Thunder Bay native Jean-Paul De Roover has been all around the world, living in places like Asia and Africa. After returning to Canada in 2001, his career started to reach new heights. His latest project, Loss is out today, a sister album to 2019’s Love. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Jean-Paul for his first interview discussing the new album and the process of making it.
RX Music: Thank you for taking the time with us, Jean-Paul! How are things going?
Jean-Paul: Very well. Everything’s coming together in the best of ways for this new album, as well as for the tour coming up in March. Live band, which is something I’m doing for the first time in an over 12 years, is dialing in quite nicely as well. So yes, everything is coming out exactly the way I planned so far.
RX Music: That’s awesome! The album is finally out today. Congratulations on that! Tell us a little bit about it.
Jean-Paul: Loss is the second part of a two-album project. They are meant to be sister albums, if you will. The first one was called Love and it’s all singer-songwriter songs about love in its many different shapes and forms, whether it’s, you know, familial, romantic or just compassion for your fellow human. Loss however is a sister album in the sense that it’s related because without love, there is no real sense of loss and vice versa. Stylistically though, they’re very different. Loss is a much heavier and more aggressive album – full live band, lots of distorted guitars, even screaming vocals at times. So, it’s a bit of a departure in a sense but because the two albums coexist with very similar artwork and everything else, then suddenly you realize that these two projects, despite being very contradictory, are more complimentary.
RX Music: A lot of your lyrics are derived from personal hardships. How hard is it to put those experiences into words and how do you know when you’ve got them just right?
Jean-Paul: Writing from a very personal place is something that I’ve always done. I’ve never really been one to write third-person narratives. That was just not something that I really was very good at. So, I always wrote from a very honest place and for the more difficult material, it was very challenging. There are some songs that were incredibly personal on Loss, like the loss of a friend of mine. He didn’t pass away or anything, but, you know, the resolution of a friendship that you thought was something set in stone. There’s a lot of aggression and resentment that comes out of that kind of broken bond. And so that comes across in the song both lyrically and emotionally. Also, a song like “There’s Been an Accident”, which is inspired by some true events that happened to some family members of mine. Whenever I worked on that material, which I was working on this at the same time as the Love album, I had to kind of go back and forth routinely between working on these really positive songs about, you know, my wife and getting married and the birth of our son, and then I have to go to these songs dealing with the death of a child and really abysmal sort of material. But that switching back and forth in my brain was very challenging because I would go downstairs where my studio is, and I would start working on the heavier material, then I would kind of have to sink down into this depressed-like state and have to really kind of invest myself mentally into that kind of headspace and you’re down in those depths, and then all of a sudden somebody says “can you load the dishwasher?”. (laughs) So you break your concentration, you go back upstairs and you see your little son’s smiling face, you know, big smiles and laughs, but then you go back downstairs and you have to try to sink back down again to work on a song. That kind of a juxtaposition was difficult and really challenging to deal with. But I’m very glad, very happy and very proud of the result.
RX Music: Is there a particular song on the album that you’re most proud of? And if so, why?
Jean-Paul: Great question. There isn’t one particular song I’m most proud of because the collection of songs is something, I’m very proud of. But there are songs that are highlights to me. A lot of that stems from the fact that this album is so different from what I’ve done before that the songs that are the most different are exciting to me, because I know they’re going to catch people off guard and I can’t wait for that reaction of “What? Is this you?”. I’m really excited about having that kind of a moment with people that know my music. So, there is no one song that I’m most proud of, but there are songs that have really expanded what it is that I do in very powerful ways. The song “Clench”, which is a song about that dissolved friendship, features some changes that are just very uncharacteristic of what people have come to expect from me. But then a song like “There’s Been an Accident” which is about family member deaths, is just so hard and difficult to write and it’s obviously very, very close to me and my family and it was the biggest hurdle to overcome. So, maybe not necessarily the proudest of but proud of in the sense that I accomplished it because it was such a process to go through.
RX Music: How did you change your mind set for this album?
Jean-Paul: The reality is that there were a lot of very positive vibes that came from the last album, not just within me but also from the response. You know, people are asking you after the show if they can use your song in their wedding, and stuff like that. So you got these really touching kind of moments coming out of it. It’s interesting to see how an audience reflects your music back to you. I was putting out a positive vibe and I was receiving it back. So now I’m very curious to see what people come up to me with and talk about, you know whether it be grief or other sort of darker things like depression or mental illness or even divorces and stuff like that. I’m feeling the conversation that we might be having is going to be very different. And it’s going to be skewed to the negatives, but that was also the point of the project, to be able to explore both sides of one’s emotional mind set. I think that’s going to be good for me to hear the hardships that people are going through, but then also to experience their stories that are going to influence me as well.
RX Music: You’ve been all over the world and seen so many different things, spending time in places like Asia and Africa. How have all those experiences impacted your music?
Jean-Paul: A lot of people assume that because I grew up there that there must be some sort of ethnic flavor to the music. Now, that’s not necessarily true. I moved back to Canada in 2001 when I was about 16. While evidence of Cumbia music from Bolivia is not something that you’ll hear necessarily, what you will hear is my openness to exploring different sounds and genres and stuff like that. Therefore, the fact that there’s an Alternative Progressive Rock album coming from me, you know, a couple of years after working on some acapella projects, that’s where you can see that openness and that willingness to appreciate and accept different music in different forms.
RX Music: Do you find that some artists are afraid to just experiment and get out of their comfort zone?
Jean-Paul: Yes, I do. I do believe that but I also don’t think that’s entirely their fault. There are a lot of people that want to pigeonhole artists. For example, “Oh, you do that one thing? Okay, now I know how to define you.” That’s one thing that I’ve struggled with is that routinely, I’ve failed to fit into the niche boxes that people want to check off. So what ends up happening is that myself and many artists like me, we end up falling through the cracks a little bit because we’re not, you know, consistently playing the same formulaic rock n’ roll over and over again or the same sort of indie pop. There’s breadth to what we’re doing, but we’re not easily identifiable and just placed into this one category and that’s it.
RX Music: What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?
Jean-Paul: Great question! The most rewarding part is hearing other people’s reactions and appreciation for what you’ve done, whether it’s positive or negative. As long as someone’s listened to something that you’ve done, and if they’ve critically evaluated it, even if they think it’s bad, they’ve taken the time to really delve into it. Because that’s how I deal with music on my own. I want to know every little detail. I want to know the inside joke between two band members which lead to the title track naming. I want to know all those little details and weird things that happened during production. Why does that snare sounds so weird? Oh, because it accidentally got dropped the day of the show or the day of the recording session, you know, little things like that. I love the minutiae. I love the details. For anyone to take the time to listen to something and appreciate it and then to be able to hear that response.
RX Music: I’m sure you’ve listened to a lot of music throughout your life. Who are your influences?
Jean-Paul: My influences kind of vary fairly often and it depends on the projects that I’m working on at the time. When I was working on the Love album, I was thinking a lot about people like Shawn Mullins, Jewel and other solo singer-songwriter artists. Barenaked Ladies – stuff like that were kind of in the wheelhouse of those recording sessions. For this album, there are a couple of different bands that definitely inspired me. I don’t know if I sound like them necessarily but they inspired the approach that I took to the alternative-progressive-rock sound. Canadians like Devin Townsend, but then also Australian bands like Karnivool. Bands like that that really inspired the sonic textures. There are other bands that are scattered throughout, depending on where we’re at and where on the album you are. There are some punk rock elements that come in at some point and there’s reference to very early Foo Fighters. Things like that that I borrow from here and there that have inspired me to sort of move on and do something creative with that in a different direction.
RX Music: Other than the word “loss”, what’s one word you would use to describe the album?
Jean-Paul: I like that! I want to use the word “heavy” because it doesn’t just encapsulate the musical elements of the album, but the lyrical content as well. If I could choose a phrase, I would call it the “heaviest of air”. That’s a line from “There’s Been an Accident” and it’s a phrase that I fell in love with quite a while ago. Not even sure how I came up with it but I just love the idea of somebody breathing in and trying to inhale but the air is so heavy that it’s just a struggle to even breathe because of everything that’s going on in your life – the stresses, the anxieties, the weight of everything happening around you.