In my family, we call it the “schizophrenia of the Francophone outside of Québec”. We carry multiple personalities. We live and breathe two cultures along with a third that only comes from being bilingual. In the past, I’ve never been fully accepted as a francophone by the Quebec population who barely knew of our existence, and even though I’ve grown up in Edmonton Alberta, an English ear will still detect a hint of a French accent. Growing up in Edmonton made me so bilingual that when I pick up a pen or sit in front of a computer to write a battle ensues over which language to choose to express the images in my mind. My rough drafts often end up with a bit of both.
The good news is that in a country where making a living solely with the arts, being able to work in either of Canada’s official languages has saved my wallet on a regular basis. I gave up waitressing about 4 years ago and have been happily living as an artist ever since. I’ve also been stubbornly striving to build a career in 2 languages at once.
There are as many differences as there are similarities between the French and the English music industries. They are both filled with people trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the great machine, what they can get from it, and what they can bring to it. At conferences I always spot at least one person looking for somewhere to stand or someone to talk to that will make them feel a little less awkward…lets face it, I’ve often been that person.
The difficulty lies in that the two industries continue to be so segregated. No matter how much headway I make in one, I have to work just as hard to make that headway in the other, and then I have to find the energy to maintain it! The name of the most well known and important artists, booking agents, and placement agents of the French industry are rarely recognised by the English industry’s crowd and vice versa. Not only that, but tackling both industries at once doubles the bills. You can’t use the same radio-tracking agent, and finding an available bilingual publicist is like trying to win the jackpot on a scratch and win lottery ticket. Then again, the entire music world seems to be an endless stream of trying to win the lottery.
Being a songwriter is strange. There are no scheduled performance reviews, no guarantees of wage increases or promotions… For years I’ve witnessed many of my friends become bitter and jaded trying to reach their definition of success. After watching the industry kick people’s ass’ my friend Chris, who works for a large broadcasting company and who has been a part of the industry for a solid 20 years, routinely tells musicians to quit. But that’s the problem isn’t it? Like many of you, I have the curse and the incredible gift of being a lifer.
En fin de compte, I’ve come to realise how important it is to remember to be happy, to make choices based on artistic integrity or artistic curiosity, and to make moves (strategic or not) out of inspiration rather than desperation. I have resolved to pursue subject matters that instantly make me feel something, using whatever musical sounds that inspire me at the moment or that the lyrics call for, have conversations with industry professionals because they fascinate me as people, and play concert sets that flit between languages because that’s who I am. Hopefully, if I’m lucky, someone will give me the gift of an open mind and an attentive ear, and if I’m really lucky, that scratch and win lotto ticket might be a winner and they’ll fall in love with what I do.