Roch Voisine plays Casino N.B.

Acadian-Canadian music icon Roch Voisine is gearing up for a Canadian tour this month in support of his recently released, gold-selling, number-one record, Americana. The New Brunswick-born Voisine will be making his only provincial stop at Casino New Brunswick for a show on Friday Oct. 29.

A JUNO Award winner, Voisine has been recognized for his musical accomplishments as well as his commitments to humanitarian causes. In 2008, he was awarded the Distinguished Canadian Leadership Award by the University of Ottawa while in 2007, he received a doctorate honoris causa in music from the University of Moncton. Voisine has also dedicated time to missions to Africa as a representative of UNICEF.

Voisine is finally finding his way back home to Canada after more than two years of heavy touring through Europe. His absence from Canadian shores was not intentional but rather the by-product of dealing with his European fans seemingly insatiable appetite for music.

Voisine’s Americana record differs greatly from his normal musical pursuits, featuring him covering songs made famous by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Vince Gill among others. Recorded in Nashville, the album is the first of three concept compilations, including Americana II and III, both of which are already available in Europe.

“Initially, Americana was intended to be a European-only project,” Voisine starts from his home north of Montreal. “We started with one record and didn’t quite know where that would bring us, honestly. At first, I had thought that we could do without promoting the record with shows but people ended up really liking it and that kind of dictated that we start playing shows to support it.”

The selection of songs spread over the Americana records hold a lot of sentimental value for Voisine, but in the process of sharing some of his favorite songs with his European fans, he also wanted to ensure that the songs he chose could be easily recognized by his audience.

“I wanted to ensure that they could identify with the songs even though they were being sung in English. We wanted to choose songs that would resonate with our audience.”

Even though promotion on Americana is just getting underway in Canada, fans seem to be eating up the opportunity to hear new material from Voisine, even if the songs are not his own. In the first four weeks of release, Voisine’s newest record has remained a Top-10 best seller and is not yet showing any signs of slowing down.

Voisine notes that his upcoming show at Casino New Brunswick will be “85 per cent Americana material” with the balance comprised of his own songs.

“It is a lot of fun to be touring a project like this instead of just playing my own stuff.

“The band has a lot of fun playing these songs. It seems more like buddies getting together to play some songs rather than a formal show.”

As big of a star as Voisine may be in Canada and elsewhere, he insists that people tend to respect the singer’s privacy when he is in public.

“I think Canada is a great place to live as an artist. People are really nice and I can rest easy knowing that I can go to the grocery store with my kids and not necessarily have anyone bother me. I don’t think that I ever attracted that kind of attention with my career anyway.”

Most people familiar with Voisine know of his mega-hit “Helene”, released in 1988. Voisine says the past 20 plus years are a bit of a blur and finds it a little incredible to sit and think of all that has happened in the span of time since “Helene”.

“The past 20 years have gone by so quickly. I sit and think about the people who have come and gone from the band, the fact I have made more than twenty records and the people I have had a chance to work with and think it is all just so amazing to take in.”

While Voisine and his band continue to play upwards of 50 to 60 shows a year, one has to wonder if the appeal of “the road” and the cycle of making new music have become tiresome to the musician.

“I don’t have a plan B and don’t have a pension plan so I might as well work,” he jokes. “But really, there are so many things that I haven’t yet done that I would love to do. It’s just too early to think about quitting yet.”

If you are planning on attending Voisine’s show at Casino NB, you might want to be on the lookout for the Moncton’s own Chris Colepaugh on stage. Colepaugh has been a part of Voisine’s band for the past two years and has had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe with the musician.

“Chris was really shy when he first joined the band, being the new guy at the time and all. He has actually loosened up quite a bit since then though. Having Chris in the band is actually one of the first times I have had someone so versatile that can seemingly pick up whatever instrument is given to him and play. I hate guys like that,” Voisine heartily laughs.

“But at the same token, I can rest easy knowing that if someone ever faints on stage, Chris will be able to pick up the slack with no hesitation.”

Article published in October 28, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript