The Spotlight Sessions:
French Press "Plato's Cave"
Published October 19th, 2016
alt-pop songstress French Press,
known to family and friends as Chantel Emond, is a bilingual Winnipegger who
re-located to Toronto earlier this year. Her path to creating original music
has similarly taken some twists and turns.
Emond grew up singing to herself - at all hours of the day – but got serious about songwriting in her 20s. She first came to Toronto in 2005, studying jazz at Humber College where she earned her Bachelor of Music. Following a move back to Winnipeg, Emond later performed in cover bands at Thai and Moroccan hotels, had a residency at the Banff Centre, spent five weeks touring as an opening act in Europe, and much more.
This all led Emond to develop as French Press, the artist whose newly released debut album, Youthful Trouble, was recorded in Winnipeg but speaks to 20-somethings everywhere. Loaded with catchy hooks and lyrics that bounce between stories of self-doubt and tales of clarity and strength, Youthful Trouble explores life’s many highs and lows.
Watch the video above to see French Press perform lead single “Plato’s Cave” live at Canada’s Music Incubator where she completed their Artist Entrepreneur Program this past spring. Read on to learn more about Emond’s metamorphosis as French Press.
Photo by Kasia Nawrocka
IN HER OWN WORDS
Earlier in your career, you performed in cover bands abroad; what are some of the most significant lessons you learned?
“Well, I realized that I don't love singing in a cover band. It's not really my thing, though it was a fun time. I lived in a swanky hotel and I had really long days to go exploring, which was cool. I think my performing improved while I was out there because I was doing so much of it, night after night. I learned to be a little more ‘In your face’ on stage. Jazz was a lot subtler.”
How did this impact the writing of Youthful Trouble?
“When I was overseas, I decided to really commit to French Press. I wanted to create something personal, that was mine. With all my free time, I started writing and discovering my artistic voice. Songwriting was a new art form, a new process. I went through a very real learning curve. It began overseas, but a lot of the album was written in Winnipeg.”
Did you set out to explore specific topics or did you surprise yourself with the themes that emerged?
“Writing the record was a very up-and-down process. It was the most challenging thing I've ever put myself through. I wrote about what I was feeling at the time. And I think I explored the highs and lows in the songs. There were struggles and victories.”
Tell us about “Plato’s Cave,” and what the song means to you.
“When I got to Toronto in the spring, I was working with the folks at Canada's Music Incubator. Everyone seemed to love ‘Plato's Cave.’ It stood out. I felt confident releasing it as the first single. In terms of the meaning, the song explores your personal desires versus societal pressure. I wanted to challenge some of the pressures I was feeling coming into my 30s. I didn't feel ready do to some of the things I felt were expected of me.”
What do you find Toronto now offers you, as a person and performer?
“I mean, Toronto is the city that has everything. It's got more venues, more musicians, more industry. Since I've been back, I've absorbed a lot of art - installation art, artist lectures, gallery talks. That's mostly what I've been into lately. There's no shortage of interesting people discussing interesting topics.”
Top photo by Nicole Hudon