A Love Note to Montréal: Celebrating Claire Porter’s Release of solo album À Tantôt!
Article by Nadia
Sipping on a glass of crisp white wine in the Library of the Manoir des Beaux-Arts, I eagerly await Claire Porter's arrival while chatting with a few early birds. We are here tonight with a twin purpose; to take part in the official launch of Claire’s new album À Tantôt! and to wish her bon voyage, given her return to Newfoundland in a matter of weeks.
As we have limited time to chat, I am relieved when Claire finally walks into the room. She sports torn-up black mini-shorts and an attractive smile.
Less than a minute into our interview, I feel as if I have known Claire for years. She is affable in a rare way—a mix of earnestness and youthful drive fused with street-smart wit and grit. She’s easy to talk to, warm, and exudes the type of energy that easily brings people together.
Claire describes her sound as "folky jazz." Light-hearted yet matter-of-fact, she professes that, “This pisses off people in both camps but I’m sticking with it!” Regardless of what others might think, Claire believes that her music is highly approachable.
À Tantôt! album cover from Claire Porter + the Stouts, from Facebook
After nine life-changing years in Montréal, Claire will be returning to her Saint John's roots. “I’m ready for something different” she explains. Her first solo album À Tantôt!—which she composed and produced entirely on her own—is something of a parting nod to Montréal. She describes it as a veritable “love note” to a city that has allowed her to develop in a myriad of ways, adding that its creation has allowed her to “mourn [leaving] in a positive manner.”
Born and raised in Newfoundland, Claire’s musical background is informed by her time in the Newfoundland Symphony Choir and the professional training in Newfoundland folk that she received in her youth. Vocally, she borrows a lot from the likes of Nina Simone and Buffy Sainte-Marie. She recalls receiving a battered, coverless Sainte-Marie songbook from her mother in her childhood. "She brought it back from the 1960s," Claire reminisces with excitement.
In 2011, Claire left Newfoundland to teach English as second language in Venezuela, eventually making her way back to the Great White North where she briefly lived in several different cities. What brought her to Montréal that same year? “Poor impulse control,” she says candidly.
And what has our city given her? “Montréal has made me a better musician,” she replies. “It makes you push yourself to be very, very good as there is are so many people competing for the same space.” In a city replete with endless talent that at once percolates and fuels a staccatoed electricity, developing your craft to the best of your abilities is an imperative.
I ask Claire to describe the local scene in three words. She narrows it down to “Indie pop/rock”, “I’m-a-DJ” and “grit”. When asked to elaborate on the latter, she replies that “true grit” is about having “a lot of fortitude: nothing will stop you.”
“You see weird-ass shit here,” she adds. “Montréal allows for weirdness, to explore the true externality of your personality and creativity.”
Moving our conversation back to À Tantôt!, Claire describes the album as exuding a “cheeky, fun vibe [...] a bisou to Montréal.” Tribute to our fair city notwithstanding, it also appears that romantic experiences—both good and bad—have inspired its genesis. In the downtempo “Gluten,” the experience of crushing on someone is made analogous to a near-lethal intolerance that induces anaphylactic shock. This is expressed in catchy one-liners like, “With your pastas and your cakes / Though they give me the shakes.” The song opens with differently timed, overlapping vocals (all of which are performed by Claire). They are velvety and conjure images of the icing on the dangerous cakes she sings about.
Claire’s vocal delivery is what truly set her apart. Characterized by different tonalities that are sung almost simultaneously, her vocals are many things at once. Soft and smooth; soothing yet piercing. Her emotions are palpable, an example of which can be found in “12 km” in the way she utters, “You know my boots broke, no joke / Lucky that I didn’t bleed.” She has a wicked capacity to near-explosively belt out her emotions but in a highly controlled manner. In contrast, her sentimental singing style in “Gluten” is much lighter and smoother, evoking the jazz crooners of yesteryear.
Our interview concludes with Claire musing about Canada’s music scene. We agree that there’s currently a lot of smart music being made, much of it by women.
From her vantage point, there appears to be much hope for female artists trying to penetrate the industry.
“We’ve moved back our expiry date,” she says, referring to the fact that women can be 30 or 40 or older and still succeed. “There’s more room for us than ever before, it’s important.”
With talent and authenticity of the Porter variant, the future looks bright indeed.