Louis-Jean Cormier stamp on three Juno albums

Karkwa performs at the Tribeca Film Festival after-party for Jesus Henry Christ hosted by Stolichnaya Vodka at Don Hills on April 23, 2011 in New York City. Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

TORONTO – Montreal folk-rocker Louis-Jean Cormier’s musical stamp has been on many projects in recent years, from his own tunes to those of his Polaris Music Prize-winning band Karkwa and a slew of other acts.

So when his first solo project, the alt/roots-rich “Le Treizieme Etage” (“The Thirteenth Floor”), snagged a 2013 Juno Award nomination for francophone album of the year, it came as no surprise that its competition included two other discs he’d also worked on.

“It’s the story of my life,” the singer-songwriter said laughing in a recent telephone interview from his home studio, where he was — what else? — helping a friend create new tunes.

“It’s funny, I have three chances to win something.”

“Le Treizieme Etage” will be a contender at this weekend’s Junos bash in Regina against Lisa LeBlanc’s self-titled album, which Cormier produced, as well as Marie-Pierre Arthur’s “Aux alentours,” on which he played guitar.

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The other nominees in the category are “Le Royaume” by Amylie and “Astronomie” from Avec pas d’casque.

Cormier said the opportunity with self-described “folk-trash” Acadian artist LeBlanc came up when she called and asked him to collaborate with her. They’d never worked together before and he found himself learning a lot from the 20-something singer-songwriter and her bandmates.

“She’s very talented. She arrived with a new style and a new way to work,” said the 32-year-old Cormier.

“It was very different … than all the albums I did before.”

Meanwhile, the collaboration between Cormier and melodious Arthur came as a result of their lengthy friendship.

The two first met as teens in Quebec’s Gaspesie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine region, where she grew up.

Their bond grew as they and other Karkwa members studied music at Cegep de Saint-Laurent in Montreal.

Arthur then married Karkwa keyboard player Francois Lafontaine and performed with the band that won a Juno in 2011 for the Polaris-winning “Les Chemins de verre.”

She also had Lafontaine and Cormier produce her 2009 self-titled debut and sang on a tune on Cormier’s Juno-nominated nominated album.

“It’s a small community in Quebec,” said Cormier. “We all know each other in the nominations, we all love them and their music, so it’s exciting.”

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Cormier said “Le Treizieme Etage” came together last summer after Karkwa decided to go on hiatus to spend more time with their families.

“We all have kids at home, and we were touring very far from home, because the Polaris Prize that we won in 2010 helped us a lot to go international, and we had a little panic, I think,” said Cormier, the group’s lead singer/guitarist and founder.

“We were in Germany or Denmark and we were thinking, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing here? We sing in French and we have kids at home. Maybe we should just take a break.'”

Cormier said he wanted to create a solo album that was different from the atmospheric, ambient rock of Karkwa; something personal with more folk and roots.

“I’m socially aware and politically aware, so I wanted to bring it more upfront,” said the native of Sept-Iles, Que., who started playing classical piano and guitar at a young age.

The father of two also wanted to touch on his family in his lyrics.

“There are some songs like ‘Les chansons folles’ where I was more in the father skin,” he said.

During recording last summer in his home studio, Cormier realized he didn’t want it to be a one-off solo effort but rather a parallel career to Karkwa.

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“When I started to do my solo work, I fell in love with the new team and I thought to myself, ‘It’ll live forever,'” he said. “I don’t want to switch and just close the door for my solo project. I want both projects to live parallel and forever.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with Karkwa but now I’m working on my solo work and it’s very exciting.”

And just what is the status of Karkwa?

“We’re still thinking about our future and we are excited with the idea that maybe we should start to write some stuff and work together again for a new record,” said Cormier. “But we’re not excited about going on tour now together, because I think it was the problem.”

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