After playing music for more than a decade as a part of successful acts like the Big Bad Party Band, Velvet Jesse, and Louder Gabriel, it took Beresford native Phil Athanase going to France in order to find his voice.
Athanase, who celebrates the release of his self-titled debut CD at Moncton’s Igloo Beverage Room tonight, acknowledges he had little difficulty in carving out a respectable career singing in the English language.
Making the move to become a Francophone singer-songwriter was a whole other ball of wax, however.
“I had been writing and singing in English my whole life, essentially. When it came to singing and writing in the French language, I was never able to satisfactorily find my voice,” Athanase says.
“In 2015, I accepted a last minute invitation to perform at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France, which brings in upwards of 700,000 attendees over the course of approximately two weeks. It turned out to be one of the biggest and best experiences of my life. It really opened my eyes to the idea of writing original music in French.”
With a creative fire lit beneath him, Athanase returned home from France in 2015 and wrote nine of the 10 songs that appear on his new record. It was a significant breakthrough for the songwriter, who had spent his career until that time performing and writing music in English.
Asked why he feels it took such a significant span of time before he felt comfortable exploring the beauty and finer points of performing in French, Athanase admits many of the mental barriers he had erected were done of his own volition.
“Like a lot of Acadians, I grew up on and was inspired by a lot of English-language music. Whether you’re an artist or every day person, you tend to stay where you feel most comfortable, which was absolutely the case for me when it came to writing and performing music,” he says.
“As I grew more comfortable with the idea of singing and writing in French, I realized that I had been overthinking it up to that point, and was concerning myself with too many of the fine details and nuances of the language. Once I made the conscious decision to cast those concerns aside, everything started flowing in a much more natural manner.”
What: Phil Athanase
When: Thursday Aug. 10, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Igloo Beverage Room, 300 Elmwood Dr., Moncton
Admission is free