Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

April Wine has enjoyed quite a 40th-anniversary year — inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and out on the road touring. Back in 1981, the Montreal-based band was riding a string of hits here at home when the power ballad “Just Between You and Me,” from the album Nature of the Beast, broke in America. It not only charted Top 25 on Billboard, it became the first song by a Canadian act to air on MTV. Frontman Myles Goodwyn spoke to Words + Music about one of the band’s many Canadian classics.

 

What do you remember about the recording of that song?

We’d been in England recording at the Manor Studio, owned by Richard Branson, and the other guys had already gone home. I was still there because I was having some difficulties, one of which was the guitar solo for this song. It wasn’t working, I wasn’t satisfied. So I decided at the last minute to redo the solo. But there was no gear left in the studio. I grabbed a guitar and there was this RAT distortion pedal so I used that. It was a bit unnerving to record on a borrowed guitar plugged directly into the console, but the solo really worked, it sounded cool. Funny that the last song we did was the biggest hit off the record. I think this happens fairly often.

 

How did it compare to your previous hits in terms of impact?

We had broken into the States already but this was our biggest single in America. It kicked things up a notch. All of a sudden we were on the radio.

 

What was the inspiration for the lyrics?

I always write the music first. That comes easily, but the lyrics I agonize over. I think that a nice piece of music with a bad lyric is a real shame. So I find a phrase that starts the ball rolling. I thought “just between you and me” was a nice phrase and was surprised nobody had used it. It was definitely a love song, which I dedicated to my wife at the time.

 

What’s the secret to writing a good ballad?

Like most people who grew up fans of the Beatles, I’m not happy just doing one kind of music. I like to write different things. And if you have a nice ballad to open the door you can get away with a lot. It’s kind of like a pretty girl. So it helps to have a pretty melody. That’s like a canvas, waiting for you. And it’s important to be sincere, and write things people can identify with. Be as honest as possible. It’s tremendous how that can work in your favour.

 

Of all your hits, what do you feel is this song’s legacy?

I hope that, in my lifetime, it will get a songwriter’s award. What used to be very exciting for me was the BMI Awards. You’d go to the ceremony and look around and there would be Paul Simon or Stevie Wonder. And I was there because my songs were being honoured by the same people. I know it’s a little bit selfish as a band member to get so excited about the songwriter awards, but I never really wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be a songwriter. I hope it’s not like the Junos though, or I’ll be 140 before I actually get the award!

 


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Huit cents. C’est le nombre de chansons qui dorment dans les tiroirs de Paul Cargnello, certainement l’un de nos auteurs-compositeurs les plus prolifiques. Il a déjà sept albums à son actif, dont le nouvel arrivé La course des loups. Théoriquement, il pourrait lancer un nouveau disque chaque semaine durant les deux prochaines années grâce à son matériel en banque et à celui qui s’ajoute chaque semaine. Ah oui, il n’a que 31 ans!

Comment expliquer cette productivité monstre? Par la rigueur, dira le principal intéressé. « Je suis quelqu’un qui travaille beaucoup. C’est devenu mon métier. Je me suis réveillé un matin, quand j’avais 18 ou 19 ans, et je me suis dit que c’était ça que je voulais faire de ma vie et que j’allais tout mettre en œuvre pour y arriver. J’ai décidé de devenir professionnel et je devais améliorer ma composition et mes textes, » raconte celui qui a fait ses débuts au sein du groupe punk The Vendettas durant les années 1990.

Mais en réalité, cette éthique de travail, il la doit au hasard de la vie. « Plus jeune, j’ai entendu Elvis Costello en entrevue et il disait qu’il composait une nouvelle chanson chaque jour. En fait, j’avais mal compris. Il voulait plutôt dire qu’il composait un peu chaque jour. Cela ne voulait pas dire qu’il finissait une chanson chaque fois. Mais moi, je me suis forcé durant deux ans pour faire une nouvelle chanson par jour à cause de lui. Et je réussissais! Cela m’a aidé à trouver ma voie et m’a placé sur le chemin de la rigueur du travail. Maintenant, si je n’ai rien composé et écrit à la fin de la semaine, je me sens mal à l’aise. J’ai pris l’habitude de composer deux ou trois chansons par semaine, » souligne-t-il.

Et qu’adviendra-t-il de tous ces textes et mélodies qui dorment? « C’est le grand gaspillage! C’est triste, mais en même temps, quand j’arrive dans le processus de création de l’album, je peux trouver des univers précis et choisir avec sagesse, », évoque l’auteur-compositeur-interprète.

 

Amour politique

Et question d’augmenter la taille du défi, il n’est pas question pour Cargnello de tomber dans la facilité. Ses textes se veulent engagés, mais toujours livrés avec un second degré d’interprétation. Par exemple, « La course des loups » est inspirée d’une célèbre phrase du Che Guevara dénonçant le système capitaliste. Mais ici, il s’agit également d’une façon de parler d’amour. « Ce n’est pas facile d’être politisé sans faire la morale, avoue-t-il. C’était ça le problème avec mon ancien groupe. Nous étions vraiment moralisateurs de gauche. En solo, j’ai trouvé une façon d’être plus subtile. Mon vrai but est de trouver l’équilibre entre le personnel et la politique. Je le fais en abordant l’impact de la politique sur nos vies. Je cherche à avoir de la profondeur dans mes textes pour les interpréter de différentes façons. “La course des loups”, je dis toujours que c’est une chanson d’amour, mais à l’époque du capitalisme. »

 

Jongler avec les langues

Autre défi : jongler constamment entre le français et l’anglais. Anglophone d’origine, Cargnello affirme avoir de plus en plus de facilité à écrire dans la langue de Molière. Voilà pourquoi il vient tout juste de revenir avec un troisième album consécutif dans cette langue. « Je suis tellement inspiré en français dernièrement. Je m’améliore constamment. J’ai beaucoup travaillé pour Brûler le jour. C’était un exercice. Pour Bras coupé, j’étais entre les deux. Là, pour la première fois, j’avais déjà plusieurs compositions françaises en banque. C’était plus facile. Parce que si à la fin de l’année je me retrouve avec une centaine de nouvelles chansons, il y en a environ 25 en français sur ce nombre. Ce n’est pas encore 50- 50, » affirme-t-il.

 

Son but ultime demeure toutefois de parvenir à concocter des albums parfaitement bilingues. Mais ce rêve devra attendre, parce que selon lui, l’industrie n’est pas encore prête à recevoir ce genre de projet : « Les maisons de disques au Québec ont encore de la difficulté avec un artiste qui arrive avec des compositions en français et en anglais. C’est moins facile pour les demandes de subventions, les radios, etc. L’industrie n’est pas suffisamment prête. Présentement, quand je commence un album, je dois choisir. Mais chaque fois que je fais un album en anglais, on retrouve deux ou trois chansons en français et chaque fois que j’en fais un en français, on en retrouve deux ou trois en anglais. Juste pour pousser un peu les limites! »


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Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2011 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.

Working with Three Days Grace changed Gavin Brown’s life. Until the release of the Norwood, Ont., band’s self-titled debut in 2003, the Toronto-based Brown was regarded as a talented triple threat here in Canada: ace session musician, producer and songwriter.

A former member of Phleg Camp, he had worked on projects by Skydiggers, Danko Jones, Spookey Ruben, Mia Sheard, Big Sugar, Alexandra Slate, Great Big Sea and Canadian contemporary Christian rockers A Thousand Foot Krutch before solidifying his production work on the self-titled Billy Talent album the same year.

But if Billy Talent placed Brown on the international radar with its European success, it was his co-writing and production for Three Days Grace that established him in the desirable U.S. market. Brown co-wrote “I Hate Everything About You,” “Home” and “Just Like You,” which dominated active rock, modern rock and mainstream rock radio formats, further buoyed by the band’s One-X follow-up in 2006 that supplied “Animal I Have Become,” “Pain,” “Riot” and “Never Too Late,” helping sell more than four million albums in the U.S. alone.

“The Three Days Grace stuff that I did still has legs in America,” said Brown, shortly before departing on a two-week trip to North Carolina and Boca Raton to write with My Darkest Days and Christian rockers Decipher Down. “They were the most played band on rock radio in America in 2007, the most played band on active and mainstream, and No. 2 on modern. The six big singles we had did very, very well, so that’s the stuff that people know me for in America. I still do a lot of that kind of stuff.”

Case in point: Brown’s collaboration with Memphis contemporary Christian band Skillet resulted in another 2009 gold monster U.S. hit named, aptly enough, “Monster.” In fact, Brown has made significant inroads into the U.S. $500-million contemporary Christian and alt-Christian music scenes (2008 figures, according to the Christian Music Trade Association). He recently worked with Denver’s Everfound and says there’s a considerable market south of the border that’s barely registered with Canadians. “It’s unbelievably huge,” says Brown of the U.S. Christian rock market. “It’s not only big, it’s also consistent. There’s a whole area in the South—the non-coastal United States—that’s very Christian and very powerful. People buy records and they support artists. It’s a good thing.”

However, it’s his Three Days Grace association that has brought Brown the greatest dividends. He recently co-wrote a song for My Darkest Days (co-founded by Matt Walst, brother of Three Days Grace’s Brad Walst) called “Can’t Forget You” with Chad Kroeger, among others. He’s co-written with Simmons Records rockers The Envy (which Brown also produced). And he’s teamed up with Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba to work with new Motown singer-songwriter Cara Salimando, whom he describes as “an acoustic pop” artist, “not as generic as a Colbie Caillat or a Sara Bareilles—a little more Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros.

“It’s amazing, when you have a hit song, what that does for you,” says the 37-year-old Brown, who estimates he’s sold 10 to 12 million records as a songwriter/producer. “Then if you have two hit songs, three hit songs or four, there’s a history of success. So people seek you out—because everyone’s looking for a hit song—and if you deliver for people, they keep coming back.”

He’s talking with Hoobastank, working here at home with Dan Hill, Down With Webster, Stereos and Windsor-based Christian rockers The Brilliancy, and has just signed with U.S. management firm The Collective, embarking on a collaborative partnership with former Evanescence member and co-writer David Hodges (Kelly Clarkson, Céline Dion, Daughtry) to write for specific artists who he expects will take him frequently to Los Angeles in the future. “Writing is definitely starting to be more of my life, as opposed to writing with just the bands I produce,” says Brown. “The idea is that David and I would walk into a project that’s already got momentum and legs, and we’d just write some songs for it.”

Brown says the song has always been of crucial importance in whatever capacity he’s delivered it, but admits that as a writer, his approach is much more spontaneous—as long as there is a purpose to the outcome. “Some people like to have a lot of preparation,” he says. “I’ve gotten together with people and they have lists of titles, or lyric ideas, a stanza, the verse or some music that’s half-done. I show up with nothing and I like it that way. The conversation is this: ‘What are we trying to do? Who are you and what’s your voice? As a singer, why should anyone pay attention to you and what’s the context from which you’re speaking?’

“There’s a branding element that has to be there, a self-awareness, a knowledge of who the artist is. Just writing a song—I don’t do that, I can’t do that. It doesn’t make sense to me.”


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