Of all the far-flung places in which Rosaireville native Lisa LeBlanc has performed over the course of the last 12 months, she insists there is nothing that compares to coming home.
But given the success that has greeted her second full-length release, Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?, the very notion of being home is somewhat amusingly foreign to the dynamic LeBlanc.
“I’ve been living between Montreal and Moncton for quite a little while,” she begins, speaking in advance of her performance at Moncton’s Tide & Boar Ballroom on Wednesday night. “And I got to a point where I found myself wanting to spend more time at home in New Brunswick. It’s hard being away from home so often, but I think it’s somehow even tougher when you’re from the Maritimes. That home sickness finds a way to catch up with you.”
Home sickness or not, it is virtually impossible to ignore the fact that LeBlanc’s career has been on a distinctly upward trajectory over the course of these last 14 months:
In addition to performing before tens of thousands of fans at Quebec City’s famed Festival d’Ete this past July, LeBlanc has spent much of the past year touring Germany and France with the likes of pop hitmakers – and fellow Canadians – The Strumbellas, among others.
She has also dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to touring throughout Quebec, Canada, and the United States. In fact, LeBlanc’s performance at AmericanaFest in Nashville was hailed by NPR tastemaker Bob Boilen as one of the highlights of the festival.
This past February, LeBlanc received the second Juno Award nomination of her career, this time in the category of Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. The nod followed a 2013 nomination for Francophone Album of the Year for her self-titled debut effort, a release that has sold more than 80,000 copies in Canada alone.
More good news arrived in July when Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, an annual prize worth $50,000 awarded solely on artistic merit, not sales. Among the other nine artists short-listed for the prize were the late Gord Downie, Feist, Leonard Cohen, and Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq.
LeBlanc says that while it was a huge honour to have made the final cut for the Polaris Prize, she says she gave no consideration that she was going to walk away the grand prize winner. She insists her approach allowed her to enjoy the evening that much more.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be short-listed for the Polaris Prize, let alone be in the company of so many musicians that I admire. We were just up against too many great records, and that’s more than alright with me,” she says.
“It was a successful evening in my books. I was just so happy to be there. I’ve been grateful for any and all award nominations I’ve received in the past, but being nominated for the Polaris Prize was one of those bucket list things. It’s where music geeks and experts from all over the country give weirdos like me a shot. It was just an honour to be included. I feel it did wonders for raising awareness of who I am and what it is I do, both on an industry level, as well as with people I am lucky to call my peers.”
But as LeBlanc prepares to play some shows closer to home, she reflects on what she calls the relative absurdity she will be playing some Maritime cities like Fredericton and Halifax for the first time. While it goes without saying that she hasn’t purposely ignored towns and cities in her own backyard, she remains excited at the prospect of carving out some new-to-her musical territory.
“It seems like every time I’ve come back to New Brunswick these last few years, I spend most of my time visiting friends and family in Moncton and Rogersville. It seems a little absurd that I haven’t managed to play in either Halifax or Fredericton in the past, but I’m looking forward to remedying that soon. As a Maritimer, I really need to up my game,” she says, laughing.
LeBlanc will wrap up what has undoubtedly been one of the biggest years of her career in early December with a performance in Montreal, which will follow a brief run of dates through Southern Ontario.
Although some artists would be frantically planning their next release in order to capitalize on the momentum that she has captured over the last two years, LeBlanc says she’s made peace with her decision to simply lay low for a little while.
Though she is grateful for the experiences and accolades she has racked up, she is looking forward to fading into the background in the second half of 2018.
“We have been so busy for the last year and a half. It really is a wonderful problem to have, especially seeing how so many artists never get to do half of what I’ve done. I’m forever grateful, but I also realize that it’s time to take a bit of a breather and just disappear for a little while. I don’t want to rush into writing another record. I just want to play music and be a part of the community and see how things go with no expectations on anyone’s part,” LeBlanc says.
For a complete list of tour dates, visit http://www.lisaleblanc.ca/en/shows/
What: Lisa LeBlanc
When: Wednesday Nov. 8, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $28. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com