(Interview) Gab Godon Discovers Herself as Laroie with Debut EP

Photo credit: Zacharie Lavertu

As one half of pop/R&B/hip-hop duo Heartstreets, Gab Godon is a veteran of the Montreal music scene, performing at Osheaga, the Montreal International Jazz Fest, NXNE, and more. But after 10 years of making music in a team, Godon set out to discover her artistic identity outside of her main project. Settling on the alias Laroie, the artist crafted her self-titled debut EP, a project that’s just as genre-melding as her work in Heartstreets. CJLO spoke with Godon about the release, writing a lot during the COVID-19 lockdown, and the future of Laroie.

What was the decision behind recording under the Laroie alias? Did you feel it granted you distance from your work as part of Heartstreets? Did you feel it gave you more license to experiment creatively?

I've been quietly developing this solo project for a couple years now and I think the need to create under Laroie came to me to better define myself as an artist and discover myself as a solo artist. When it's been more than 10 years that the creative work has been done in a band, I think it becomes relevant and healthy to want to explore who you are in the music industry as an individual. It also allows you to take a step back from previous creations and it changes the perspective of creation.

This might sound silly, but considering how long you’ve worked with Emma Beko as a part of Hearstreets, did it feel like “cheating” on Heartstreets by doing a solo project?  Were you ever apprehensive about branching out on your own?

I was never really apprehensive of branching out on my own. Emma and I have been working together for a long time, but we’ve been friends for longer than that and we support each other in our creative and personal decisions.  I think we both needed to find ourselves individually and it ended up being perfect timing as we both wanted to explore at the same time!

You had Montreal electronic producer Robert Robert as your sole co-producer and collaborator for the EP, compared to the multiple collaborators Heartstreets normally works with. What was the decision behind working with only one collaborator? Did it help emulate your creative process when working as a duo in Heartstreets?

I didn’t try to overthink the process and decided to let go and embrace the creative bond between me and Robert Robert. If you feel something, listen to it. We connected during a writing retreat I had organized and it just felt natural to build my first musical project with him. When working with a lot of different collaborators, it can get overwhelming, and as much as it’s part of Heartstreets’ creative process and brand, it isn't what I wanted to do for my first EP. I’m very happy with the result of our collaboration and I wouldn't have it any other way ;)

I host a show focused on pop music, so one of my favourite questions to ask artists is this: at its core, what is it that makes a perfect pop song to you? Is there a particular song or artist you feel best fits your description of pop perfection?

For me, everything resides in the hooks, as much in the vocal arrangements as those of the instrumental ones. I find Dua Lipa to be very good with pop music because her work is swamped with hooks, especially on her hit “Don’t Start Now.”  She is killing it!

You’ve said that the songs on the EP represent how, through interpersonal relationships, “We draw lessons, experiences, strong emotions and we move forward with new imprints.” Do you think COVID-19 and the physical isolation we all faced from those closest to us altered those lyrical themes of our interpersonal relationships, or did it just make them even more pertinent than ever?

I don’t think COVID-19 had much of an impact on my writing. I’d say, on the contrary, it gave me the perspective we sometimes need to refocus, and in my case, to recharge my batteries from my experiences with others. I had plenty of time to reflect and introspect myself on these experiences that I live on a daily basis with the people around me. It was almost therapeutic, and I ended up creating a lot during quarantine.

The pandemic has obviously wreaked havoc on our lives, but are there any music or non-music related trends popularized during the pandemic that you hope continues even once it all subsides?

The pandemic for sure made it quite hard for artists to expand their works, but it also pushed us to step out of our comfort zone and think outside the box. How can we bring our art to life without our usual resources?  I think it’s important to keep pushing those boundaries and explore even more once it all subsides.

Is this the last we hear of Laroie – a fun one-off in this crazy year of 2020 – or is it only the beginning of a long and fruitful solo project?

This is most definitely the beginning of Laroie and a fruitful solo project! I’m very excited for the release of my EP and for this new adventure to start. As I mentioned, quarantine was a creative time for me and I’m really looking forward to sharing all the new music I have in store!

Laroie is out now (independent).

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your home for modern pop in all its forms, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST.