Enigmatic French-Canadian, reconfiguring folk songs and Dorothy Parker poems – Myriam Gendron walks us through her craft in our NOVEMBER 2022 issue of Uncut, available to buy here.
Released in 2014, Myriam Gendron’s Not So Deep As A Well was one of those out-of-nowhere LPs that was so captivating, you couldn’t help raving about it to anyone who would listen. A collection of Dorothy Parker poems set to skeletal chamber-folk backing, it
felt like an instant classic. Damon Krukowski, co-founder of Galaxie 500 and one half of Damon and Naomi, quickly became one of Gendron’s many fans. “When I first heard Myriam’s recordings,” he says, “they sounded like Vashti Bunyan or another free spirit from the 1960s who seems to have been accidentally caught on tape while they were singing through life.”
Krukowski’s reference to Bunyan, who only put out one record prior to her 21st-century return, is relevant in more ways than one. After releasing a handful of stray tracks and playing a smattering of live shows in the wake of Not So Deep As A Well’s warm welcome, Gendron more or less disappeared from view. But she hadn’t turned into a recluse; she was simply raising a new family and working quietly as a bookseller in Montreal.
“I made Not So Deep As A Well not really knowing I was working on a record,” Gendron tells Uncut. “It was just for fun. So when it came out, I had no expectations whatsoever.” The gushing reviews caught Gendron off-guard, and she began to fear it might have all been a fluke. “People would ask about a follow-up, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe that’s it? Maybe that’s all I had to say!’ I kind of felt like Not So Deep As A Well was an accident. I didn’t know if I could do it again.”
Fortunately, a well-timed grant from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec gave Gendron several months off to conceptualise Ma Délire – Songs Of Love, Lost & Found, which emerged on Feeding Tube Records in late 2021. The inspiration this time around was closer to home. “I came across this amazing record of French/Québécois traditional music which had a song that I’d never heard before, “Au Cœur De Ma Délire”, and it just blew my mind. I knew I had to do something with this song and bring this music back to life because no-one really knows about it. That was where the seed was planted for the album.”
As if to make up for lost time, Ma Délire is a double album, offering 15 tracks of achingly beautiful melancholy. Singing in both French and English, Gendron transfigures a host of folk songs (alongside a handful of originals), making their ancient lyrics and melodies feel brand new. “The really good traditional songs have these simple melodies that just make sense,” she says. “Whatever you do to them, they’re always going to be perfect.”
While her debut was a solo affair, Gendron drafted in some skilled players for Ma Délire, including avant-garde drummer Chris Corsano for the Dirty Three-esque “La Jeune Fille En Pleurs” and guitarist Bill Nace, whose explosive solo on “C’est Dans Les Vieux Pays” is one of many highlights. “The album needed little touches of colour here and there,” Gendron explains. “I like to blend things. I don’t want to be a folk singer.”
Now, Gendron is jumping back into live performance, having recently opened for Godspeed You! Black Emperor ahead of a solo European tour this autumn. “I really feel at home on stage now, which is new and strange,” she laughs. “Before, I was OK in real life and very stressed on stage. And now real life feels stranger.”
Myriam Gendron plays Broadcast, Glasgow (Nov 1); The Cube, Bristol (Nov 2) and Cafe Oto, London (Nov 3).