Lisa LeBlanc: Canada’s resident Runaway Queen

By in Culture

Lisa LeBlanc creates music best suited for the dingiest dive bars across Canada. She mixes bluegrass and folk sounds, with lyrics that reflect Stompin’ Tom Connors and Patti Smith, in a way that makes you want to drink, stomp your feet and dance the night away.

Hailing from Rosaireville, New Brunswick and of Acadian heritage, LeBlanc has always been surrounded by folk music, even if she hasn’t always enjoyed it.

“I grew up disliking bluegrass and folk music, but after leaving my hometown, I grew to miss it,” LeBlanc said, in an interview with the Sheaf.

LeBlanc’s Acadian culture is at the heart of both her 2013 self-titled release and her 2016 album, Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Polaris Prize.

Though her first album is sung entirely in French, the lyrics are incredibly relatable to everyday Anglo-Canadians — after a quick check on Google Translate — and have a range of themes. Some topics, like the song “Kraft Dinner,” relate to the simplicity of dates in relationships or to the dread of everyday existence, as in “Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde.”

Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? has more English tracks on it than her last album — a choice that wasn’t that difficult for her.

Lisa LeBlanc uses her Acadian roots to good effect in her songwriting.

“It’s just being another part of my identity, as someone who is bilingual,” LeBlanc said.

She continues to say that the choice to mix French songs and English songs is not just a stylistic choice but one she made because she wanted to express her identity in her music.

Runaway Queen also shows LeBlanc’s personal taste in music in a tribute to late Motörhead singer, Lemmy Kilmister, with a cover of “Ace of Spades.” The song reveals how playful, fast-paced and fun Lisa LeBlanc can make an old rock song. For LeBlanc, the choice to cover Motörhead was a no-brainer.

“Myself and my band are old metalheads, and [we thought] about how awesome that song would sound with banjos and with the overall style of music we play,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc believes the places that best suit her music are usually bars filled to the brim with people who drink hard and dance harder.

“The band loves feeding off the raw energy that is produced by the crowd,” LeBlanc said. “When we get to play a venue where people are sitting, it is nice, because you know that they are appreciating your music.”

This year, LeBlanc was nominated for the Polaris Prize — Canada’s highest honour in independent music. Though the award went to Lido Pimienta’s La Papessa, LeBlanc  is nevertheless appreciative of the experience.

“It was just an honour to be nominated and to attend the Awards Gala. I got to see acts such as Tanya Tagaq and dedications to artists like Gord Downie and the late Leonard Cohen,” LeBlanc said.

For the foreseeable future, LeBlanc and her band will be on the road — first touring across Western Canada, then across Eastern Canada, and after a short winter break, throughout Europe. Those who have tickets to these shows are in for a treat — LeBlanc’s charm, humour and musical ability will surely wow.

Lisa LeBlanc is playing the Capitol Music Club on Sept. 29. Ticket prices are $15 and all proceeds go to CFCR 90.5 FM’s annual fundraising drive, FM-Phasis.

Jordan Stovra

Photo:  Ville Des Sables / Flickr