Photo by Jamie Kronick
Last year, Michael Duguay was about to go on his first Canadian tour in over a decade while he prepared to release his album, “The Winter of Our Discotheque.” When the tour got cancelled due to the pandemic, Duguay dealt with his broken plans through songwriting.
“It was just this weird time,” the Kingston based multi-instrumentalist says. “And so, I think I was trying to make some sense of what was going on and I was feeling quite prolific.”
Shortly after, “Helen of Troy”, “Wild Water,” and “Guns or Butter” were written and, eventually, recorded as a series of live music videos. The three songs, part of Duguay’s Unprecedent EP, were released on March 11, after the “Wild Water” video was premiered at the 2021 Kingston Canadian Film Festival as an official selection.
The decision to make a video series for the songs was one that came organically.
Unsure of where the songs would fit due to their country western style, Duguay started by doing what he loves most about making music: collaborating with other artists.
Duguay reached out to Josh Lyon, a local filmmaker and friend, who filmed the live music sessions in a rustic cabin on Wolfe Island in October 2020. The videos feature Duguay on vocals and guitar, Teilhard Frost on violin, Jason Mercer on bass and Liam Cole on drums.
“When I started working with these players over on Wolfe Island–who are very much traditional music players, they’re folk and bluegrass folks–it really brought those qualities out of [the songs] in an even stronger way,” Duguay says.
Like most of his songs, inspiration came from Duguay’s own experiences. All three songs stemmed from observations he made in different areas of his life in early 2020.
“Helen of Troy,” Duguay explains, came to him after watching the Black Lives Matter movement gain visibility.
“It was inspired by the white, corporate exploitation of political and social movements, including BLM, for social credit and capital gains,” he says.
A striking moment for Duguay was when he saw it happening in person. “I was conscious, when I went to a Black Lives Matter rally…of the amount of white people with cell phones, taking selfies,” he explains. “The song is about me trying to sort of navigate my own relationship to activism, and my own privilege, and the ways in which that I have been raised in a culture of privilege.”
We have to actively work towards decolonizing our mindsets and also accept that that’ll never be perfect, Duguay added. “That’s not something that can be achieved, but something that can always be worked towards.”
“Guns or Butter” was written by Duguay after a conversation he had with friend and photographer, Jamie Kronick, about the support that artists offer one another during the pandemic.
“When everyone was going on the CERB for the first time and, you know, trying to survive as artists, I was just really compelled and moved by the generosity that exists in artists’ circles,” Duguay explains.
That sense of comradery in the industry was present during the recording process for the song as well. Duguay said he looks for other people’s talents to be featured in his music because he cherishes getting to know other artists and their styles.
“Pretty cool things can be achieved when a group of people get together,” he says. “And if the byproduct of that is not only nice recordings but also friendship and just good times, then why not?”
“Wild Water” was inspired by the mainstream use of the word bubble since the beginning of the pandemic and the feeling of isolation that comes with it.
“I was struck by how ‘social bubbles’ served as a cruel metaphor for the ongoing social and emotional division I’ve experienced in my own life, and that which I observed in others,” Duguay says.
For this song, Duguay pulls from the feeling of being separated from one’s origin family and finding one’s chosen family along the way. “It’s about witnessing a family grow from the outside, through the lens of social media, safely in their own ‘social bubble’.”
Beyond this project, Duguay is looking forward to releasing his next record later this year and getting back on tour when he can.
“All I can really hope for is that it finds the ears of enough listeners that when the time comes to responsibly tour again, that there is a demand for me to go to some new places and make some new friends.”
To listen to more of Duguay’s music and to stay updated on his next releases, visit his website.