Andrea Lindsay and I met in Montreal during the late 1990s at the large bookstore where we both worked. She was just starting out as a musician and I was finishing off Masters Number 1. Over the years, I’ve been in awe of Andrea’s commitment to her music. She bravely struck out on her own, writing in her second language and trusting in the financial independence that comes from following her passion. A Juno Award-winning artist (for you Americans it is the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy Award), Andrea has continued to seek new opportunities, get involved with charitable causes, and even met Queen Elizabeth II!
It is my true pleasure to finally bring to you this interview with Andrea where we talk about her songwriting process and balancing touring with the need to get quiet and write.
Andrea Lindsay is a singer-songwriter hailing from Guelph, Ontario. She won the Juno Award for Francophone Album of the Year at the Juno Awards of 2010 for her album Les Sentinelles dorment. Originally from Guelph, Ontario, Lindsay was raised as an anglophone, but learned French as an adult after visiting France at age 18. Later settling in Montreal, Quebec, she launched her first solo album La belle etoile (2006). She later launched her album Les Sentinelles dorment (2009), and later created album (2012) with fellow Quebec singer-songwriter Luc De Larochelliere.She is currently working on her third francophone solo album which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2015. You can find her on Facebook.
Melanie: You have been writing and performing for a number of years, what have you learned about how you begin the creative process. Is it the words or music that comes first?
Andrea: I am definitely a melodist at heart. I normally pick up the guitar and start strumming and singing a stream of nonsensical words. In French they call this singing “yogurt,” a term I really like! That said, there are always little flashes of lines or images that come at the same time the melodies come. Sometimes it is a word or a sentence, sometimes it is more of an image in the back of my mind that slowly develops along with the playing and singing. After that I take the melodies I have created and work on the structure of the song. Then comes the task of putting words to the song. I find this stage challenging, but super rewarding when I find words that fit with the melody and express something that I want to say.
Melanie: You write in both English and French, after so many years, do you notice if the song dictates which language its in, or is it more of a case of it starting in one language and merging to another?
Andrea: When I’m singing my “yogourt” over my guitar, it sounds mostly like nonsensical English coming out. I feel it naturally comes out in English for me. The French is like a crossword puzzle or a game for me. It takes more effort, but it’s like a word game that I like to play. Sometimes I add sentences in English to my songs when I feel that they really work in the song and express a precise idea that doesn’t seem to come through the same way in French.
Melanie: When you are writing from a particular perspective or feeling, do you think you are writing with a particular character in mind? If so, how?
Andrea: I don’t really have a character in mind when I write. Maybe I’m the character in the song. I tend to write from the first-person perspective. Sometimes I’m expressing something directly to another person, sometimes I’m telling a story. I tend to write about the things around me that I know, that are a part of my life. Relationships between people is a theme that comes up a lot. I can be quite nostalgic in life and I think that that mood often comes through in my songs.
Andrea: When writing alone, I feel like I am steering the boat by myself. Some days this can be a good thing as the results are likely to fit somewhere in the ballpark of the vision I originally had. Other days it is really nice to get out there and collaborate with other artists! It can take me in directions that I may have not originally imagined. I find writing with others to be a challenging, yet inspiring experience, which often leads to original and refreshing results.
Melanie: Something that many artists, particularly authors, struggle with is that shift from performing (and in some case promoting) your material, to going into the writers’s cave to work. How do you manage between the two? What is some advice you can.
Andrea: They are definitely two different realities! The writing process really does involve a lot of alone time and introspection. But, I appreciate collaborating with other musicians on both melodies and texts, so there is a certain amount of socializing that goes on during this time. After, there is the recording phase where I start working with a producer and with musicians in the studio. I think this stage helps me get used to sharing my work and working with other people on a more constant basis.
Next comes the launch, promotion and touring phase. This step is both demanding and entertaining, but in a very different way than the writing stage. During this phase I do a lot of interviews. There are some days where it is like an interview marathon! I am always grateful to have interviews and remind myself of that on the days when I feel less like talking about myself and about my album in French because there are days where I feel more linguistically challenged than others.
Lastly, there is the touring phase, which I find is in general a lot of fun! I also continue doing interviews here and there. I think I am someone who likes being around other people and as I am able to choose the musicians I want to tour with, I end up traveling and playing with super talented, super nice (and funny!) musicians. I am a shy person so getting up on stage is challenging for me. There is, of course, that other side of me that is happy to be there to sing and express myself. Performing really does create an adrenaline rush! It is really nice to meet the public after the show as in general they are super nice and super enthusiastic. Over time I have come to truly appreciate the moments I have with people after the show. They are touching moments that feed me and encourage me to keep doing music.
Melanie: Who are some of the artists you always found inspiring? Any new artists we should be watching out for?
Andrea: I’ve always loved the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Kate bush…all of that great stuff. I have a big musical crush on Nick Drake. In French I love Richard Desjardins and have been listening to Jean Leloup a lot lately. I also love Keren Ann! I could go on! As for recent artists…please check out the singer song-writer Emilie Clepper! She is a Texan-Quebecois artist and I find her just amazing! She mostly sings in English but I heard that she is coming out with a French album sometime in the near future.
Melanie: And I found this of you two singing together!