Discovery: Geneviève Bellemare


When listening to the first single from Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Geneviève Bellemare’s forthcoming album, it’s hard to believe the 23-year-old has remained slightly under the radar. Her catchy pop melodies and smooth production enhance her already soulful, jazz-esque vocals, which could easily maintain a harmonizing life on their own. Following her debut EP Live and Die, which was released almost exactly one year ago, Bellemare is now gearing up to release her debut full-length, Melancholy Fever, on September 18 via Verve Music. Below we’re pleased to premiere the first single, “Shenanigans.”

Although she finds inspiration from Astrud Gilbert, the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, and Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, Bellemare arrived in L.A. after growing up in Vancouver and McMinnville, Oregon, where she listened to the likes of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. She began singing in church choirs at an early age, but soon gave up training her vocal chords in favor of dancing. Upon hearing her mother play Diana Krall around the house, however, she refocused herself and began honing her own unique vocal techniques and tones, slowly gaining enough confidence to consider herself a singer, rather than a dancer.

For the tracks on Melancholy Fever, Bellemare collaborated with others during the writing process for the first time in her life. “I never really thought that was something I was willing to do,” she says. But when given the opportunity to work with producers Mitchell Froom (Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello), Paul O’Duffy (Amy Winehouse), busbee (Ingrid Michaelson), and more, it’s hard to say no. Prior to this single’s release, we spoke with the musician over the phone to learn more.

NAME: Geneviève Bellemare

AGE: 23

BASED: Los Angeles, by way of Vancouver and McMinnville, Oregon

LONG TIME COMING: The album’s been done for almost two years. It took me about a year to make, but I had 30 or something songs, which doesn’t sound like much over 12 months, but yeah… Then everybody—the label and management and stuff—sifted through and picked the album. The idea behind the EP was to give a teaser for the album. I do think if we released it a year or two ago, it would’ve been not the best idea ever. We’ve been waiting for the right time to do it.

WORKING WITH OTHERS: I never co-wrote with people, so I didn’t think that was going to work, but then when I did, everything was really surprising—how your style of writing can change. Each person I worked with was able to pull something different out of me. One producer didn’t have the type of writer’s mentality where he was like, “Okay we have to make a verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus.” He wasn’t as structured as other producers and I like that because it brought something out that maybe appealed to people who like to listen to songs that wouldn’t make it on the radio. Then other producers, like Paul O’Duffy, who did “Shenanigans,” he’s really good disciplining me. He’s like, “No, there has to be a conclusion in a song, there has to be a full feeling.” But then he also doesn’t necessarily make me feel like I’m giving anything up or selling myself out. Working with people was seriously one of the best experiences I’ve had writing music.

CAT GOT HER TONGUE: [Growing up,] my dance teacher was also a vocal teacher, so I went up to her after class one day and said, “Can you give me voice lessons and I’ll watch your cat in exchange?” She went on trips all the time and needed someone to feed the cat. She said, “Okay,” and we started doing voice lessons at her house. To be honest, when I was going to voice lessons I really didn’t give two shits. I wasn’t really listening to her. I wasn’t being a dick, but I wasn’t in there to learn vocal techniques. It was more just that I wanted a place to sing really loudly and make sure that it was something I felt really confident about. I had brothers at my house and they had friends over that were cute; I wasn’t going to sing in my room and be embarrassed. I didn’t tell my mom or anyone in the beginning that I was taking voice lessons because I have this weird thing where I don’t like to tell people I’m trying stuff until I’m like, “Okay, I’m confident, you can know now that I’m doing this.”

HER FIRST TIME: I don’t remember exactly, but I was on my porch when I think I was 14. I had a bottle of wine, which in retrospect is weird, because I see 14 year olds now and I’m like, “Oh my god I was such a child!” [laughs] So I had a bottle of wine and a cigarette, and I was singing a song to myself and then I started recording it on my phone or a recorder or something. After that I went inside and started piecing it together. Over the course of the next few days I put it together. Then I decided I was going to do the Battle of the Bands at my high school, which was really terrifying. So I got this brother and sister together, and this guy Eric Valentine—he stayed with me in my next two bands—and I did “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a cover of “Young Girl,” and the song that I wrote, which has a funny stupid title, “Canadian Ethnicity,” which doesn’t really make sense.

JAZZ AGE: When I moved to Oregon, I stopped singing and started focusing on dance; I was on a dance team. But I happened to hear my mom listening to Diana Krall and I started singing along to it. I remember thinking, “Oh, I think I sound different now. This sounds good to me.” So I started exploring that. In general, jazz [singers], they have so much vocal control, but then at the same time it’s so freestyled. I really like that contrast. It was really interesting to me; I had never listened to it or paid attention to it before.

’90S KID: I grew up listening to Whitney [Houston] and Celine Dion. They spoke to me because it was very big sounding and their voices were very large. Now, a huge influence is Elizabeth Fraser and Cocteau Twins. One of the producers actually showed her to me and I had never heard her. He played Song to the Sirenand I was obsessed from that point on.

JUST LIVING LIFE: To be honest, I’ve been so busy working and living like a normal person in L.A.—not going to studios and stuff—it’s a little difficult for me to have as much motivation to be writing. When I worked at a grocery store, I’d be facing—meaning pushing all the stuff forward so it looks neat—and I’d be singing and writing songs. That’s what I would do while I was there. But when you shift gears and you’re put in a room and have deadlines, it shifted something a little bit; I think now I have to put myself in a mode, and I’ve been so busy that I’m not in that mode. I’m getting really itchy to do that, though. I’m ready to go make another album. I’m ready.