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Ottawafocus.com Spotlight
Spotlight on... Marie-Josée Houle
By Ren Tomovcik

Marie-Josée Houle

If the winter blues have got you down, there’s nothing like some great music to warm your spirits and inspire your  imagination.  And if inspiration is what you’re longing for, then you need not look (or listen!) any further than the sassy melodies of Ottawa-based songstress Marie-Josée Houle

Marie-Josée Houle This former punk-rocker turned vintage -inspired accordionist has got imagination in spades, a smile that can charm a room, and a sound that will make  your ears perk up!

Classically trained with some serious punk-rock roots, Marie-Josée draws from a mixed bag of musical influences.   She first picked up an accordion at the tender age of five, and experimented with a myriad of other instruments  from the alto sax to the electric bass. 

While spending time playing in experimental bands and rocking out on the  punk scene, Marie-Josée learned to reject labels and embrace her individuality, but little did she know where her  musical journey would take her.  When she first moved to Ottawa, she’d hoped to link up with a heavy metal band, yet Marie-Josée’s destiny had other  things in store for her - and one special instrument. 

She returned to her roots in more ways than one, and  rediscovered her love for the accordion.  But this isn’t your grandpa’s accordion - no, when she takes the stage,  it doesn’t take Marie-Josée very long to prove that the instrument can not only be cool, but sexy as well!

Marie-Josée Houle
Marie-Josée happy behind the keys - Photos by Darren Holmes
 
Describing her current sound as "French café, folksy gypsy jazz," Marie-Josée has a hard time committing to one  particular genre.  She writes in both English and French, and her powerful vocals and passionate lyrics  have earned her well-deserved comparisons to French icon Édith Piaf.  But while her songs are certainly folksy and  thoroughly infused with an oldschool European vibe, there is no doubt that Marie-Josée makes each note her own.  

Marie-Josée HouleDrawing inspiration from her indie-rock background and her life lessons and experiences, her music is heavily  autobiographical.  The stories she tells flow easily between melancholic ballads and upbeat, get-up-and-dance  tracks, making each song feel like a personal conversation.

Marie-Josée released her first solo album, Our Lady of Broken Souls, in spring of 2007. The album met with great  critical acclaim, and she followed it up in 2008 with her sophomore disc, Monsters, which received a nomination for  Best Folk Album of the Year from the Ottawa Xpress. 

2008 was a whirlwind year for Marie-Josée: not only did she  release a new album, she undertook a two-week Canadian tour during the summer, played some shows in Norway, and sat  on the Ontario Arts Council Popular Music Grant Jury. 

(photo by Tracey Kolenchuk )

* Listen to an mp3 of her track Collarbone at the bottom of this article!

What’s next for the red-haired chanteuse?  In March, she’ll travel to Vienna to perform at the 10th Annual Vienna  Accordion Festival alongside other artists from all over the world.  And when she returns to the capital, she’ll be  taking the stage with the Ottawa Chamber Theatre Company in The Mechanicsville Monologues.  The adventure’s just  beginning for this intrepid songstress - from coast to coast and across the sea, Marie-Josée’s on a musical journey  that will surely see her star shine brighter than ever in 2009.   

MORE FROM MARIE-JOSÉE HOULE

Marie-Josée has provided musical accompaniment for local artists and bands, as well as live musical interludes for several dramatic productions.  Her songs have also been featured in independent film productions including Nathan Andersen's My Lucy Charm, which you can view online here. Previously,  Marie-Josée hosted a regular radio program on CKCU, where she interviewed up-and-coming musical artists about their experiences in and out of the studio!

MARIE-JOSÉE ON THE WEB

  • Myspace - Listen to music tracks and check out upcoming events
  • Facebook - Visit and join Marie-Josée's Facebook fan page
  • Uglysocks.com - More about Marie-Josée on her official website!

Marie-Josée Houle UPCOMING LIVE EVENT

Pre-Valentine's Bash!
Marie-Josée Houle with full band

Saturday, February 7th @ Avant-Garde Bar
135 1/2 Besserer - $8 cover


BUY THE ALBUMS

You can purchase Marie-Josée's albums online at CDBaby or digitally through iTunes

You can also find them locally at Ottawa music stores including Compact MusicOttawa Folklore Centre, Sounds Unlikely, End Hits and CD Warehouse.  Or pick up a disc at any of her live shows!

LISTEN RIGHT HERE!

Click on the mini-player to listen to a track from Monsters.

Marie-Josée Houle - Collarbone
 


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