With the platinum-selling success of his two studio albums – 2010’s Better In Time and last year’s Where I Belong – it has been a head-spinning few years for Quebec soul musician Bobby Bazini.
Returning to Moncton for the first time since supporting James Blunt at the Moncton Coliseum in 2011, Bobby Bazini performs at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening.
Growing up in Mont-Laurier, Quebec, Bazini tells The Times & Transcript he was exposed to music at an early age. His father, a guitarist, was a mainstay musician at many of the community’s local clubs. It was during the family’s annual Christmas parties that Bazini began finding his voice as he accompanied his parents in entertaining their guests.
Shortly after his family moved from Mont Laurier to Montreal, his parents had split up. Rather than stay in the big city, Bazini returned to Mont-Laurier to live with his grandmother.
“My grandmother wasn’t big into music, but boy, she loved her Johnny Cash. His music was always playing in the house. I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play by ear.”
It was when Bazini was browsing YouTube in search of songs to play that he stumbled on artists from the worlds of Stax and Motown, two of the premiere soul music labels in music history. Despite having been reared on country music as he grew up, soul music appealed to him in a way he hadn’t experienced before.
“Soul music proved to be so inspirational that it was inevitable that it would find its way into the music I was writing.”
In 2007, Bazini began actively busking. As good fortune would have it, a music festival programmer happened to hear him playing music at a local park and invited him to join that year’s festival’s lineup. A short while later, Bazini was approached by the music director of a local radio station, an encounter that would prove to be somewhat prophetic for the young artist.
“He said he didn’t know if I was signed or anything but that he was really impressed with my voice and wanted to help get me in touch with some people in the industry to see what could happen,” Bazini says.
After having successfully landed a management contract, Bazini says record labels weren’t quick to step up to the plate. Rather than waiting for them to come around to him, he made the decision to start his own label, Mungo Park Records.
In 2010, Bazini’s musical career was an immediate success. His first single, “I Wonder”, topped the charts in Quebec charts for nine straight weeks, beating out the likes of Justin Bieber and fellow Quebecer Rufus Wainwright and more. The record also secured him two Juno Award nominations.
“We released the first record [Better In Time] and started touring. Before long, Warner Brothers in France had picked the record up for distribution throughout Europe, which led me to touring there and playing legendary venues like the Olympia in Paris. It was such a great experience.”
When the time came to begin mapping out the making of his sophomore record, Bazini met with a number of different producers, hoping to find the right person that would be interested in working to further the acoustic-soul-folk journey he began on his debut.
“I wanted to make a record that was live sounding, something organic that harkened back to the days where albums were cut live off the floor. In March 2013, I received a call from the head of my label who told me there was this guy in Montreal making a record with another artist, but thought he would be a good fit for the project. He suggested I go down to the studio to meet this guy.”
That “guy” ended up being acclaimed producer Larry Klein, producer of albums by Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman and others. Bazini was told he had approximately 15 minutes to spend with Klein.
Things took an encouraging turn for the artist when, after playing two songs for the producer, he was asked to play another.
“Just a couple of days later, he reached out and said he was interested in working together. We scheduled time in September 2013 for me to go to California and make a record with him.”
As if going to Los Angeles to make an album with a heavyweight like Klein wasn’t enough for the musician, the producer brought in some of Bazini’s musical heroes to play on the album, including Booker T. Jones, Jack Ashford and Jay Bellerose.
“I asked Larry who he was going to get to play on the record. When he shared with me that Booker T. and Jack Ashford were coming in, I lost it,” Bazini laughs. “It didn’t seem real that guys I looked up to would be playing on my record. I never could have predicted something like that would happen.”
The success that would eventually greet Where I Belong upon its release in May 2014 also couldn’t have been predicted by the musician. He admits feeling relatively confident that at least the first week’s sales of Where I Belong would be respectable, the album ended up being the best-selling Canadian record of last year, with sales topping more than 100,000 units.
“Finding this success definitely caught me off guard,” Bazini says. “It’s even more remarkable considering album sales aren’t what they used to be, yet people are buying my album. It’s a wonderful thing.”
What: Bobby Bazini
When: Wednesday Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $32.50 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca