JF Robitaille is the new kid on the block. Only… he still resides in New York and… he has already lived in Montreal. So basically, he is just new on the music front with a tour stop here and the city always on his mind.
This Montreal-born Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter’s debut EP The Blood in my Body is like a breath of fresh air. Critics are already raving that Robitaille is bringing that something missing back into the folk-rock scene. He’s been said to be invoking the poetic art of Leonard Cohen with the smooth melodic vibes of Jack Johnson.
So far, simply armed with a six track EP, an acoustic guitar and a band to back him up, Robitaille has shared the stage with renowned acts like Keane, Sean Lennon, Tegan & Sara, Jonathan Richmond, Ben Lee and Joel Plaskett. Robitaille has already made a name for himself and this is only the beginning.
While jamming in Montreal with fellow musicians, the singer-songwriter managed to slip out for a coffee break and some conversation.
The press have been receiving you very well up to now, even describing you as a young Leonard Cohen with a prettier voice, that must feel very welcoming.
I can’t complain it’s all been very very nice. It’s a really great comparison. He is a huge influence, definitely someone I respect.
Speaking of Leonard Cohen, you cover his song “Famous Blue Raincoat” on your EP, of all of Cohen’s songs why that one?
It came really naturally. I was living in New York when I recorded that. I just really related to the imagery. I’ve had a strong connection to that song and there wouldn’t have been another of Leonard Cohen’s songs that I would have recorded. It was about that song, it wasn’t me wanting to do a Leonard Cohen song.
Looking at your EP, I realize it’s a damn tease. Six tracks are all we get?
[Laughs] I know! It’s not even 15 minutes long! It was kind of a selfish thing on my part. I really wanted to get on the road and play a lot. But really, I needed something to introduce myself. I do feel a responsibility now to quickly get the record out. I like the idea of leading up to the record coming out.
What is your full length record called?
Winters like These. The record is really based on the perspective of somebody moving away to New York. I hope that it captures the mood which is specific to Montreal. I really love this city.
Remind me why you left?
I moved to London and started playing on my own and then moved to New York. I moved to New York for music and love.
You recorded a couple love songs for this EP. Can you tell me about them?
“The Blood in my Body” is about the feeling when you don’t feel 100% alive unless you’re with that other person. “Love the Lie” is another lover song. I write a lot about recollection and about how time changes things and your perception of the past.
Like your song “Morning after Morning”?
Yes. I wanted to capture a mood I was in on a morning in Montreal in the middle of winter. I’m a firm believer in the ghosts of your past. I think the whole record was very much about Montreal; somewhere I lived for nearly my whole life. It’s kind of a small city and there’s just ghost everywhere; like people you used to know, places you used to live and places you used to go. My past haunts me, but not in a bad way, it’s like wistful nostalgia.
If your songs are all autobiographical, how does it feel singing out such personal content or potential diary entries?
Sometimes it feels really great. Initially it felt strange, and then you get over that. Playing a show, I’ve always said, is like standing up at a party and saying, “Stop what you’re doing, shut up and look at me for forty-five minutes because I’m going to talk to you”. They’re all true stories. It’s honest song writing. I’m coming from a place where I don’t believe a lot of the music out there. Every aspect here is basic, even recording in a very simple studio. Music is so generic now. Even indie music gets too slick.
Has your debut EP and touring changed you as of now?
I’m getting into the entertainment aspect of it more. I like the writing part and being in the studio. I grew up wanting to be a writer and I liked that lifestyle. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a rock star. But at some point you have to realize that people pay to see you on stage and you have to give them their money’s worth!
JF Robitaille plays Le Petit Campus 57 Prince Arthur E. Sunday, Jan. 28 at 8:30 p.m.
With special guest Lily Frost