Following the creative path in life with Jack Lavoie

Following the creative path in life with Jack Lavoie

LiQ_Mag_July_2015_CoverThis article first appeared in the July 2015 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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By Mitch Vandenborn

When Jack Lavoie is asked what he thinks about creativity, his eyes catch fire and the thoughts and words start to come out rapidly. Creativity has always been a part of Lavoie’s life, whether during his days running his award-winning landscaping company Les Artisans du Paysage, or during the rest of his time as a well-known musician and songwriter.

“We have a responsibility to the limited time that we have on earth, not to change the world, but to go to the end of yourself,” he said. “And I think the best way to do that is through expressing yourself creatively.”

With two albums already released, one in 2003 and a follow-up in 2006, Lavoie is getting ready to release his third album, Out of the Box, later this year.

When Lavoie was growing up in a bilingual household in Québec City, each of his parents seemed to be responsible for planting the seeds to what he would grow into.

“My dad was the ultimate salesman,” he said. “He always knew how to get you interested in whatever he was doing with this perfect little pitch.” Whether it was selling Irish lottery tickets or tractors, Lavoie said his father always had some kind of side business on the go.

If his dad is responsible for his entrepreneurial side, he credits his mom for his artistic side. “We used to have this old organ in the house, and I would just sit beside her and tap out these little tunes,” he said.

After finishing CEGEP, Lavoie moved to Montréal to study engineering at McGill University. It wasn’t long – a semester, to be exact – before he realized the life of an engineer wasn’t what he wanted, so he dropped out. Lavoie was living with his brother at the time and in addition to sharing an apartment, the two also shared a guitar. When Lavoie suddenly found himself with a lot of free time on his hands, he began using that guitar to fill his days.

“It was strange because a couple of years earlier, I had no interest at all in making music,” he said. “I had a lot of friends who played, but it never really occurred to me that, ‘Oh hey, maybe I could do this.’” In the months that followed, Lavoie invested more and more time into exploring music, eventually taking guitar lessons, dabbling in piano and writing songs.LiQ_Mag_Sub_Banner

But while his interest in music was growing, he knew it wouldn’t pay the bills any time soon. As he looked for different jobs and ways to earn a living, there was one that continued to jump out at him: landscaping.

Seeing the money that could be made in the field, Lavoie founded Les Artisans du Paysage in 1976. But as the company grew, Lavoie said it became less about the money, and more about being another outlet for his creativity.

“Whether that’s figuring out how to make a garden look really unique and beautiful, or how to complete projects on time and on budget, you’re trying to find solutions to problems without answers,” he said. “To me, that’s what creativity is.”

Little did he know at the time, some of the lessons he was learning at Artisans du Paysage would later play a big part in helping his music career get off the ground. To get the company noticed, he started applying to landscaping contests across North America, winning many of them, which helped get the name out there. “I kind of said to myself, ‘Well, if it worked in landscaping, why can’t it work in music?’”

After recording a few songs with a friend, he applied to a contest with the TV channel MusiquePlus in 1994. He won and then got the chance to record his first video. “I was on TV, doing all these media interviews,” he said. “The people I worked with were all freaking out like I was going to move to Hollywood or something.”

As he continued to plug away at making music, eventually he had enough songs for an album. In 2003 he released his debut record, New Warning. One of the songs on that album, “Reason,” earned an honorable mention in the 2003 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. “Receiving that recognition was a huge foundation-building moment for me, because it made me recognize that I do have some potential as a songwriter if I keep developing it and trying to improve,” he said.

His second record, La Pura Vida, followed in 2006, and two songs from that album received honourable mentions in the Billboard World Song Contest. Finally, in October 2010, his song “Heal” was chosen to be a part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Playlist for the Planet Songwriting Album.

Although Lavoie spent the better part of two decades working hard and applying to contests to get his music out to the world, social media and the internet have made releasing his new tunes easier than ever.

Lavoie is currently putting the finishing touches on what will be his third album, titled Out of the Box, scheduled to be released later this year. Rather than waiting to release all the tracks at once, he started releasing them as a series of singles, often accompanied by a video, starting in 2013.

With a few more songs and videos to release and a few gigs lined up later this summer, including Festivent Ville de Lévis on Aug. 1, Lavoie said he plans to close the door on this chapter of his musical life and move on to the next one.

“Why I’m putting a parenthesis on 12 or 13 songs is because there’s a feel that’s going to come with it,” he said. “I got that rock-y, grunge-y side out of me with my first album, and I’ve mellowed a bit more as I’ve gotten older, and I think the music I’ve been making really reflects that.”

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About Author

Mitch Vandenborn

Originally from southern Ontario, Mitch Vandenborn moved to Quebec City in September 2014 to improve his French. It's still a work in a progress. Mitch studied journalism at Carleton University, Ottawa and has worked in writing and communications for several years. He's also a frequent Tweeter: @mitchvandy

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