Music can take you to places you never imagined. Eric Plante‘s musical journey began in Montreal with a saxophone at the age of 13, and has led to performing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Good Morning America,” as well his current adventure, working as Assistant Musical Director for Cirque du Soleil‘s “O” at Bellagio, Las Vegas. Eric has a set of experiences and skills that are very unique and so too are his perspective and story which he generously offered to share.
1. Please tell us a about the path from Montreal to LasVegas. I was touring on the arena version of Cirque du Soleilʼs “Saltimbanco” for about a year and had opted not to renew my contract for family reasons. I received a call from Cirqueʼs casting department to join “O” at the end of my “Saltimbanco” contract. My wife and I decided it would be better for our family to move to Vegas on a resident show rather than me being on tour or freelancing back in Montreal. Plus, I had the opportunity to re-program the show on the Ableton “Live” software, which I saw as a great challenge for me at the time.
2. You have established yourself as a music programmer, how much room is there in what you do for original composition? It all depends on the project and song(s). I work on a song-to-song basis. Most of my demos and sketches will be programmed for time and efficiency purposes. Once it is decided that the arrangement is close enough to the “real thing”, I go ahead and record musicians, depending on the song. Some songs will require me to re- record the whole thing with live musicians while some others will require a more electronic approach, needing fewer musicians. My goal is to try to get as many live musicians as I can, given the budget and the songʼs character, so the music breathes more and so the listener can better grasp the emotions and intentions. I have a pretty decent studio at home, which helps me reduce production costs.
3. You’ve worked on 5 Cirque du Soleil productions. How has this experience expanded your music sensibilities and in what way? Well, first of all, the traveling itself opened my mind to so many things! The touring experience allowed me to learn about many cultures, meet many great people and play with really great musicians. It has been one of the most inspiring experiences I have lived so far.
Second, Cirque productions are of such high standards that it pushed me to stay creative amid the sheer number of shows we perform in a year. There are so many people seeing the shows, you never know who is in the audience, so I feel it is really important to be at the top of my game every night. I do believe in the saying “You are only as good as your last gig”. Also Cirqueʼs music range of genres is quite wide, which obliged me to go beyond my musical boundaries and be versatile. We also have to be aware of the acrobats onstage and to always be prepared to make changes “on the spot” while following them.
Finally, Cirque gave me the opportunity to work with amazing composers and musicians. I guess this is the main reason why I am still working for the company, not to mention the financial stability it provides. This allows me to push for new projects and grow my business without worrying about the gig calendar!
4. Can you tell us about the songwriting behind your debut soundtrack album, “Visions”? The album started up as being the soundtrack for the 90-minute acrobatic production “City Dreams” by Cirque Bravo in Florida. I wrote and produced the music for the acrobatic acts and transitions while on tour with “Saltimbanco”, then recorded the instrumentalists at my studio while on break from tour. I finished the production in Las Vegas! I basically received videos of the acts and wrote to video the whole way through, except for transitions.
The main concept of the show was to portrait a day in a City, so I created dynamics peaks and drops following the chronology of a normal day (waking up, kids to school, rush hour, etc).
Once the show soundtrack completed, I selected specific pieces that I edited and remixed for an album, which became “Visions”.
5. You are a busy working musician. How do you make time to write new music? Well, my working schedule is pretty regular, which is one of the perks of working with Cirque!!! Performances are 5 nights a week, giving me basically all day to work on my personal projects while my children are at school.
6. What is it like working and living in Las Vegas as a musician? At first, I wasnʼt sure what I would find here, because all you normally see is “The Strip”, but am finding myself liking it! Vegas is clearly more about the entertainment and tourism than about culture itself, although it is rich in musical culture (think of the Rat Pack years for example). You will not see many venues for local talent to express themselves like the big centers (this is definitely not New York City), but there are a few and I can see some encouraging signs of improvement. With so many production shows happening, there is obviously a great pool of amazing musicians in town. I really enjoy getting to meet and play with such talented people. As far as my work here goes, I am very fortunate to be working on Cirqueʼs probably most successful show ever. It is a privilege for me to be performing to sell out audiences on a daily basis!
The family life is much better than anticipated. I opted to live in the suburbs, so we can achieve a very “normal” everyday life. There are great National Parks around the city and Los Angeles (and the beach…) is only a 4.5 hours drive! So all in all, we find something for everyone!
7. What would you like to see happen over the next few years in terms of your songwriting and/or musical development? My ultimate goal would be to open my own independent Label with enough reach to be able to help talented upcoming artists and to be able to get as much of my own music out there.
Writing the soundtrack and original music for other acrobatic acts, film and videos made me realize how much I enjoy enhancing a visual emotion with music. This is something I would like to push forward by working for television, film, or theater. There is something with set deadlines that I really enjoy, a kind of rush of adrenaline that I find exciting and inspiring because you do not have time to second guess yourself, it is all about instinct. The best reward I receive is to see or hear the final product. At that moment I know I have made a concrete and permanent statement of where I am at this particular time. This is the whole point of writing in the first place and I wish to give it a go for a little while longer!
8. Do you have any songwriting/composing tips to share with fellow songwriters? Have fun! This is the one place where you can be yourself and enjoy it. Life is too short not to do what you want and/or hear. Keep it simple and honest. Do not worry too much about the rules. If your song feels right to you, then it is!