“Eventually people will get an idea of you and don’t want you to deviate from it,” Garou thinks. The perpetual buffoon, who tours Quebec, recently hosted La Presse in his barn in Orford.
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Aboard his black Ford Bronco, Garou emerges from the two-mile logging road that criss-crosses his vast land. With his few layers of plaid shirt and camouflage trouser boots, the singer evokes the studiously rustic charm of a Bruce Springsteen in a tank bar, but also a little Félix Leclerc. “It was a small piece of luck that I took with me,” he intones, giggling.
Five years ago, the Sherbrooke resident became the owner of this small estate on the edge of Mont Orford National Park and transformed his ruined barn into a studio, where he greets us while lighting a cigarette. He had returned from Lyon the day before to begin a tour of Quebec, during which he sat behind his guitar for most of the evening for the first time, as if jamming here with his musicians, an attitude that contrasted with his picture of is a variety singer, which initially unsettled him.
“It is clear that the perception that many have of me is not correct. In any case, it’s not the same as people who have been watching me on shows for a long time and who know that I get very delirious,” he points out without bitterness, in a tone of simple observation.
I’ve always been a music fanatic who loves being with my musicians. It all happened so quickly for me. In front of Notre Dame [de Paris]I didn’t want to be a singer, I didn’t want to be known. I’ve been playing bars, having fun like crazy, and telling myself that someday I’ll find a meaningful job.
“It’s like I’ve been crowned in a helicopter and dropped at the top of the mountain. I go down there quietly. »
It was at Pub 16
At the age of 13, at the Séminaire de Sherbrooke, Garou joined Windows & Doors, a group whose repertoire consisted mostly of Beatles songs. “For dinner, we sold tickets to girls from Mont Notre-Dame or College Sacré-Coeur. With his highwayman smile he adds: “There are also girls that we gave them to. »
Giving in at the age of 19, at the urging of his girlfriend Isabelle Bolduc, who often heard him scratching through his dry hair by the fire, he accompanied him to a popular singing bar in Sherbrooke, Pub 16. Escorted him… to the rear: the young man was more of a rock fanatic – he mostly hung out at Graffiti, the defunct alternative bar on Rue Wellington Sud in Sherbrooke – than a regular at pop music bars.
But during his performance, singer Louis Alary, with whom Isabelle was in league, invites Garou to join him on stage. “I wasn’t feeling well,” he recalls, “but I started playing Layla, and like in a movie, the bartender called the boss and told him to come and check it out. »
With no real repertoire, 48 hours later he began a five week show series at that pub and soon after became house singer at the Liquor Store in Magog for six years.
“Hello Mr. Garou, my name is George Harrison”
Tahiti. Monaco. Yerevan. Michael sSchumacher. Salvator Adamo. Good. Garou tells of his many encounters all over the world with the naturalness of a person who would tell of a hunting trip with his brother-in-law.
Is he still sometimes impressed to be able to get up close and personal with all these greats? “Amazement, there is much less. I know I’m damn lucky. But since everything happened so quickly, at the beginning I had no benchmark, no reference. Just to give you an idea, Bono said to me, “Guy [Laliberté, son grand ami] is the most amazing person I’ve met in my life” that I understood how awesome he is. »
Your favorite dating memory? George Harrison’s at an F1 party organized by a friend of Garou’s, whose name he prefers not to mention, a few months before the Beatle’s death, which took place in November 2001 – it would be one of his last, if not his last public appearance.
“I was chatting with the girl sitting next to me and noticed out of the corner of my eye that no one was speaking to the gentleman sitting on the other side. Someone came to speak to the girl, I turned and the gentleman said to me, “Hi Mister Garou, my name is George Harrison.” We became instantly hooked and he talked to me for four hours on super personal matters. »
With just three songs from the Untouchables show, Garou’s R’n’B group officiating that night, the legend invited himself on stage, even though he’d vowed he didn’t like jam sessions.
Since we only had one microphone, we sang into it; It was disgusting! I’ll never forget when he took my guitar, put on a capo and started playing Here Comes the Sun.
“I pinched myself, but I ended up having fun with this guy like I had fun with Louis Alary. I was prouder to have stumbled musically with him than to have met a Beatle, even though it was I who played George in my little band at the seminary. »
Could it be that Garou’s undeniable love of music is being diluted in his albums, which at times seem made for France and France only? The prime prospect, up to a point, thinks we hear what we want to hear.
I had held Quebec back a bit because every time I released an album, even if I Americanized my sound, people would say it sounded too French. There’s a section of the public that has a misconception about who I am, and I can’t help that. But I will keep trying to reach them.
The song UpScene, released in October 2021 and co-written with Too Many Cooks Dan Georgesco, attests well to the country-folk direction he hopes to get involved in.
His fall tribute album to Joe Dassin was already part of that lineage, although the mainstream listener knows all too well that many received it as yet another album of Garou covers, rather than the fruit of his desire to folkize the performer’s repertoire from America.
After inserting a potpourri of Dassin choirs into his show, his record company Universal asked him for this anthology of reduced interpretations – including a great duet with the original Garou, Robert Charlebois. “I said yes to Universal, but on the condition that they give me the keys and I can do it here with my gang, I veto everything. »
No more compromises? “But I never really compromised on the show. I’m not an album guy, I’m not a calculating guy, I’m a performer. Garou stubs out his cigarette, climbs into his Can-Am and drives flat out into his forest.
Garou is touring throughout Quebec through April 21st
“It’s not true, this story”
If legend is to be believed, it was at the Liquor Store in Magog that Luc Plamondon was captivated by the voice of the one for whom love is violent within. “But that story isn’t true, it didn’t happen that way,” says Garou, bursting into laughter.
A few years before Notre-Dame de Paris, Garou had auditioned for another version of Starmania, an appointment to which he presented with a broken voice, which nonetheless charmed the lyricist, but not enough to be entrusted with a role. . “It has to be said that I didn’t want to know anything about musicals, but I went anyway to meet Luc. »
“But when I was called back to Notre-Dame, we decided it would be easier to say Luc spotted me when he came into the liquor store. Herby Moreau ended up with a Kodak and that crystallized the story. »