With the newly released Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?, Lisa LeBlanc is once again showing us what she's made of — mainly, that she's a witty, effortless-sounding yet hard-working lyricist, killer guitar player and banjo slinger, and a vocal powerhouse to be reckoned with.
On Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? (out now on Bonsound), LeBlanc dishes out not-so-subtle dating advice to a friend ("Dump the Guy ASAP"), gets mad Nancy Sinatra-style at a recent ex ("Could You Wait 'Til I've Had My Coffee?"), throws in a banjo rendition of Motörhead's "Ace of Spades," and evokes Cajun singers and Westerns on slower burners like "Why Does It Feel So Lonely (When You Are Around?)" and "Eh Cher (You've Overstayed Your Welcome)."
Speaking to LeBlanc about her latest musical endeavour, as well as here early beginnings, here's just some of what we learned about the songwriter and her new album.
She started off singing in English, not French.
A big fuss was made when LeBlanc followed up her platinum-selling 2012 self-titled French debut with the English EP, Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted. But as an Acadian, LeBlanc has an innate bilingual advantage.
"I started writing in English and then I switched to French after this regional contest — kind of like a battle of the bands for French bands — and then, a couple years ago, I switched again," LeBlanc tells Exclaim! "I have a Maritime accent, but I speak English."
Louisiana is LeBlanc's favourite place in the world.
Sorry Montreal, sorry New Brunswick, you're going to have to compete with Louisiana for LeBlanc's love, as both the EP and the new album were informed by trips there, including a recent one in which LeBlanc studied old-time and bluegrass banjo, Cajun dance, flatpicking guitar, and fiddle.
"Basically, Cajuns are Acadians. They've lost a lot of the French but the grandmas and grandpas still speak it and the younger generation is kind of picking it up again."
She's a reluctant fan of Cayouche.
LeBlanc wasn't always such a traditional music nerd. In fact, she was a rock'n'roll kid whose first big Anglo show was Bryan Adams.
"I hated bluegrass. I hated country. It was because that's what people played back home," LeBlanc says. "I hated it so much and now I'm all over that stuff and my mom's like, 'What happened to you?' It's [because] when I moved from New Brunswick to Quebec, I started missing New Brunswick. Sort of as a joke, I started listening to some country and bluegrass and I bought a banjo and all of a sudden I'm going to bluegrass festivals."
LeBlanc says that part of that folky turnaround was thanks to Acadian singer-songwriter Cayouche. "[He] is kind of like our mascot," LeBlanc says. "He's a country singer, and such a character, and sings a lot of drinking songs. [Songs about] simple, everyday life. Very funny and at the same time very wise. People love Cayouche in Acadia and rural Quebec. I started listening to some Cayouche as a joke and started getting into it more and more and I was like, 'Oh no, this is not a joke anymore, I'm digging this.'"
She used her "post-folk-fest voice" to re-record her vocals on "Ace of Spades."
"I [recorded it] when I hadn't been touring and it's so weird for me because when I sing 'Ace of Spades,' first of all, I [usually] don't hear anything, which includes my vocals and my banjo. And all of a sudden I was recording 'Ace of Spades' with headphones and the pristine mics and I was like, 'Dude, I can't do this; this isn't working.'
"What I ended up doing was right after we came back from two weeks of touring, right as we landed, we went straight to the studio and set up mics. We set up a shitty monitor and a mic and I couldn't hear anything and it was great."
Writing in English brought out the Acadian in LeBlanc, big time.
Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen is not all Anglo. "Ti-gars" sounds like Acadian garage rock, and bilingual "Eh Cher (You've Overstayed Your Welcome)" sounds relaxed and Cajun. Interestingly, LeBlanc says that writing a mostly English record might have inspired her to go all-out Cajun and Acadian on the French songs.
"Writing in English always makes me closer to French. It's weird," she says. "The two songs that are in French, I kind of go all-out on the Acadian slang, like big time, which I would never necessarily do in the first record. I think because it was an English record I could do anything — I mean, you can always do anything — but I was like 'Fuck it, I'm not going to try to write a standard French tune, I'm going all out on the Louisiana thing and the Acadian thing.' It was really fun and I had a blast doing it. I kind of really want to have a Cajun band at one point. I just need the musicians to do it."
Watch LeBlanc perform "Could You Wait 'Til I've Had My Coffee" on Exclaim! TV below.