Not many people can say they’ve travelled 6,000 km to play music. Mathieu Thioly is not most people. The 26-year-old is an aspiring musician who moved to Quebec from his native Switzerland in 2000. After six years in the province, Thioly is finally making his mark in the musical world.
The Geneva native, who describes his music as franco pop-jazz, decided to move to Montreal after a trip to La Belle Province in 1999. “When I first travelled here, I discovered everything . . . Quebec had to offer. I was really charmed to see how there was a cultural wealth with regards to francophone music, francophone cinema and francophone literature.
I thought ‘wow this is a great place that encourages French expression, in every artistic domain.’ It really pleased me, it’s a beautiful place. I’ve been here six years, and I feel I’m at the right place.”
If Quebec offers so much support to its francophone artists, Thioly believes this is in stark contrast to the musical scene in Switzerland. “I think the difference in Quebec is that it’s a small francophone province surrounded by anglophones. There is a force here to really defend the French language. [This has led to] the push for French expression, with subventions, festivals and everything.”
Thioly also found that making music could be a respectable career in Quebec, unlike in his native country. “When I was a kid [in Switzerland] I kept saying ‘I want to become a singer and that’s what I want to do with my life.’ People laughed and asked me ‘yes but what are you going to do on the side?’
Making music over there is seen more as a hobby. But here, that’s something that really hit me also, is that [people will say] ‘oh, you’re a musician? Okay, you can make a living out of that.'”
Like Canada, Switzerland is also a multi-language country, but the size of the country makes things difficult for musicians like Thioly.
“It’s a small country, divided into three languages. The francophone market is really small. If you want to do music in French, you have to go to France.” A prospect that really didn’t appeal to Thioly. “I think the two good places to do music in French are France and Quebec . For me, it was Quebec that pleased me, because there is a more welcoming side. It’s smaller also. France is too big.”
With bandmates David Lecour, Claude Poulin, Yannick Richard, Adam Leclerc, Andrée-Anne Lamarre and Jérémie Cloutier, Thioly is currently working on his first album, which he wants to have ready by the fall.
“It’s going well, things are really starting to fall into place. We stalled a lot trying to figure out what we wanted to do for a first album. It’s a first album, so I think it’s the hardest to do, in my opinion.
Maybe the first and the last also. The last, when you’re really old and has-been and you really want to hang on to your career.”
He appears once or twice every month at Le Spectateur, in Old Montreal. A small cozy place with an amiable French owner, the bar is usually filled at Thioly’s shows. His Swiss accent coupled with his handsome demeanour make for a charming show.
Even with all the hard work, Thioly is grateful for the opportunity he has to make music. “I try to do what I love. When you do that and you have fun, you don’t need anything else.”
Catch Mathieu Thioly at Le Spectateur, 54 St-Jacques, Feb. 22. at 9:30 p.m. Sylvain Chartier plays the first part. Tickets are $7