Her parents were restaurant owners in Québec's Gaspé region, and Boulay started performing as a child for customers when she was only 2 and a half. Exposed to music early on, her childhood idols included Dolly Parton, Edith Piaf and Johnny Hallyday.
Isabelle BoulayIsabelle Boulay. Pop, folk and country singer, born Sainte-Félicité, Que., 6 Jul 1972.
Her parents were restaurant owners in Québec's Gaspé region, and Boulay started performing as a child for customers when she was only 2 and a half. Exposed to music early on, her childhood idols included Dolly Parton, Edith Piaf and Johnny Hallyday. Until the age of 11 she sang regularly with local groups, then temporarily stopped performing in public. She studied literature at the Cegep in Limoulou, but deciding on a musical career, did not graduate.
Boulay won her first awards at the 1990 Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée (Que), singing Gilles Vigneault's hit "gens du pays". The following year, she was crowned best vocalist at the Festival de la chanson de Granby, which led in 1991 to the FrancoFolies de Montréal and a tour with Dan Bigras as his backup singer.
Boulay won best vocalist at Truffe de Périgueux festival (France, 1993) representing Radio Canada , and was cast as Alys Robi in a 1995 Quebec mini-series, which sealed her popularity in her home province. Luc Plamondon cast her in Starmania as Marie-Jeanne, (a role first portrayed by Fabienne Thibeault ) and which she performed some 350 times in the version directed by Lewis Furey.
Boulay released her first album, Fallait pas, in 1996 and won a Félix award for best female vocalist in 1999 for her second, États d'amour. The same year, she conquered two key Parisian venues: the théâtre Déjazet and the Olympia. Following this success, she toured Paris and released Scènes d'amour, containing duets with singers Serge Lama, Francis Cabrel, Michel Rivard, Claude Léveillé and Éric Lapointe, resulting in Félix awards for best female vocalist, and best album (2000).
In 2000 Boulay released Mieux qu'ici-bas, from which the song "Parle-Moi" (Speak to me) proved her most popular and successful single, and paved the way for her first solo appearance at the Olympia theatre in Paris that year. In 2001, she won Discovery of the Year, and Discovery Album of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique (France), and additional Félix awards for best female vocalist, best album and best show.
Boulay's success owes much to her strong ties to her native Gaspé and to her crossover appeal, blending folk, pop and country. Mainly a francophone artist, Boulay has also recorded and performed in English. In 2002, she released her compilation Ses plus belles histoires, followed by her sixth CD Au moment d'être à vous, recorded live with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Isabelle Boulay released Tout un jour, in 2004 that included another major hit "Tout au bout de nos peines" (At the end of our troubles) with Johnny Hallyday. This was followed by a tour of the francophone countries of Europe with an additional concert in Tunisia. In 2005, Boulay was honoured with two more Félix awards: Québec artist most popular outside the province, and best show (vocalist).
Her Tout un jour concert tour was recorded live as Du temps pour toi, in 2006. Boulay released her country album De retour à la source in 2007 and won three Félix awards: best female vocalist; best album (country) and best show (vocalist).
In 2008 she recorded Nos lendemains, toured France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg and won Félix awards as Quebec artist most popular outside the province; best show; and best female vocalist. In 2009, she released Chansons pour les mois d'hiver. Her 2011 album, Les Grands Espaces, included a duet with Dolly Parton and marked the first time the Nashville star recorded a duet with a francophone singer.
Others who have collaborated with Boulay either on stage or whose songs she performed, have included Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud, Patrick Bruel, Claude Dubois, Louise Forestier, Jim Corcoran, Daniel Bélanger, Laurence Jalbert, and Zachary Richard. Boulay has recorded for Sedéral, Audiogram and Chic Musique and many of her albums are available for download.
Fallait pas, Sidéral, 1996
États d'amour, Sidéral, 1998
Scènes d'amour, Sidéral, 2000
Mieux qu'ici-bas, Groupe Archambault Musique, 2000
Tout un jour, Sidéral, 2004
De retour à la source, Audiogram, 2007
Nos lendemains, Audiogram, 2008
Les grands espaces, Audiogram, 2011