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September 21st 2007

Voisine at home with diverse crowds

(Source: Regina Leader-Post)

New Brunswick-raised Roch Voisine looks forward to playing in Regina promising the audience a rare concert.

"Usually, when I go to English Canada, it's 22 English songs and one French. This time, it's one French set and one English set. Hopefully, we'll draw a little more of the French population who don't often hear me sing French," says the bilingual singer and songwriter from his home in Montreal. "It's also an opportunity for the English audience to hear more of my French music."

For 20 years, Voisine has written, recorded and performed in English Canada, French Canada and Europe, in both official languages.

But, he didn't aspire to be a singer. He studied physiotherapy at the University of Ottawa and played football with the Gee-Gees.

"I was writing songs then, but it was more personal, like things you write in a journal. I'd sing them in the staircase in residence," Voisine explains. "My first audience was people who'd bring their books into the staircase. I sang and they studied."

A couple demos later, a choice loomed. When the physiotherapy director told him that he could return if music didn't work out, Voisine went for it.

His first gig was singing for 50,000 at La Ronde in Montreal on Canada Day 1986. He acted in a French television show and then released his first album Hélène in 1989. It was a hit in Quebec and France.

Fans in French-speaking, European countries have been good to Voisine.

"I didn't start singing in French, but this market opened. They are big fans of (North) American culture, so it was something different for someone to actually put the American culture into French songs," he says.

His career flourished in the 1990s. Still one of his personal favourites, "I'll Always Be There," was a collaboration with Canadian producer David Foster. He performed the song for the Queen at Canada's 125th anniversary celebrations in 1992. More tours and albums followed including Kissing Rain, which was written and produced in Los Angeles, several French albums and even a Christmas record.

Voisine writes his material in English. Since word-for-word translation is impossible, some songs don't cross over.

"It would be a big mistake to try and translate the feelings and the words," he explains. "You don't sing French the way you sing English. The accents are in different spots in the same phrase ... It would be simpler to come up with one record, sing one single and do one tour, but it also makes it interesting."

Basically, he has three careers -- one in English Canada, one in French Canada and another in Europe.

"I come up with a French album and the hit single is one song. In Quebec, it is something else ... There's very little of my Quebec material that plays in English Canada and very little of my English material that plays in France," he says.

His latest project is a greatest hits album, first the French and then the English, to cater to the unique tastes of people in all three of his audiences.

"In general, people in Canada are a little more American. Usually they come to a concert and they sit down and listen. In Europe, you feel like they came to sing with you and to participate."

That's part of the reason Voisine enjoys touring from one area to another. But, no matter which language or country he is in, he says his goal is to adapt the music while maintaining his own style.