Singer-songwriter Ian Kelly is a bit of an anomaly. Ian calls Quebec home, speaks French but performs in English. While he certainly isn’t the first (nor the last) Anglophone performer to come from Quebec, his DIY ethic is starting to make waves throughout the country.
With three albums and a slew of international dates already under his belt, Ian Kelly performs in support of Sarah Slean at Saint John’s Imperial Theatre on Friday evening and the Fredericton Playhouse on Saturday night.
Do you feel that composing music in English as a Quebecer helps to stand out from others in the province?
In Quebec, I am constantly asked when I am going to release a French album. And while I speak French and went to French school, I feel that singing in English is what makes most sense to me in order to reach a wider Anglophone audience. I can appreciate Quebecers wanting to be protective about maintaining their French culture and language. It really isn’t the Francophone artists putting Quebec on the international map, however; Celine Dion and Arcade Fire are. It’s pretty difficult to ignore.
Quebec has a history of making Francophone artists superstars in the province while those same people can be virtually unheard of in the rest of Canada. Are you worried about falling into that trap?
My previous album Speak Your Mind sold 40,000 units in Canada but only 750 or so copies were sold outside of Quebec. While I am grateful for success wherever I can find it, I really want to grow my fan base throughout Canada. It feels a little silly to have such a great thing going in Quebec but not in the rest of the country.
Because your songs are sung in English, have you felt it a little more difficult to connect with what could be primarily Francophone audiences in Quebec?
Writing and recording in French isn’t really what I do. I have found that performing in front of English crowds, the audiences are responding to the lyrics as I am singing the songs. I do not necessarily have to explain the songs and the emotions behind them, that is something that I love embracing each show.
Article published in the March 7, 2013 edition of Here Magazine