The Sound Cafe
Behind The Curtain: Andre Bisson
By Erin McCallum. Photograph Courtesy Loretta Hale.
With 8 albums to his credit and a 9th in the works, Andre Bisson is an artist worth having a conversation with. The soul-inspired, blues infused singer, arranger, composer and guitarist has been part of the Blues music Collective in Canada with his brand of music for years now, and he has been following an ascending path since the beginning. Residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Bisson has been no stranger to the live circuit – he has entertained audiences in Canada, the US, the UK and Europe in support of his own creations. If readers would like to learn more about Andre Bisson’s biography, they can find it on his official website www.andrebisson.ca. For this instalment, the focus will take readers beyond the final product they hear and see – Bisson and I spoke candidly about his writing process, his take on managing the challenges that arise while independently navigating a career in music, and what advice he would give to others who aspire to follow the same path.
It is important to note that Bisson is an artist who creates his work fully – taking a song from an idea to a final recording independently. Studying at the acclaimed Applied Music Program at Mohawk College is what brought him from northern Ontario to Hamilton, and it might be a safe assumption that the program provided some of the necessary tools required for Bisson to be equipped with what it takes to being his musical creations from thought to finish. Knowing that element of Bisson’s position as a writer/composer, it made sense to investigate his process.
“Depending on the song, sometimes a song starts with a concept, and idea, or a subject. I’ll usually start with a chord progression with just a guitar and a vocal – I’ll work the song until I can hear the arrangement. That being said, sometimes, the song starts with just the music too – if there’s a riff or even a style that I’d like to work with, that will be the basis of the song.”
The next curiosity in the conversation was what Bisson’s method is with respect to generating new material. He covers – and uncovers – what has worked for him, and it’s clear that a constant evolution is the kindling for maintaining his momentum.
“I think it’s consistency. The process for writing is different for everyone, but for me, each album generates a burst of energy, which inspires me to do the next one. Every album is like a learning experience, and next time I go into the studio, I learn a lot about what I can do, and what I can do next. You evolve as an artist, and as you grow, you also learn about the process – how to be more efficient, prepare better prior to going into the studio… You learn to think differently about who to bring into the studio too, and how to enhance the next project while maintaining things like a reasonable budget, which is something you have to consider as an independent artist.”
As Andre Bisson provides readers with a glimpse into the complexities of creating a complete project, it was fair to ask him what the most difficult aspect of the process has been throughout the course of his recording career:
“Probably scheduling! Even if we’re doing a gig with, say, a 10-piece band, it’s hard to be able to get everyone in the same room for a rehearsal. You learn to make it work, and that’s all part of that evolution I was talking about earlier. You learn what works – how to lay things out to be most efficient with time, and how to structure things in a way that works. You also learn through that process who the right people are for the project too, and that’s something that can really help with scheduling.”
Although the conversation with Andre Bisson took many directions in its course – the directions one might assume when two musical writers speak with each other candidly – one common theme remained evident throughout. Andre Bisson’s success is founded on the conviction that learning through learning is the key to his continued growth as an artist. He is also quick to offer support to aspiring artists who will most certainly meet the challenges that arise by choosing a path in music, offering words of wisdom he has through living that process himself:
“If I was talking to someone who is just getting started, I would tell them that there are going to be difficulties – and that is normal. People are going to tell you that you aren‘t good enough….people will quit your band, or there will be other obstacles. That’s totally normal. Just do what you do, keep focused, and embrace the fact that nothing worth doing is ever easy. Look at those experiences as an opportunity to grow and develop and become better equipped to move forward better than you did before. On the back of every “bad” thing that has happened in my career, I can look back now and honestly say that they turned into the best things I have ever had happen to me in my career – because those obstacles made the path for me to grow, be better prepared for the next thing, or evolve as an artist. Those types of difficulties can be discouraging to an artist who is just starting out, so I think it’s important to let that person know that it happens to everyone, and it is part of the course – it’s absolutely normal, and that is something that is going to happen as you continue to grow as an artist and in your career. If you know that it’s something to expect in the beginning, and embrace it as part of the process, because even those obstacles are an opportunity to get better at what you do.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Andre Bisson is working toward his 9th full-length album, which is slated to be released in 2022. After sharing portions of the open conversation between Andre Bisson and myself, it is safe to say that Bisson provided readers with that look ‘behind the curtain’ that lends itself to the intention of this article. I trust that readers of all varieties have gained something more about the artist of mention. Behind The Curtain can be found each month as a regular contribution exclusively via the Sound Café with the intention of providing a deeper insight into the Canadian Blues artists who are at the core of the Blues music Collective.
Photograph Courtesy Loretta Hale.
Touring blues musician, Erin McCallum's formal post-secondary education was in media studies (news, radio), graduating from Humber College in Ontario, she went on to be mentored by Canadian News Hall of Fame inductee, Robert Holiday, and she is a regularly published writer in music and investigative journalism, having focused on music for the last six years.
Erin has an exclusive monthly column in The Sound Cafe featuring musicians from across Canada who perform predominantly in the Blues & Roots genres.
Big Voice. Big Sound.
Read more from Erin www.thesoundcafe.com/post/behind-the-curtain-featuring-teddy-leonard