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Alexis Normand intertwines her roots in new bilingual album ‘Mementos’

"I realized I had a lot of insecurities around my own identity and language. This album is a result of all of that. It's the first time I've let myself write in both languages," Normand says.

Many people would agree that speaking two languages is a good thing. Being bilingual can allow for unique experiences and opportunities.

However, sometimes a bilingual person will experience tension between their two languages. Perhaps this sprouts from insecurity with the weaker language, or internal conflicts of identity. For singer and songwriter Alexis Normand, both can be true. The tension between her anglophone and francophone roots has played a role not only in her life, but in her music as well.

Behind the inspiration for Normand’s first bilingual project

Normand attended a small francophone high school in Saskatoon. She grew up learning English and French — her mom’s family is anglophone, while her dad’s is francophone.

“The very first songs I ever wrote were in French,” Normand recalled. “The francophone community in Saskatchewan was really good at nurturing that, and showed me [that] people do this for a living in French in Western Canada.”

For a while, Normand worked on her French music as a solo project. At the same time, she was one-third of Rosie and the Riveters, an anglophone folk-pop trio. The two projects became too much for her to handle.

In 2016, Normand stopped working on her French music. She diverged her focus onto the band, and soon after, the fierce trio took off and made headlines.

“We started touring internationally. We got some really great press coverage from Billboard Magazine,” Normand said. “And then the [COVID-19] pandemic happened. The project dissolved, my schedule opened right up, and I found my guitar in my living room.”

Normand began writing songs in French again. The pandemic allowed her to realize that she had been continuously carrying tension surrounding her French identity. As a result, she became curious about why she was feeling this way — Normand’s thoughts flowed into her music, eventually creating her first bilingual album, Mementos.

“I realized I had a lot of insecurities around my own identity and language. This album is a result of all of that. It’s the first time I’ve let myself write in both languages,” Normand explained.

To give Mementos the personal aspect that it has, Normand made it reflect how she navigates English and French in real life: fluidly.

“Each song has to do with either a moment, a person, or a place,” Normand says

Imagine a bunch of souvenirs scattered on your coffee table. You go through each one, reminiscing on the memories associated with a photo or ticket stub. Listening to Mementos is just like that, Normand said.

“Each song has to do with either a moment, a person, or a place. Or, something important to me that shaped me into the artist I am today,” Normand explained. “Mementos is a Latin word that means souvenir. I felt like it is a good word that both anglophones and francophones could understand.”

Normand listed the contemporary folk album’s many themes, including family, places, insecurities around language and identity, pregnancy loss, breakups, and “lots of love and compassion.” She has shared the album with a few people, and they found it “very touching, moving, and encouraging.”

“It inspired them to reflect more on their own life. It’s also personal insight into how I live as a francophone in this sea of English. What does that look like? What does it mean to me?”

Whether a listener speaks French or not, they can experience how Mementos illustrates the dynamics of bilingualism in a way that sheds light on Normand’s experiences.

Mementos will be released on September 15. Normand begins her fall tour on the same day, and she will be stopping in Edmonton at The Aviary on September 16. Tickets can be bought here.

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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