Song Deconstructed: ‘Lightning Mood’ by Laurent Bourque
The Canadian indie-pop singer-songwriter reveals the collaborative process behind his latest single that emerged on a trip to Paris
Toronto singer-songwriter Laurent Bourque arrived on the scene in 2014 with his debut album, Pieces of Your Past, which won him Canada’s Stingray Rising Star Award and appeared to be the sign of an exciting career in the making. But Laurent decided to rethink his approach to songwriting and, during a lengthy creative ennui, the Canadian was introduced to the idea of co-writing. The result of his more collaborative approach is the forthcoming album, Blue Hour, which is due out in January.
Offering a taste of the new record’s melodic piano-driven pop sound, Laurent has released a series of singles: Matador, Thinking Of You and now Lightning Mood. We asked the songwriter to reveal what inspired the words, sounds and production of his latest track…
Lightning Mood happened very very quickly. It’s rare that a song gets completed in one session or one afternoon for me. At least not in its entirety. I was in Paris for a week or so to write. Some sessions with new collaborators and just some time on my own. As cliched as it is, Paris is a very inspiring place. It’s a playground of a city, there are endless things to see and do. Before my trip, I had asked my publisher to get in touch with some writers that they knew there and I just said yes to everything. This particular session was with a great French DJ/producer named Nico Gueguen. He usually makes electronic music and has collaborated with some great artists like Talib Kweli in the past. Seems like an odd mix, but that’s what excited me about it. We instantly hit it off on our mutual love for things like Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead and we went from there. He came up with a verse piano melody that starts the song off and it all happened very fast from there.
I had no words pre-written before going into the writing session. Usually, I’ll have a few notes, a title, a topic, etc. Something to get me started. But I remember running late that morning and feeling quite homesick for some reason. I took the Métro to the 14th with my head slightly wilting in my hands the whole way. Traveling can do this, even if it’s for a short while. Discovering new places is so exciting but it also always reminds you of what’s great about home. Anyways, I remember thinking a lot about the common human struggle we all go through, which is essentially what the chorus talks about. We all struggle to make every day feel like it belongs to us forever. Like every day has a purpose, a meaning and raison d’etre.
I framed this idea within the context of a love story between a somewhat elusive person and someone who is struggling to keep up. But that’s the main idea: we are all chasing after something that is trying to evade us. It’s a hopeful song though ultimately.
Musically this song felt alien to me, like most songs do on my new album Blue Hour. And the reason for that is they were all written on the piano, which at the time was a completely new instrument for me. I started writing this record at the same time I began to learn to play the instrument. It felt extremely refreshing as all my instincts from the guitar had vanished. I couldn’t guess where I was going to go. My body didn’t have any preconceived moves it wanted to make. The verses linger on two chords and stay very much in a pendulum-like state, swinging back and forth between to notes/chords. This allows for the chorus to feel extra open melody wise. The bridge is probably the oddest part of my entire record. Nico and I wanted it to really open up there, with no extra lyrical idea. We just wanted it to feel like a giant sweeping chord progression. There’s no form, making it the furthest thing away from pop. It then climaxes in a repeating melody before dying out into another chorus.
In The Studio
When I took this song to me producer Dan Ledwell we knew it couldn’t quite live in the same world as the other songs on Blue Hour. This was the most refreshing part about working with Dan. There was no notion of trying to make every song fit in the same box. Which is exactly how I wanted to work. Every song has its own soul and its own DNA. It is this DNA that dictates how it should ultimately sound on the record. A simple example of this is we abandoned the idea of using real drums and opted for using 808 samples (played by Jamie Kronick). Sonically, this was a turn from how some of the other songs were shaping up…but it just felt right. The main piano melodies are also played on this tiny Casio keyboard that you could probably buy for $25. The best sounds are not always the most obvious. Going into the studio with Dan to make this record we had nothing planned production-wise. I was lucky that he wanted to toil away things day in and out. We took our time and it was so worth it.
I’m quite proud of how this song turned out. On a personal level, my goal with making Blue Hour was to get out of my comfort zone. This led me to Paris, and into Nico’s studio, then to Halifax, and into Dan’s studio. The physical movements all played their roll in this song’s creation. The homesickness too, somehow. Comfort is an illusion. Home is just a place.
Lightning Mood is out now and Laurent’s forthcoming album Blue Hour is due January 2020.