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L to R: Justin Trudeau, Fabien Melanson. Photo courtesy of CityFolk.

Gig Pick: Étoile Noire at Marvest – 09.15.17

By Terry Steeves on September 11, 2017

Étoile Noire is an Ottawa-based acoustic duo formed in 2016, made up of long-time musicians Fabien Melanson and Justin Trudeau. Fabien’s great lead vocals, rhythm guitar and stomp box, combined with Justin’s formidable lead guitar licks and vocals have woven the perfect blend and balance of two musicians showcasing their amazing talents. Each have had separate musical careers for many years, and are well-known on Ottawa’s music scene. Apt613 asks how the two came to connect and discover their chemistry for songwriting:

Fabien: “We got booked together playing cover shows in the past, but we realized there was a connection musically. We found we could read each other very well, knew where we were going next in the song, and seemed to do that very effortlessly. So we thought something like that was worth exploring, and we both have experience writing songs.”

Justin: “We really locked ourselves in my kitchen for pretty much the whole of last winter. Almost everyday, we would just sit there and write, focusing on one line at a time, then another, and so on until we had a verse. Then we’d move onto the chorus the same way. Sometimes we’d just talk about the theme of the song, every aspect of how we want it to sound. We’re both pretty picky and we had a lot of those ‘hair standing up on the back of the neck’ moments. We’ve both been involved in many projects. Me myself mostly as a guitarist, Fabien as a singer, but I’ve always been interested in singing as well as writing songs.”

In less than a year, Étoile Noire has gone from writing songs to releasing their single “Gone” this past February, to playing some key gigs and planning a full length CD launch on November 5th at LIVE! on Elgin. Their recent invite from CityFolk to appear at Marvest this year has been another sign of how quickly the two have been setting off sparks with their music. The two talk to Apt613 about what’s been a whirlwind of a year so far:

Fabien: “We’re in for a full length album and planning a whole year to follow with it. We’ve been lucky with getting invited to play shows like St. John’s Pub in Arnprior to open up for some pretty notorious acts like Julian Taylor and Jeff Martin (Tea Party). Then a couple months ago, we got an email to play Marvest, and they also said they‘d been keeping an eye on us, and that was pretty cool.”

Justin: “All of this has been giving us the motivation to keep working in the studio. It‘s exciting… from that first song we put together on a whim for Valentine‘s Day, to now our new stuff, which is gonna be so different and colourful. Eric Eggleston is our producer… the way he operates the board, he‘s like a magician. Other than a little bit of percussion he‘s added, it‘s just been Fabien and I on the album.”

The two have blended their styles together to create a wide array of genre-hopping organic sounds. Add to that the fact their music features bilingual lyrics and you’ve got a unique duo that celebrates both their French/English heritage. Fabien talks about the music, while Justin tells us about what’s ahead after the album release:

Fabien: “We’ll always be paying respect to the fact we’re a bilingual act. French is such a nice language to sing in, and adding it means we have so many words we can use now. I’m learning more about French and how their poetry goes… French artists too. We’ve got a couple songs that are bilingual in addition to “Gone”. Some others we’ve set out to achieve a little of that southern sound… I think we both love indie Canadiana music… a mix of country, folk, pop, soul, some homemade hip-hop beats. Music is fundamentally rhythm-based, so it’s a really great thing to add stomp box to certain parts of the song. Because we’re duo, we can fill up the soundscape… people like a beat they can hear.”

Justin: “We’re going to be touring that album immediately after the release. We have already a couple gigs booked for the east coast and we’re pretty certain we’ll be filling up the rest of the tour pretty quickly. We’ve also been talking to a Québec promoter who’s very enthused about getting us in those areas. We’re so excited to be able to touch base in that kind of a network.”

Apt613: “Have you ever thought of adding more instruments?”

Justin: “It’s always been in our hopes to bring in more sounds, whether we remain a duo or not. Cause there are ways, and I think we’re gonna try a couple things, maybe some bass tones, and there may or may not be accordion involved…”

Fabien: (laughing) “Apparently I can play accordion…”

Justin: “But as far as being a duo, we love playing the more intimate rooms and it’s been really working out. I love when you can hear a pin drop.”


Étoile Noire perform two sets on Friday September 15. First at The Papery (850 Bank St) from 7–7:30pm and then at Whole Foods Market (851 Bank St) from 8:15–8:45pm. Visit etoilenoire.ca for more about the band and see cityfolkfestival.com for the complete Marvest series schedule.


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