Ronald Bourgeois Stays True To Acadian Roots

Ronald Bourgeois

Even if the name Ronald Bourgeois doesn’t ring any immediate bells, chances are very good that you’re familiar with his music.

A native of Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, Ronald is one of the most popular Acadian singer-songwriters in Atlantic Canada. His music has been performed by a host of Acadian artists including Suroit, Blou, Les Muses and George Belliveau.

In 2008, his song “Viens avec moi” was nominated for a Grammy Award after being included as a part of Roddie Romero and the Hub City Allstars’ 2007 album The La Louisianne Sessions.

While music comprises a big part of his career, Ronald also serves as the chairman of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council, and as a television producer, he has been involved in numerous productions including concerts and televised events for the 2004 World Acadian Congress.

A tireless promoter of Acadian culture, Ronald’s interest in music was sparked in the same way that many other Atlantic Canadians are introduced to music: at family gatherings.

“Growing up in Cheticamp, my father sang and my mother played guitar,” Ronald says from his Nova Scotia home. “It seemed as though there was music everywhere I went when I was growing up. Eventually, I graduated from sitting outside the circle of music to getting inside the circle around the time I was seven or eight years old.”

Acknowledging that French music lacked the same audience penetration as English music in the Cheticamp region, Ronald says that Radio Canada played a huge role in showing him that a world of French music did in fact exist.

“As influential as the music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were when I was growing up, we weren’t really exposed to that kind of music in French. But in the early ’70s, we began hearing bands like Beau Dommage, Edith Butler and 1755. Suddenly, French music resonated in a bigger way in our neck of the woods,” Ronald says.

“Garolou had a huge impact upon many of us. Their songs came from the traditional Acadian repertoire of music but they had these shades of Pink Floyd with these big musical arrangements behind them. I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes that French music could be just as valuable and had every bit the same merit as music in English.”

After performing as a part of the English rock and roll band The Phantoms, Ronald began writing original music in 1981. He spent from 1982 through 1990 living in Quebec, immersing himself in the province’s French culture before returning to his Atlantic Canadian home.

Despite winning several national and international songwriting festivals, it was not until 1994 that Ronald released his first full-length album, Amène le vent. His sophomore record, Le long retour, was released in 2001. In 2008, a tribute record called Hommage à Ronald Bourgeois was released. The album featured 18 artists, including Mario Pelchat, Waylon Thibodeaux, Mary-Jane Lomond, Blou and Lennie Gallant tipping their hat to Ronald’s work. In 2009, the record won the Francophone Recording of the Year Award from both Music Nova Scotia and the East Coast Music Awards.

The fact that any artist is interested in recording his music or paying tribute to his songs is a badge of honour that he is proud to wear. Because his songs tend to centre on universal themes, it is not surprising that his music is transcending generations.

“It is such a great honour that people would consider my songs worthy of being recorded because it is not something that I set out to do,” Ronald says. “I never set out to write music for others. I’ve been doing this for a long time and am so fortunate to have people know who I am. Every once in awhile, I will get an email from someone that is just starting their career in music, telling me that they are going to record one of my songs. How could I not be grateful for something like that?”

As Ronald looks to the future, he is taking a somewhat unorthodox approach to the making of his next album. He acknowledges that his studio releases are not quite as frequent as others in the industry but attributes this to not having yet been able to bring the energy of a live performance into the studio.

To help bridge these two worlds, Ronald is set to record three upcoming shows in Halifax where he will debut a wealth of new material, including some songs written as recently as last week.

“We are going to be performing three nights at the Music Room in Halifax next month,” Ronald shares. “We are recording one of those nights for a live record and will also be capturing some of the performances for video as well.

“I’ve got some seasoned musicians behind me, ready to play a very roots-folk stripped down kind of show. I feel as though I have never quite been able to do in the studio what I feel I can do on stage and so we decided to record a live show and see how it goes.”

What: Ronald Bourgeois
When: Thursday, April 10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre,
 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets start at $23. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca