Name: Ché Aimee Dorval
Location: Vancouver, Canada / Belfast, Northern Ireland
You grew up in a musical family and have been surrounded by music all your life. How did this translate into writing music of your own?
My family inspired me to live life creatively and freely. I was never forced to fit into any sort of cookie cutter mold. I grew up with role models who never stopped pursuing their passions even when things got tough. I grew up expecting the struggle because I saw them slog through it everyday. That said, through it all, they were vibrant, happy and fulfilled. Not a bad experience. Not a bad life. You’ve gotta do something, so it may as well be something that makes your heart sing. Writing music came from being a very shy, insecure and emotional kid. I needed an outlet and a private one at that. Locking myself in my bedroom, working through all my worries and questions, saved me. My family understood that about me and supported me whenever however they could. I’m really very lucky to have them.
Can you remember the first-ever song you wrote?
I’m pretty sure the first-ever full song I wrote was “Lights Out,” which I later included on my 2014 release “Volume 1.” I was maybe 16 or 17 and I was deep in the throws of teenage angst, moody and morose in the way only teenagers can be and writing that song was a bit of a lifeline. It allowed me the focus to deal with whatever I was dealing at the time in a healthy way. After that I was hooked. Songwriting became my go-to when things were confusing or hard.
You have said that you generally don’t set out to write a specific song and that you don’t have a sketch – you just write whatever comes. What do you do when there is nothing? How do you handle writer’s block?
Writer’s block has definitely stopped me in my tracks a few times, but when it does I try not to put too much pressure on myself to get out of it. I take it as a sign that I’m supposed to be focusing on the other parts of my life. I’m not sure how conducive that is to having a thriving career, but it does help me to have a balanced life. Music is everything to me but so are all the other elements of living. That aside, when I do need to get going and write and I’m having a rough time coming up with something, I tend to just fool around with new instruments or VSTs without any directive. I’ve found that if you take away the pressure of having to come up with something and just have fun, things inevitably come out. Songs appear. And when they do, the obsessiveness of songwriting takes over and you end up losing hours to a song’s creation. My advice to anyone who struggles with writer’s block is to play around with new sounds or new musical toys without putting pressure on yourself to come up with anything. Also, don’t give yourself any parameters and don’t box yourself in while playing. Try to be free, experiment and fool around. It doesn’t have to sound like you, it doesn’t have to be anything other than what it ends up being.
When writing, do you record a rough demo or do you try to get as close as possible to the end vision by getting a proper production down for it right away?
I generally try to get as close to an album-ready production as possible, because I have this dream/hope that in the the end I won’t have to rerecord it. With every song I’ve ever written/released, I have always loved the demo version better than the finished product. There’s always a vibe and feeling that I find so hard to recreate. It’s my hope that someday i’ll get to the point where I can produce my own projects and have them sound stunning as they are. I definitely haven’t gotten there yet but I feel like I am on my way. My last release, “Sad Songs For Quarantined Lovers,” was my first attempt at this and though it wasn’t perfect, I managed to create something that I myself listen to every once in a while for pleasure. That’s my dream, I guess. To be able to reach for my own music just for the pleasure of it.
Looking back on all songs you have written up until now, is there one that stands out to you on a personal level? A song that means more than the rest and if so, why?
I have a new song that I wrote right at the start of quarantine called “Sleeping, Stoned” that I feel is one of the best songs I have ever written. I co-wrote it with my now husband Samuel Chadwick. I haven’t released it yet but it’s going on the next album and it’s one of the songs on the setlist for my upcoming livestream in October. Everything about it is perfection to me. Diego Tejeida played some synth/keys on it which added such a mood. The song was written at a huge turning point in my life. Lyrically, It was both an apology and an explanation. It was a beginning and an ending, all wrapped up into one song. I think that song will always be one of the most meaningful to me.
Aside from the music you create under your own name, you’re also part of Casualties of Cool together with Devin Townsend. What have you learned from this experience?
Casualties helped me to grow up as a musician. Up to the point I was just a girl writing songs and afterwards I started to see myself as a true songwriter and musician. I also started to pay more attention to the business side of things which I’d always shied away from in the past. Working with Dev showed me that you could unapologetically be yourself, write the songs you wanted to write, and not have to be molded into something that you weren’t in order to be successful. You could steer your own career and narrative. I’m too much of a control freak to give up the creative reigns to a label or manager. I will never feel comfortable acting as something that I’m not, both musically and personally, so seeing that you could be your true genuinely quirky self and still have some sort of a career inspired me to keep going.
Working with Devin was the first time you ever co-wrote with someone. What was that like? Are you generally in favor of collaborating in the creative process or do you prefer to write solo?
I absolutely love writing with certain people. Adding another element or perspective to the song allows me to be a bit less precious about everything. I tend to get in my own way sometimes when it’s just me sitting there alone with my thoughts. Writing with Dev was perfect. We are both very sure of what we want to do and how we want to do it and we feel no urge to direct the other person. I think that’s key for me. Working with Dev on Casualties was complete freedom. Most of the time he would hand me a sketch and say, “do whatever you want” and we’d go from there. We work best like that. I should also say that writing remotely is the only way for me. I envy those who can sit in writers rooms with other people and get their creative thoughts out but sadly, I’ve found that I’m not capable of that. I need time and space to come up with whatever I come up with. I have a hard time speaking up with others, so that degree of separation is necessary. It was the same with Bob Rock. He trusted that I would come up with something cool and gave me the space, time and freedom to do it. Writing with Bob was amazing.
Speaking of Bob, you’re currently working with him on material for a new project. How did you connect and how does this collaboration work? How is this different from what you’ve done before?
Connecting with Bob was a complete fluke. We met through our mutual friend Mattias Eklund who was tracking drums with Bob at the Warehouse Studios in Vancouver. I stopped by to take Mattias out for dinner and he introduced us and I guess when I left, Mattias showed Bob some of my stuff. A few days later I got an email from Bob asking if I wanted to write on a couple song ideas he had floating around, to which I very enthusiastically replied YES. And we went from there! Over the years we’ve gotten to know each other and write a bunch more together. He’s a beautiful person. And obviously amazingly talented. He reminds me of Dev in a lot of ways. He’s laid back, supportive, honest and kind and I’ve learned so much from him about songwriting and production. Our music together has more energy than my own stuff. And more power vocally. It’s a really nice change. These days I’m a lot happier as a person, and the music coming out of me reflects that so our songs tend to be a bit more vibrant. Not to mention they sound absolutely stunning because, well, Bob.
Finally, what’s next on your agenda?
There’s a lot coming up. A lot. Right before the pandemic hit I was gearing up for some solo tours, a new album release and a whole slew of other things, but then the world was put on hold which was very frustrating and heartbreaking. I felt I was finally, after all these years, hitting my stride and to have that fall through when it did really messed with my heart. So anyways, fast forward a year and a half, I’m picking up the pieces and getting back to it! In the next couple months I have a few livestreams coming out on the Sidedoor platform in October. I’ll be finishing up my album in November/December with plans to release it spring 2022. I’m working on a bunch of tours to support its release. There’s a duet with the late Gord Downie coming out in February. It’s absolutely beautiful. Things are good and things are moving. Covid was terribly frustrating, but hopefully the world is on track to move on, fingers crossed, because I’m definitely on track to get moving.
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