Two striking voices come to the fore on The You and the Now, the American debut release by French-Canadian singer-cellist Jorane: (pronounced jo-ran) her own, and that of her instrument. One is light, lithe and sinuous, the other rich, woody and mellow. Together, the two voices intertwine in ways unique, mysterious and otherworldly, creating a signature sound that has already made the 28-year-old performer a best-selling artist in her native country, as well as France, Japan and points beyond.
Elusive and indefinable, Jorane’s music draws freely upon alternative rock, folk, classical, and ambient music idioms, eliciting comparisons along the way with such distinctive artists as Kate Bush, Bjork, Tori Amos, Sinead O’Connor and Loreena McKennitt. Previous albums found Jorane singing primarily in French or in a non-verbal “jabberwocky.” But on The You and the Now, the album that will provide her introduction to most of the English-speaking world, Jorane joined forces with noted Canadian musician and producer Michael Brook (Jane Siberry, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Brian Eno, Mary Margaret O’Hara) to create her first album of songs in English. The album includes songs co-written with Lisa Germano (John Mellencamp, Simple Minds, Indigo Girls), Simon Wilcox and Shira Myrow, as well as a recent, previously unrecorded selection by Daniel Lanois (U2, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel) who joins her on the recording.
“This is the most personal album I have done so far,” Jorane explains. “I think I was ready to give a part of me that I had never given before…I had always protected my total liberty to create in my own fashion, and now I wanted to share even more of myself. In this album, I tell true stories about myself in a recognizable language, using words and images that come from my heart and my life. Maybe those words came to me out of a need to pay tribute to the people I love.”
Among the factors that inspired Jorane’s decision to tell stories was the extensive touring she has undertaken during the last three years – a period in which her career has risen with an explosive trajectory. From humble beginnings as a largely self-taught pianist and guitarist, Jorane found the ideal complement to her musical personality when she picked up the cello at age 19. Three years later, she cut her debut album, Vent Fou, (Crazy Wind) which earned tremendous acclaim in Canada for its blend of tawny, cello-driven atmospheres and fleeting, impulsive vocalism. Jorane dispensed with lyrics altogether on her second album, 16 mm, creating musical miniatures that were evocative, even cinematic. Small wonder that she now also counts several film scores among her many credits to date, including Unfaithful starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane and I am Dina starring Gerard Depardieu and Christopher Ecclecston. Two additional Canadian releases include Live, a concert set that demonstrates her dramatic presentation and tight, tough-working band, and an EP, Evapore. As word of her unique talents began to spread, Jorane was called upon to collaborate with such respected and diverse artists as Sarah McLachlan, Pierre Marchand, Bobby McFerrin, film composers Marco Beltrami (I-Robot, Terminator 3), Jan Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland, Lost Souls) and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.
Once she had decided the course she would pursue on The You and the Now, Jorane set about finding collaborators with whom to make the next step of her journey. “Simon, Shira and Lisa heard my stories,” she says. “They listened to me, laughing, crying and sharing.” The process imparted a new insight to the singer: “When you have to reveal all the parts of yourself, even the ones you feel shy about, tell the truth. ‘Fragile,’ “Good Luck,’ ‘The Cave’…all those songs came from moments of intense emotion and honesty, rekindled in the therapy of creation.”
The songs “Stay,” “Blue Planet” and “Red Mountains” all hail from a giddy songwriting session with Wilcox in a rustic cabin far from the bustle of the city. “We stayed there for a week,” Jorane recalls, “drinking too much coffee, wearing crazy hats, banging out the lyrics on an antique typewriter, acting out our ideas with plastic dragons for puppets and drinking wine from our empty coffee cups.” Heralded by the Northern Lights overhead, those evenings had a profound impact on Jorane’s writing process: “Simon told me there was a Japanese belief that if you got pregnant on a night when the Northern Lights decorated the sky above you, your child would be blessed for life. We had the feeling that the lights might make us lucky, too—after all, we were pregnant with song ideas!”
Jorane offered some of her most personal, intimate reflections in songs such as “The Cave” and “Fragile.” Of the latter song, she says, “There is a moment in your life when you stop being a kid and start realizing that your family is more important than your petty grievances against them. In David Lynch’s movie The Straight Story, an old man gives a branch to a young fugitive girl and asks her to break it. Next, he gives her a bundle of branches and asks her the same thing. She can’t break the bundle. He says to her, ‘This is family.’”
Completing the album is a cover of “I Feel Love,” Donna Summer‘s disco-era smash hit. “It’s always a challenge to revisit a song already known, and put my own spice on it,” Jorane explains. “One day, Michael Brook was telling me the story of his latest turntable. He remembered the disc that came with it, Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love.” He started to hum an approximation of it; I took up the cello and tried to play the electronic part. That was it—Donna Summer on a cello!” A paradoxical pairing, perhaps—but it just serves to reinforce Jorane’s singular talent, offbeat vision and vast artistic scope.