Roland Gauvin won’t slow down

Even with his 60th birthday right around the corner, retirement is not yet in the vocabulary of Acadian musician Roland Gauvin.

In fact, Roland is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, taking on new projects with a joie de vivre that people half his age often have difficulty finding. As a founding member of Acadian heroes 1755, Roland has kept himself busy with music in one form or another for the past 20-plus years.

Roland’s newest musical outlet is one that he says was sparked by a long-standing desire. Roland Gauvin et la Grosse Band is a seven-piece group largely unlike any of his other musical ventures, one that incorporates his love for Motown and R&B music.

Roland Gauvin et La Grosse Bande will perform a free show at Dieppe’s Place 1604 Wednesday night.

“La Grosse Band is something that has taken quite a few years to materialize,” Roland shares. “It was a dream that I shared along with some of the other band members, but for me personally, actually dates back to the time before 1755 got together. Over the past couple of years, we discussed the possibility of putting something together and finally, everything came together for the seven of us.”

Working around the schedules of six other individuals is no small task but as far as Roland is concerned, he and Grosse Band members Steve LeBlanc, Charlie Goguen, Marty Melanson, Roland Bourgeois, David Boutin and Ryan Coghlan are in it for the fun of making music together and nothing more.

At the present time, Roland and the Grosse Band have set their sights on reinterpreting and reinventing songs from Roland’s songbook with both 1755 and Les Mechants Maquereaux while also including material from Acadian contemporaries Zachary Richard and Pascal Lejeune in their set. Roland says the process of rearranging songs from his past has not always been easy but has been a fulfilling exercise nonetheless.

“We have gone and taken a lot of the songs that I had written with 1755 and Gerald LeBlanc and rearranged them to fit what we are doing now,” he says. “La Grosse Band is very collaborative between all of us in the band in terms of coming up with the song arrangements we perform. It is essentially giving some of these songs a new life. I really feel as though the band is coming into finding our own unique sound. Each of us find that it is neat to be able to go back and re-explore musical content from the past.”

In spite the difficulty that co-ordinating their already busy schedules has proven to be, Roland is optimistic about the possibilities that could lie ahead for La Grosse Band. With a sound that sees the band comfortably fit in at blues, jazz or even international music festivals, Roland says the band has not ruled out the possibility of writing original material down the road.

“I believe that each of us sees certain potential in the band and would like to be able to keep doing it. No one has yet come out to say that we need to write our own material but at the practices we have had, members are already bringing song ideas forward. It is a wide-open project with a number of possibilities and that in itself is exciting,” Roland says.

This summer has been a busy one for Roland. In addition to performing with La Grosse Band, he spent five weeks with his bandmates in 1755 filming a documentary on the historic band’s beginnings for Quebec television network TVA. The series is comprised of eight 30-minute episodes that are slated to air for the first time in February 2012.

“The series focuses upon the communities where each of the members of 1755 grew up and focuses upon the origins and influences of the band,” Roland says. “So you have one episode that will focus on Moncton, one that will focus on Memramcook where our drummer Ron is from and other episodes that will cover where the other band members call or called home once upon a time.

“The series features us going into these communities where we have strong local ties and sees us meeting some of the young artists and musicians who reside there while also checking out some local landmarks. Each episode is going to feature a musical segment where we are performing as well.”

Between the 1755 documentary, La Grosse Band and his popular children’s project Monsieur Crapaud, Roland continues to be a workhorse. With such a flurry of activity continuing to occupy his time, does he anticipate slowing down any time soon to smell the roses?

“I do relax,” he laughs, “but for me, relaxing is going from one thing into something new. The way I see it, as long as I am having fun, I don’t intend to slow down until I am forced to slow down. If people continue to be interested in what I am doing, it is hard to stop. For me, retirement isn’t about stopping everything you are doing altogether, it is more about being able to do some things that I haven’t done before.”

Article published in August 17, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript