Lisa LeBlanc combines old-school disco with her Chiac culture

“All of a sudden it was fun to write again. It was easy. Stakes were low. We were doing a Facebook live bingo. So we didn’t care”

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It all started with an online bingo game.

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Lisa LeBlanc, after years of living in Montreal, headed back to her home province of New Brunswick at the start of the pandemic to weather the storm and take a bit of a break given that all concerts were cancelled. She started a Facebook live bingo game with her real-life partner Benoît Morier, co-producer of LeBlanc’s new album Chiac Disco. It was during these live events that LeBlanc created her alter-ego, Belinda, “a 60s waitress with sass” who played bingo music.

LeBlanc suddenly found herself writing “dance bingo songs” and “that became our living for 2020. We were bingo hosts.”

“Belinda was a huge inspiration for this record because it was so liberating to write these tunes,” said LeBlanc, in a recent interview in a Rosemont café. “All of a sudden it was fun to write again. It was easy. Stakes were low. We were doing a Facebook live bingo. So we didn’t care. Then I said why don’t we try something disco, but as Lisa, not as Belinda.”

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She started collaborating with other musicians in Moncton, “and that’s how we wrote a disco album,” said LeBlanc.

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The result is Chiac Disco, which came out in mid-March on Montreal record label Bonsound. It is her de ella first album in French since her debut album de ella 10 years ago but musically it lives in a universe light years removed from the rootsy fare that has been her calling card de ella since that first album. She immediately became a star ici with her raunchy, very funny country-flavored banjo-based hit Aujourd’hui ma vie c’est d’la marde. In between that self-titled debut album and Chiac Disco, she released two English-language albums in the same roots-rock style.

But the new album is a homage to late 70s dance music with propulsive rhythms, lush string arrangements, and punchy horn playing.

For LeBlanc, it was a chance for her and her musician friends to have some fun during a very tough time.

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“It was extremely important, it brought us so much joy,” said LeBlanc. “For us it was important to have something positive and light, that made us feel good. Something that was productive but wasn’t stressful because everything around us was stressful. So it was just important for this whole process to be as fun as possible.”

The unique twist here though is that the disco beats are paired with LeBlanc’s lyrics that are steeped in the Chiac French of New Brunswick, with French and English words colliding right, left and centre. Think of an Acadian melting pot that has Chic and Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees rubbing shoulders with Willie Nelson and Edith Butler.

LeBlanc was very enthused about the idea of ​​bringing the glitzy world of big city disco culture together with the small-town New Brunswick Acadian world she grew up in.

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“I love the idea of ​​bringing something extremely rural. … I heard these stories from my aunts and uncles, my mum and dad, they were telling me they’d go to the disco in the town next to theirs, in their disco outfits, but it was very country,” said LeBlanc. “In the pick-up truck. I love the idea of ​​something super glam, like Studio 54, and then you’re putting it in Rogersville. I love the mix of both and to me it just totally fit. And I didn’t really see myself singing in English because I didn’t find that I could add to the genre (of disco). I just wasn’t feeling it. But with Chiac, all of a sudden, it was like: ‘Oh okay, this is really fun.’ It was super natural. It was a kind of fun but bizarre way to mix something that’s extremely roots with something that’s like a fake glam. I like that.”

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Singing in French Chiac also came naturally because she was back living in New Brunswick at the time.

“Since I was in New Brunswick for the pandemic, I was just kind of bathing in Chiac,” said LeBlanc. “Closer to my family, closer to all those expressions. Obviously it makes a difference when you’re surrounded by people who speak like you and you’re going to be inspired. And the musicians we composed with were all Acadians too. We were speaking Chiac obviously. It was just Rogersville deep Chiac. It was awesome.”

Now she is set to take this new radically different material out on the road, with shows in Quebec and a Montreal concert penned in for June 16 at MTelus as part of Les Francos fest.

“The show is really different,” said LeBlanc. “The show is the first time I play songs without an instrument. I can really have fun moving around, getting my inner diva out. There’s a lot of new songs but there are a lot of old songs too. And the banjo is not retired. I got it out of the closet. Obviously the disco aspect is there. We went all over with lights and decor. It’s fun.”

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