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The Metamorphosis of Laroie 

From hip-hop duo to solo vocal siren, Gab Godon is coming into her own. 

by Michael Rancic

To say Gab Godon has undergone a transformation over the past three years is an understatement. “It was the push I needed to really embrace this new adventure. It got me to figure out this whole other part of myself,” explains the Montréal-based artist, characterizing the end of her longtime musical project Heartstreets and the beginning of her solo pop endeavour as Laroie.

On Tragedy, Laroie’s third EP, metamorphosis and renewal are major themes, prompted by a period of intense introspection in Godon’s life. Though it’s firmly anchored in the contemporary, her music draws on R&B and electronic influences from the late 90s and early 00s, fostering a reflective state of mind with each song. But it’s clear through listening to her music and in speaking with her that Godon looks back not to dwell, but to help chart a path forward.

Heartstreets amounted to over a decade of Godon’s life and her first experiences as a musician. From her home in Montreal, she says thinking about the project stirs a mix of feelings. When Godon and Emma Beko, a longtime friend and collaborator in Heartstreets, decided to go their separate ways creatively in 2020, she says she didn’t know what to do next, and the shock sent her into survival mode. “I was really, really committed to it, and was impressed to see how this independent project got from point A to point B, and all the work behind it,” she says. “Then wow, the carpet under your feet is suddenly not there anymore.”

With a research and creation grant, Godon assembled a songwriting camp, inviting various producers out to a studio to workshop ideas over the course of several weeks. It was through this exercise and deeply creative period that Laroie was born, and that Godon connected with producers Robert Robert, Gene Tellem, and Gab Rei, who have been essential parts of bringing her solo artistic vision to life.  

At first Godon thought the work she developed with Gene Tellem (Jeanne Gariépy) and Gab Rei (Gabriel Reichhold) was too “niche” — so niche in fact that it later spawned its own side project, the deep house, trip hop, and sophisti-pop influenced Secret Witness. So she opted to work with the slicker, more pop-oriented Robert Robert (Arthur Gaumont-Marchand) for her first self-titled EP. “With every song he works on, the catchiness is undeniable,” she says with admiration. Ultimately it was Gariépy’s work on a song Godon was struggling with that solidified her role as Laroie’s “co-director” and primary producer.

“I couldn’t put my finger on what wasn’t working, but something was not working,” she says of the song “Can’t Let Go,” from her second EP, Speed of Life. Gariépy scrapped everything and built the song back up from scratch. “I think she kept the little sample we hear at the beginning of the song,” Godon recalls. “But otherwise, she completely took over the production and made it her own. That’s very Jeanne.” Godon was so taken with the song and the character and moodiness that Gariépy brought to it that she now considers her a kindred spirit, and the two have built an incredible body of work since. “I found my match with Jeanne,” she beams. 

Though she’s truly a solo artist when it comes to Laroie, Godon has no illusions about the fact that her work can only improve through collaboration, whether that’s in the form of songwriting, production, remixes, or how the music is presented through album art or music videos. “Writing and creating can be very lonely,” she says. “[Involving others] keeps the process interesting and gets me out of my comfort zone. You just grow more when you surround yourself with collaborators that you admire.” 

“I’m not gonna make myself smaller for your comfort. This is me, so you take all of me or you don’t take any.”

That artistic growth is apparent both musically and thematically on Tragedy. Across its six songs, the arc of the EP mirrors Godon’s own journey from the uncertainty of the track “Friend or Lover” toward the bold, assertive provocation of “Why Don’t Ya?” “It’s a process I’m still going through,” she says. “To not go through the tragedy of losing myself. I’m not gonna make myself smaller for your comfort. This is me, so you take all of me or you don’t take any.”

Now, reflecting on the path she’s taken, Godon can’t help but exude enthusiasm. “With Speed Of Life, I felt like I was entering this realm, where I was like, ‘Yeah, this is where I want to grow and explore as an artist,’” she says. “Tragedy is just a continuation and confirmation that I’m really where I want to be. This is me realizing I need to show up for myself.”