The success experienced by Edmundston-born Roch Voisine has been dizzying. With a total of 22 records and millions of record sales to his credit, Voisine is now more than 25 years into his music career. He is arguably best known for the song ‘Helene,’ which was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
But Voisine’s career is much bigger than any one song.
Like Celine Dion, he has a not-so-secret weapon – he is able to sing in both French and English. This has allowed him to appeal to a wider range of audiences and has no doubt helped play a part in his remarkable career longevity as well.
Performing at Casino New Brunswick on Friday night, Roch fondly reminisced about his 25 years in music with The Times & Transcript last week.
‘It is so hard to believe that I’ve been at this for 25 years in Canada and basically 22 years outside of the country,’ Roch says. ‘It has been such a wild ride for me, touring France, Quebec, Canada – on top of the Juno Award wins and hosting the East Coast Music Awards. With the music business being what it is these days, the fact I have been able to hold in there for 25 or 30 years really is a miracle.’
Although Roch has remained a popular concert draw and has consistently sold records all over the world, he has experienced yet another burst of fame over the last five years.
The Americana album series, his tribute to timeless songs including Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, Willie Nelson’s ‘Always On My Mind’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ resonated with his old fans while attracting a pile of new ones as well.
‘With the success of the Americana series, it felt a bit like career revitalization, for sure,’ Roch says. ‘It went over especially well with French Europe which was a bit of a surprise because they do not typically listen to English stuff at all. It was a surprise to radio hosts, critics and fans that I sang in English as they had no idea that I had this other side to my career. On top of that, the country-folk approach to music in French Europe is quite marginal. You’d have a better chance of success if you were playing jazz or blues music.
‘All of a sudden, because we had apparently picked the right mix of songs for the first Americana release, it completely blew up. All of a sudden, these legendary songs were accessible to a lot of people in Europe, much like country music is in America. Prior to those records, I had never done cover songs but every room that we played was filled up and all of a sudden, I was brought back into the mainstream.
‘You never really know what is going to connect with your audiences. Sometimes it can be one song, sometimes it is only one album. I was very lucky to have had such resounding success with the Americana releases.
Naturally, the popularity of Americana wasn’t limited to Europe. Canadian audiences greeted Roch and his band, of which Moncton native Chris Colepaugh is a part of, with open arms.
The most recent release from Roch Voisine is an album of duets, appropriately titled Duophonique. The album pairs up Voisine with a bevy of singing partners including Patricia Kaas, Lynda Lemay and Isabelle Boulay and together, they tackle Roch’s storied catalogue of music. Rather than simply rehashing the same song with a different voice, Roch shares that songs such as ‘Helene’ were completely rearranged and reimagined for the album.
‘The idea for Duophonique came from my European record company which wanted to do a special project to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the craziness that started in France,’ Roch says. ‘Instead of doing a strictly greatest hits package, we rearranged some of my older songs to be duets, backed by a symphonic orchestra.’
At the present time, Duophonique is exclusive to European audiences. However, Roch says that plans are already in the works to release a Canadian version of the record, which will feature French-Canadian duet partners. He expects the record to hit store shelves in late October or early November.
Giving a new life to his songs, some of which are more than 20 years old, was an exciting process for the singer.
‘A lot of the arrangements for the songs were totally changed and approached with a fresh view. It was a fun project to do and gave me a different way of looking at my songs. I am very happy with the way that the record turned out.’ With a quarter-century of entertaining already behind him, Roch is eagerly looking toward the future.
Of course, part of the dilemma of having such a fruitful career is narrowing down exactly what songs to perform for audiences each night. He hopes that those who come out to Casino New Brunswick on Friday night will walk away from the show feeling as though they got their money’s worth.
‘People don’t have as much money as they used to,’ he says. ‘They are being more selective with where they are spending their money so my job is to make sure that they get their fill of the songs they want and expect to hear when they come to the show. We are covering a lot of ground on this tour, playing songs from virtually each of my records, from one era to another including a good portion ofAmericana songs in there.
‘This tour has been a lot of fun. I can easily say that I have the greatest fans in the world.’
Article published in the May 15, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript
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