Following a recent SPEC article by Wendy Dawson about our archives, I was contacted by one of their other regular journalists, Thierry Haroun, who was curious if we would be interested in his recent musical project called, appropriately, “The Gaspé Project.” Last Thursday, I interviewed Thierry over the phone about this project which includes nineteen original songs for guitar and four for piano.
Although he’s lived on the Gaspé Coast for the past 20 years, Thierry was born in Beirut, Lebanon and grew up in multicultural Montreal around Saint Lawrence Boulevard with Portuguese, Greek, and Armenian friends. He describes his childhood as part of the immigrant experience and for this reason, he is equally at home in both French and English. In fact, as well as writing for the SPEC, he has also been a journalist for Le Devoir for the past 15 years. He purchased his first guitar—a Harmony acoustic which he still uses—from Archambault Music on Sainte-Cathernine Street when he was 17 years old and immediately began writing songs. Although he has classical piano training, he is a self-taught guitarist who learned informally from friends and by listening to his primary musical influences among whom he counts Jim Croce, Neil Young, and Gordon Lightfoot.
He describes his songwriting genre as primarily folk driven but notes that the musicians he’s recently added to the band (Richard and Normand Dunn), bring a distinctive rock edge to the sound of the project. Because of his upbringing and musical influences, Thierry writes songs almost exclusively in English and so his project is rather unique on the Gaspé Coast. The group recently finished recording their first 7-song EP. This will be released at a launch party at the Frontibus Bistro on Jacques Cartier Street in Gaspé on Friday, November 4, 2016 at 9 pm.
The project’s songs cover a broad range of themes, many centred around blue collar life and the struggle for liberty, from the Gaspé Coast and beyond. Several songs were begun during Thierry’s travels throughout the continent, but were finished here at home and performed and recorded by Gaspesians. Gaspé readers will be especially interested in “Paper Mill” which deals with the closure of the Gaspesia paper mill in Chandler in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a journalist, he covered the protests and rallies that took place during the closure and was moved by the men and women he saw fighting for their jobs and the social problems (including suicide) that resulted from the massive loss of employment. “When the mill closed down, I had to do something,” and so he wrote this song during the rallies. “It’s an homage to the people who have sweat blood and tears [at the mill] but also an homage to the forestry men and women all across Quebec and North America who have built this country. I was there with the men, doing interviews. I’ve seen the despair.” The song’s refrain encourages the workers: “Keep your back straight, stay alive.” The line “there’s butter on the train” references the hopes of a government plan to reopen the mill in the early 2000s which eventually fell through. Understandably, this song is currently receiving lots of attention on Chandler’s BleuFM radio station.
Copies of the EP can be purchased at our two local gas stations: Jean-Guy’s in Douglastown and at Collin’s in Barachois.
You can follow and hear The Gaspé Project’s music online at:
The CD launch will take place: Friday, November 4 at Frontibus Bistro on Jacques Cartier Street in Gaspé beginnng at 9 pm.