unique relationship between myself and the places grouped under this horizon that arouse my curiosity ... at times, it's the horizon that impresses me. The slogan on our license plates is too perfect: The land of living skies.

If you've already been to one of my shows, you've probably heard about my mother who is obsessed with taking photos. In fact, the word obsession isn’t even the best one to describe her passion. Suffice it to say she’s taken many hundreds. And my father, the most patient man, is often her chauffeur along gravel and dirt roads, sometimes covered in snow, following the light to take photos from the best spot.

I’d like to share a few, taken at the family cottage at Lake Wakaw:

... All of this to inspire a song: Le pays du ciel vivant.