"A double take is what I did when I put this new disc into the player for the first time. This youthful artist based in Alberta stunned me with her cheeky, otherworldly charm. Not to mention her songwriting chops...in both French and English."
– Tony King, Top 10 of 2008, CKUA Radio
ARIANE MAHRŸKE LEMIRE: The long road ahead Singer-songwriter is living life to fuel her songs
David Berry / firstname.lastname@example.org
With a pedigree like hers—her father a respected classical guitarist, her mother one of the first French Canadians to sing in her own language in Saskatchewan—you'd think the road into music would be paved and downhill for Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire. But while her upbringing certainly gave her a solid base on which to launch, her early attempts were, well, met with something less than enthusiasm.
"I was told several times growing up that I had no voice, that I had no business singing," explains the bilingual chanteuse with a bright kind of matter-of-factness, as though she were discussing her eye colour or something (green, incidentally.) "So I really worked on my writing, so that maybe if I wrote well enough people would let me sing."
That certainly seemed to have paid off for Lemire, whose debut double CD, Double Entendre—one album in English, the other in French—took home a Western Canadian Music Award for best francophone recording: her sly mix of cabaret, folk and jazz reveals someone well-versed in playing with musical forms and pushing songwriting limits. But as anyone who hears her soulful voice will attest, hers are hardly the pipes of someone who can't sing. To get that up to snuff, she had a slightly unusual way of training herself.
"I started going to karaoke," she says with a similar bubbly normalcy. "I went three times a week, about. I tend to be obsessive compulsive about certain things. When I first started, my hand would actually shake with the mic. But as soon as I could belt out 'Moon Dance' and 'American Woman,' I quit.
"There's something about Van Morrison, which is slightly cheesy, but ... I don't know, it's just satisfying, despite the cheesy edge. And 'Moondance' has sort of a complicated arrangement in terms of timing," Lemire explains further, when pressed on what it was about mastering Van Morrison and the Guess Who that told her she was ready. "And 'American Woman' is sort of a give-it-your-all song. But it was more in retrospect that I realized it, I didn't plan it out. But once I got those two, I quit."
The move from karaoke all-star to singer-songwriter has obviously worked out quite well for her: she's set to release the French follow-up to Double Entendre, Décousue, this month, with an English album to come in the fall, since she doesn't want to "cheat one of the languages." But her time toiling away in music trenches also gave her a chance to pursue other interests—photography, television presenting, design, just to name a few—that she's found has only helped with her music, too.
"I heard someone say that, in order to be a good musician, music should only be 20 percent of your life, because you need the other 80 percent of your life to write about," Lemire explains. "I kind of take that to heart. There's a lot of stuff to do. I spend a lot of time with my great uncle, who's 86, so I kind of figure that if the family track record plays out, I'll have a lot of time to do stuff." V
"Whether she's singing in English or in French, language is never a barrier. Ariane mesmerizes listeners with her sultry, soulful lyrics, bewitching charm and unabashed playfulness.
Her newest release is a musical adventure that takes you on an unparalleled journey into the ultra creative soul of this uniquely captivating songwriter."
– Rhea March, U22 Project Coordinator
"Edmonton-based chanteuse Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire is a fresh, anomalous presence in the world of singer-songwriters in Edmonton. For starters, she is bilingual, and passionately so (...). Then there is her lyricism - her song lyrics (which could all lead a separate existence as poetry by itself) are playful, quirky and robust, and simply crackling with rich references to a wide variety of things. Ariane is obviously a born writer who is itching to explore life via words and images. And then there is the music she makes - there is no pinning her down to genre. One minute she is singing an up-tempo folk pop song with playful lyric, the next minute she is purring seductively in a slow jazz-like song. (...) In terms of sensibility, Ariane seems a lot like Jane Siberry in that she seems very free spirited in her yen to use whatever musical and lyrical colours are on the palette in front of her. It is not surprising, therefore, that at the 2008 Western Canadian Music Awards Ariane received the "Outstanding Francophone Recording" award."
– Review from CKUA's "Scenes From the Library"
"Hailing from Alberta, Ariane is one of those rare singers whose work revolves around poetry and the meaning of words. And what could be more natural for this theatre graduate who has always felt inspired and compelled to write? Composing songs in both languages and straddling two cultures, Ariane has been tuning in to her emotions since she was 10. Through her participation in remarkable experiences like the Festival en chanson de Petite Vallée in Gapésie, the Coup de coeur francophone in Montreal, the Rencontres d’Astaffort in France and Contact Ontarois, Ariane has become a seasoned musician.
Her engaging personality and magnetic stage presence are captivating. Her first album, Double Entendre, was crowned Outstanding Francophone Recording at the 2008 Western Canadian Music Awards.
Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire - the voice of the Rockies!"
– Coup de coeur francophone
“The trouble with albums is they’re so short and I have so much to say,” smiles Ariane Mahryke Lemire.So much, she often needs two languages — French and English — to convey her intimate thoughts about love, heartbreak and neuroses. She’s one of Edmonton’s only bilingual singer-songwriters and actors, effortlessly switching tongues during her haunting and barefoot sets.
Lemire’s first album, Double Entendre (2008), featured eight tunes in each language, yet she’s not obsessed with balance. Her second effort, Decousue (2010), was recorded entirely in French. Her latest, Wrecked Tangles and Love Knots (2012), an “introspective retrospective of past relationships,” includes only one tune in French, Ce soir, a heavy-hearted guitar, piano and harmonica number produced by Edmonton expat Eamon McGrath.
“We even used his out-of-tune piano and I feel like that just makes the song for me,” says Lemire. “It’s gotta be one of my favourite tracks. It’s gritty, it’s unapologetic — saying what you need, to not worry about being perfect anymore.
“I think I really struggled with putting this album out because it is a flawed album. It’s quirky, it’s got angles to it. They’re not happy, happy songs, but they’re not depressing, either. It’s the most naked I’ve felt on disc.”
Wrecked Tangles and Love Knots feels like a series of personal short stories, delivered in a variety of cadences, from jagged torrents of words to groggy drawls to sweet, floating melodies, often all in the same song. Sharp Swords is a swerving hypnotic number about a swerving, hypnotic relationship. In Passing is a graceful, gracious tune about love and the idiosyncrasies of memory, while A Long Winter is a quiet celebration about the morning after. Such lyrical, emotional nakedness is accentuated by the album’s sparse arrangements — soft percussive swells, warm strings, and gentle, rumbly strums of Lemire’s guitar.
“Some of these songs took years to get right. With In Passing, to get the key line — the line that solves the riddle of the song — took years. I’d been performing the song and then realized it wasn’t finished. ‘We cling to every moment desperate for forever’ — THAT’S what was missing. So, I do rework my lyrics a lot. I don’t want them to sound like diary entries; I want to push them so they’re universal.”
Lemire’s next effort, or one of her next, will feature two languages of a different sort — duets with male artists such as Darren Frank, Joe Nolan and Mitchmatic. “Don’t worry, ladies,” she laughs. “I haven’t forgotten about you.”
With the magic of technology, Lemire might consider trying to duet with herself. Like a true bilingual Gemini, she often sounds like two singers in one — lower and sultrier en français, brighter and more naive in English — though she swears she doesn’t hear the difference.
She also doesn’t have English and French versions of every song she writes. They come to her in one language or the other — and, despite her best efforts, she can’t translate them.
“The only song I’ve successfully translated is a Josh Ritter song (into French). It’s called Naked as a Window and it was the first time where the words just kind of gelled. I had enough distance from it that I was able to take the gist of it, the general vibe, and translate it as close to his lyrics as possible while still keeping them poetic and not cheesy. That’s the biggest, biggest hurdle — how do you translate without sounding cheesy, never mind respecting melody lines and stuff? Whew.”
- Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal
“On her debut, Double Entendre, Ariane Mahryke Lemire braved a kind of musical wilderness by exercising her ability to explore any landscape she was ready to challenge: jazz, folk, spoken word, experimental; even the limitations of language seem to present no bounds, as she can seamlessly move between French and English not just in the confines of a live show but also in the frame of a recorded album. Now, with her follow-up Décousue, Mlle. Lemire once again proves that there are no parameters within her work: just like the long and infinite landscape of the heart of Canada. This young chanteuse knows the prairies, and the landscape seems to wrap itself around her music. In this openness, the distance can be intimidating, but every 360 degrees is another open road, and surely Lemire is courageous enough to conquer the terrain in any direction it takes her.”
– Eamon McGrath, singer-song writer