fictionalize you life

We can go wherever we please and everything depends upon how near you stand to me

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interviews, conversations

Music for tourists, oui, touristes en rade sur la carte du tendre, car Chris Garneau possède l’art et la manière de saisir en quelques phrases l’essentiel d’un moment, tumultueux ou amoureux, sans en donner toutes les clés.

Tel un Rufus Wainwright plus mesuré (ou moins démonstratif), il aurait pu écrire des comédies musicales de poche pour timide contrarié. Mais, en balade à Broadway, Chris Garneau a entendu Elliott Smith. Une reprise cachée de Between the bars témoigne du chamboulement qui s’ensuivit.

Tout le monde a fait un jour ou l’autre le cauchemar angoissant d’une chute infinie. Chris Garneau a choisi pour pochette le dessin d’un avion se rapprochant du sol, suivi d’un panache de fumée blanche. Personne ne saurait dire si l’atterrissage va se passer sans encombre. Pour écrire son premier album, le songwriter a manifestement affronté quelques démons patibulaires. Il sort grandi de la bagarre, en chaussettes, mais l’âme intacte, et peut désormais se jouer sur scène de la part d’ombre de ses chansons avec un sourire de connivence, accompagné de deux violoncellistes.

Il sera judicieux de compléter Music for tourists avec le ep C- sides, pour prolonger la fête, ouvrir le bal avec Love Zombies, espérer vivre une histoire, même compliquée, avec le propriétaire d’une paire de chaussures bleues (Blue Suede Shoes), espérer ne pas rester seul sur son île.

What are the best and worst things about going on tour?

The worst thing is this sleeping problem, this lack of sleep. It sounds normal but it is actually a major problem. You end up just getting sick.

The best thing when touring is playing good shows. In the end, that’s why we’re on tour. That’s the goal. On a good night, it’s a reminder of why we’re doing it.

How long did you live in France when you were a kid?

For three years. I was about eight years old. We moved in the summer and then I started a new grade in France.

I was the only one of my siblings that wanted to come. They are older than me. I remember this new world that opened up for me. We moved into a new house. It was summertime and it was beautiful. My parents bought me a bicycle when we arrived into this small countrytown. I remember the first summer having my bike and riding around the countryside by farms and all these things I’d never really been around before, thinking I had three years to spend there. I knew it was very important, maybe I didn’t even necessarily know why, but it was important.

There’s a sort of different freedom than there is in America. Something very fresh. It’s such a beautiful country. Just opening your eyes in the morning and being in France, this big encompassing world around me.

Was it difficult to go back to the States after that?

Yeah, it really was. I was about twelve when we moved back to our little suburb in Massachussetts. There seems to be an average intelligence level among French adolescents that’s a bit higher than American adolescents, between education and schooling and other sides of life, culturally.

Jumping back into the American routine was very difficult and I really felt it as a severe change. People were mean to me. I got used to it after a few years, I had to. But at the beginning it was very difficult.

Where do you live now?

I live in Brookyn.

What’s your favourite place in New York?

In my neighbourhood there’s a little park near where I live. It’s not particularly beautiful or clean but between the first days of spring through the end of fall it’s just filled with a lot of people enjoying life. My friends and I go there a lot. When I’m on tour, especially now that it’s really warmed up after the winter, I really miss my neighbourhood and going to the park with my friends.

What’s your favourite place on earth?

My new favorite place is in Maui. I was there last spring for a vacation. We drove for two hours along cliffs to a really amazing place.

And as a child it was my family house, our summer home north of Boston in the mountains. It’s on a lake. That’s one of my retreats. We recorded my new record there.

When is the best time, where is the best place to listen to music?

I have always felt like travelling is the best way to incorporate new music into my life. Or with friends in places that aren’t in my house. But sometimes I listen to new music when I do the dishes or clean up cat hair.

Who gets to hear your songs first?

Me. And my cats.

You often say « I » in your songs but is it always « you »?

It’s not always me. Sometimes the I is Me. Sometimes, when there’s a « you » it’s me talking about myself but from someone else’s perspective so…

The song Not nice is an example of that situation where the « you » is actually myself but from a different perspective.

In « Baby’s romance » you say « I’m never gonna tell on you ». It’s important to be trustworthy. What good qualities should a singer have in your opinion?

I think the first thing that’s really important is : you need to be able to laugh at yourself. If you can’t do that, some bad stuff will happen (laughs).

Singers worry a lot, get really paranoid about physical things, what they have to do or not to do to make their voice sound a certain way. All that ends up manifesting into a crazy mess where really you should just do whatever you want. If you want to have a glass of wine you should just have a glass of wine. If you wanna have a coffee, have a coffee. Sometimes singers think they need to be extra healthy to perform right, but I think most of it comes down to feeling confident and comfortable.

What kind of records make you happy?

Have you heard of Burl Ives? I actually don’t know a lot about him, only a few songs. In the fifties he was an actor and a singer. He has a song called Lavender Blue that makes me real happy. I listen a lot to Patsy Cline, and though her songs are sad she still makes me feel happy.

What do you like doing when you don’t play music?

Anything in small amounts. I like being with my friends really. Anything that’s pretty normal. Watching movies, being with cats and pets at home. I like to be normal when I’m home. I like to rent movies, talk to the walls, and play with lamp shades.

Talking of films, do you have a favourite monster?

Bob, in Twin Peaks. He really terrifies me so it’s important to me that his character exists. Other monsters look really stupid and don’t really matter because he really deeply haunts my life. I don’t know why he’s a favourite but he just is.

Why did you write « je suis un ananas » on your myspace page?

There is a TV show in Quebec called « télé français ». I don’t know if it still exists but it was a channel for learning French in America. It was on late at night and my father used to watch it every night before we moved. There were different characters on the show, usually not people but fruit, vegetables, objects and one of them was this big pineapple that said « je suis un ananas ». I thought it was funny.

Is there a song you listened to when you were a teenager and you learnt a lot from?

A song I cover on my record called Between the bars, an Elliott Smith song. That record Either/Or was one of the first records of good music that was introduced into my life when I was fifteen. That song in particular always struck me and always was with me. We don’t sound alike sonically at all but Elliott’s music taught me so much about writing.

I say this a lot but but he did something to my life that’s affected me profoundly. That song in particular just taught me how to write words and how to write a melody. It’s a really special song to me.

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