This Hamilton indie-rock artist hopes to provide his audience with some escapism through his debut album.
Joseph Boudreau is an indie rock singer-songwriter from Hamilton. The artist has been performing in the city for a decade and a half, and while previously writing and playing music for other bands and collaborative projects, he released his debut album Yesterday's Today back in June.
"I write songs alone on an acoustic guitar, mostly just rhythms and melodies with the odd riff, and then fill in the other parts as if I were playing with a band, and try to write as big as I can imagine a song being," said Boudreau. "That's mostly the sound; a wall of guitars for the melody to just sit on."
Boudreau is heavily influenced by English brit-pop and indie rock.
"My main influences are pretty easy to guess," said Boudreau. "As far as song writing, I learned by emulating Oasis songs and other groups that followed. There's always an element of vagueness to the lyrics that Noel Gallagher chooses which is one of the ways I was able to attach myself to the meanings, and I try to approach my songs the same way- not too many specifics and not too personal so any everyday person could find their own meaning."
While creating the final product, the musician tried to aim for a polished sound without sounding too robotic.
"As for the recording and production of the music, I really strived to match the solo records of Paul Weller," said Boudreau. "There's artifacts and hidden sounds in his albums, especially the ones from the mid to late 90s, that keep me listening again and again. I really tried to capture that essence and not get too heavy in the digital editing, while keeping a refined and polished sound."
Boudreau began making music at the age of 16.
"I think I first started making music when I got a guitar," said Boudreau. "I barely knew how to play, just looked at some sheets for riffs I loved like "Come Together" by The Beatles and the acoustic guitar bit at the beginning of "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. I remember writing my first song, and I took all the lyrics to "Wish You Were Here" and wrote alternate verses as if I was having a conversation with the song."
The artist struggled at first to find his own unique style.
"I went through a long phase of writing really bad songs that didn't sound like anything except another song, until I had a moment while writing a song for one of my first groups called Jade Greenaway" said Boudreau. "In this song a part of my imagination switched on to the actual sound of the music and I began hearing all the parts. It was like my own little musical epiphany. There was a studio recording of the song that sounded pretty mega, but it never got released. There was also a demo that I recorded in my bedroom, and wrote an orchestral part using my acoustic guitar and E-bow, a little magnetic tool used to vibrate the guitar strings and make it sound like a bowed instrument, and I must have recorded at least 24 tracks of this. It was enough to fry the hard drive in my eight-track and I lost it all."
Boudreau started working on Yesterday's Today in 2017.
"Writing began with the song as pieces, without a solo record in mind," said Boudreau. "When I finished it, I was so pleased, I thought I'd better find an outlet for it. The idea of a solo project still hadn't been put on the table and I was working with another group that I had tested it out on. There was also some consideration of using it with The Monarch Project, but that group ended, allowing Yesterday's Today more time to develop and become the seed of a solo project. Every other song on the album was written to support that song, and in this approach I was putting together a story. By time recording began in August of 2018, the songs were completed and the majority of studio time was spent tracking. Any experimentation done was really just adding the extras that give each track a unique quality."
The songwriter focused on creating an album with consistency. "With Yesterday's Today we went off of my demos. Adam, my producer, came over to my place and put on some headphones one day and heard my demos and basically said 'right, you've got the song and all the parts,'" said Boudreau. "That sort of dictated how every song would be approached, because there needs to be some congruency to the whole project. Every song can't be wildly different. Within that though, there's some exceptions."
Each song has a unique meaning to Boudreau.
""From The Edge of the World" is a reflection of loss, and the fantasy of true love sustaining its self in the face of that love's own decay," said Boudreau. "This was obviously the Phil Spector approach with the wall and the glockenspiel and the brass section."
""Into the Fire" is about finding a muse in the loss of love, but feeling overwhelmed by how that emotion can take over," said Boudreau. "And in searching those emotions, admitting the anger found through realizations of reflection. This was Adam's influence with Alice in Chains."
""Yesterday's Today" is a lament to youth and innocence, and a bit of a farewell to a special friend," said Boudreau. "There's a powerful movement in the song that's supposed to make this feel hopeful and uplifting instead of the sadness that the lyrics might imply."
""Home of Gathered Stone", this song is a love letter written posthumously as if to say 'here is everything I have done, now where are you?'" said Boudreau. "This was the odd one, and I had to dip my foot into the world of James Taylor, though I tried to do something more like 4+20 by CSNY," said Boudreau.
""Too Soon/Goodbye" I wrote at a time when I felt like everyone dear to me was leaving," said Boudreau. "A long term relationship of mine came to an unexpected end, my childhood dog died, and my grandfather passed away. Some of this song is about being consoled, some of it is about missing a loved one, and some of it is about carrying on the memory of a loved one. It was in my grandfather's memory that I found the strength to use the language of 'goodbye' in a song. It came out as a weird mash of Floyd and Elton John meets some Weller and Beatles ballad. For the most part though, it's just the best sounding kick and snare we could find, and my Epiphone Riviera run through an AC30."
Boudreau recorded Yesterday's Today in parts, at a few different studios. "This was a bit of a piece-y project- some stuff was tracked at Catherine North Studios, and other parts were done in home studios," said Boudreau. "Some was even tracked in my apartment. I think the days that were spent in my apartment were the absolute best, because they were days that I didn't have to do a single thing except direct. Eight hours of tracking lead guitar was me and Adam, my producer, sitting behind the desk in my living room listening to Jose, who played lead guitar on "Too Soon/Goodbye", play licks that we carefully crafted over a month through an AC30 that was turned up to 9 1/2 in the other room."
The singer worked with multiple artists to create his debut.
"The same can be said about what we did for "From The Edge Of The World"," said Boudreau. "We had Tim, the trumpet player, standing in front of us playing his trumpet. This is a guy who has almost no studio or recording experience playing the notes we're singing to him, to a bed track of wild guitars and super loud drums. And before his eyes, Adam was turning it into the main riff for the intro of the album."
Recording Yesterday's Today was a long process.
"The hardest part of this project was exercising patience," said Boudreau. "It was about a year and a half of recording because we only had one day a week where we could possibly get four or five hours in. Sometimes we didn't even touch it for a month. Both Adam and I went through phases of losing complete interest in the project, and in those times I'm thankful that I had him ushering me on because I never thought it would be finished. And I'm certain I can say the same for him."
Unfortunately, Boudreau was forced to release his debut album during the Coronavirus lockdown. "The album came out on June 9, 2020 in the middle of a pandemic," said Boudreau. "The reactions to the music for the most part were really great, but that's not reliable because we're talking about people in my family, or my friend group, or my immediate bubble. The feedback is another thing. Most bloggers or playlisters completely contradict themselves or each other. One person might say it's not raw enough, but another might say it's too 90s. While someone else might say they love it, but it doesn't sound commercial enough. A long time ago I decided that I'm only making music that I want to listen to, and makes me feel the way my favourite albums made me feel."
Due to the nature of the pandemic, Boudreau has been unable to perform his newly released album live, but he hopes his listeners can find some escapism through his music.
"I hope someone can put this album on with a pair of headphones, and go for a walk and forget where they are for 22 minutes and let the music transform their surroundings," said Boudreau. "The music should create space in the imagination to travel, like a door being opened to another dimension. And if in that space some of the words speak to someone, I hope they feel something."
(Postponed due to COVID-19.)