Louis-Jean Cormier, singer-songwriter, musician, producer (born on 26 May 1980 in Sept-Îles, Quebec). He comes from a music-loving family and his songs are characterized by melancholy, love and collective engagement. Winner of the 2013 Juno Award for Francophone Album of the Year, Louis-Jean Cormier has accomplished the impossible: being idolized by both independent music aficionados and members of the general public.
Louis-Jean Cormier in concert during the Vieilles Charrues Festival, 2016.
Training and early career
At age four, Louis-Jean Cormier learned piano from his godmother who quickly grasped his talent. The child enjoyed playing outside the lines and creating his own melodies. He learned the guitar during his teenage years and at age 15 he toured the bars of Sept-Îles with his band Kalembourg. The latter was a success, mainly in the Côte-Nord region of Quebec: to this day, residents of the area are familiar with the songs of Kalembourg, who released two albums and performed 200 shows.
Kalembourg retired in 1997 when Jean-Louis Cormier left for Montreal, where he studied music at Cégep Saint-Laurent. The following year, he and four friends formed the band Karkwa which soon became a key player in the Quebec indie rock scene. In 2010, Kawrkwa was the first francophone group to win the prestigious Polaris Award for their album Les chemins de verres.
In 2008 and 2010, Louis-Jean Cormier joined the collective Douze hommes rapaillés as producer and singer. The group paid tribute to Gaston Miron’s poetry and released two albums. Occasionally, Cormier still played music with his former band-mates from Karkwa, who sometimes even performed in shows by singer-musician Patrick Watson (Karkwatson).
In 2012, Louis-Jean Cormier launched his solo career with the album Le treizième étage. At the same time, he participated in album projects with numerous other artists such as Marie-Pierre Arthur, David Marin and Lisa LeBlanc. In the winter of 2014, he became a “coach” for the musical show The Voice and this participation propelled his fame across Quebec. In 2017, he brought an old dream to life and became co-owner of Dandurand, a recording studio in Montreal.
Le treizième étage (2012)
Cormier released his album Le treizième étage on 17 September 2012. In at least two songs (“Tout le monde en même temps” and “Un refrain trop long”), the lyrics echo the Maple Springs, the major student protests which took place during the previous spring season. These demonstrations inspired Cormier and several other artists, in their creative work.
I have a feeling that this is the case for all the artists who created work following these events. People went out on the streets - it was a popular uprising! Our generation had not seen this often, unlike the previous generation who had seen the large-scale gatherings in the 60s and the 70s. I thought it was great that people like Rivard, Séguin and Yves Lambert joined us, with a twinkling, mischievous look in their eyes... and Miron’s poetry was still on my mind after my adventure among the Hommes rapaillés.
This album highlights the singer’s voice, as opposed to his work with Karkwa, where the music prevailed. The lyrics are slightly less aerial than those from the band’s music, although the resulting imagery finds its way into the imaginary. Critics unanimously underlined the relevance and soundness of this opus. Voir’s Olivier Robillard Laveaux rated Cormier four out of five stars and wrote:
Dominated by the six-strings, the solo album Le treizième étage exudes an Americanness which contrasts with Karkwa’s British progressive rock style. The lyrics written with Daniel Beaumont (writer for Tricot Machine) are more concrete and direct, sometimes moving (“Un monstre”) and skilfully serve Cormier’s catchy choruses (“Tout le monde en même temps”, “Le cœur en téflon”). This is a rich album which makes no compromise.
In 2013, Le treizième étage won Cormier the Juno Award for Francophone Album of the Year, as well as four Félix Awards, for Album of the Year — Critical Acclaim, Album of the Year — Rock, Songwriter or Composer of the Year (with Daniel Beaumont) and Show of the Year — Singer-songwriter. On 15 November 2013, Music Canada granted the album Le treizième étage gold record certification (with 40,000 copies sold).
Les grandes artères (2015)
Following the whirlwind media coverage of the popular show The Voice (winter 2014), Louis-Jean Cormier took a break to focus solely on writing what would become Les grandes artères. Released on 23 March 2015, the album was titled to evoke the heart, the city, the road and urban life: it pays tribute to the paths one could take to get out of town to escape, to travel. Of course, love is also a theme, be it in the collective or intimate form. By writing songs for the road and music for movies, the artist once again revealed himself a talented melodist and composer. Supported by Daniel Beaumont (although to a lesser extent than for the previous album) and Martin Léon, Louis-Jean Cormier still composed with the same pertinence. To this point, the online magazine Le canal auditif wrote: “[...] this is an album which broaches the subjects of breakups and heartache, with no compromise, set in the context of a life that bails out, and that maybe goes a little too fast.”
Like Cormier’s previous album, Les grandes artères earned a golden record certification (with 40,000 copies sold). In 2017, Louis-Jean Cormier resumed his solo tour Les passages secrets in Québec and performed Les grandes artères in Switzerland and in France (where the album had been released in August 2016). That same year, his first solo album Le treizième étage was released in France through streaming platforms. Still in 2017, Télé-Québec started filming the very popular show Microphone which hosts songwriters and composers who talk about their tastes in music and who revisit their own songs under Louis-Jean Cormier’s direction. The show reveals the creative process and captures a final performance onstage for television. In 2018, the first season highlights were released on a digital album right before the second season started broadcasting in March.
Honours and awards (selection)
- Songwriter or Composer of the Year (Les tremblements s’immobilisent), Félix Awards, tie with Pierre Lapointe (2006)
- Artist of the Year, Songwriter or Composer of the Year and Indie Rock Album of the Year, Gala de l’Alternative musicale indépendante du Québec (2008)
- Album of the Year – Alternative (Le volume du vent), Félix Awards (2008)
- Songwriter or Composer of the Year (Le volume du vent), Félix Awards (2008)
- Group of the Year (Le volume du vent), Félix Awards (2008)
- Music Video of the Year (Échapper au sort), Félix Awards (2008)
- Album of the Year – Alternative (Les chemins de verre), Félix Awards (2010)
- Album of the Year (Les chemins de verre), Polaris Awards (2010)
- Francophone Album of the Year (Le treizième étage), Juno Awards (2013)
- Album of the Year — Critical Acclaim (Le treizième étage), Félix Awards (2013)
- Album of the Year — Rock (Le treizième étage), Félix Awards (2013)
- Songwriter or Composer of the Year (with Daniel Beaumont), Felix Awards (2013)
- Show of the Year — Singer-songwriter (Le treizième étage show), Félix Awards (2013)