Rêve on her 'love affair' with dance music, and musical love letter to Montreal

Rêve on her ‘love affair’ with dance music, and musical love letter to Montreal

Rêve is reliving her Cinderella moment.

The Montreal musician, 28, garnered both her first Juno nomination and first win at last year’s awards ceremony, after the stellar online success of her single CTRL + ALT + DEL. Less than a year later, she’s headed back, this time to Halifax for the March 24 event. Her debut album, Saturn Return, nabbed a nomination for pop album of the year, putting her up against nominee front-runner — and fellow Quebecer — Charlotte Cardin, as well as Lauren Spencer Smith and country legend Shania Twain.

CBC News sat down with Rêve to talk about what this return means, how she found her love of dance music — and where she learned to make a hit track.

Your music is defined by its huge, dance-pop style, but you got your start in piano, trumpet, flute — basically high school band music. Where did your current sound come from?

So my instrument of choice, since I was a baby, was piano. I used to drag my Fisher-Price xylophone up to the upright in my house and match the notes, and I just fell in love with it. When I started figuring out chords for the first time, I would accompany myself singing, and I’ve never stopped.

I have played my fair share of flute in high school, but I was so bad. I used to sing into my flute for exams, and I fully thought that my music teacher wouldn’t notice.

WATCH | Rêve talks collaborating with Talk, Nelly Furtado and Connor Price:

Rêve talks which of her Juno co-nominees she’d collaborate with

Rêve talks about collaborating with some of her fellow Juno nominees, and what kind of songs they’d make.

Did he?

Absolutely. Immediately called out [laughs]. So piano was my thing — I’ve dabbled in guitar, but piano is still my one true love.

So what drew you from piano and band music to the dancey tracks on your debut album?

Actually it’s one of my favourite Montreal stories. I’ve been a music lover since I could speak, but I went out one night in Montreal to this club called Velvet. I had been to arena shows before, but I’d never seen a DJ before.

We went into this place, and it’s in the basement of an auberge — like a very old hotel in the Old Port — and you walk in and there’s, like, taxidermy and stone walls and candles.

Then the DJ goes on, and I felt something that I’d never felt before. It was just like this unity in the room, this transcendent feeling, this euphoric feeling. And it wasn’t quite like anything I’d ever experienced. I was hooked right away. I fell in love with dance around 17, 18 years old, and I’ve had a love affair ever since.

Last year you took home dance recording of the year, while your friend, Preston Pablo, won breakthrough artist, and Banx & Ranx — who helped produce both your albums — won breakthrough group. Are you all still making music together?

Absolutely. I mean, Preston is like a brother to me. We started our major label journey around the same time, around the same people — Banx & Ranx being the glue. And Banx & Ranx and I —  they are like family to me, they’re my favourite collaborators. They still play a huge part — obviously they played a huge part in the album, but in the upcoming music as well, and we’re as close as ever.

WATCH | Rêve wins dance recording of the year at the 2023 Juno Awards:

Rêve wins dance recording of the year | 2023 Juno Awards

Rêve wins dance recording of the year at the 2023 Juno Opening Night Awards

Your engineer, Joel Stouffer, is also nominated at the Junos for his work on your album. Did all of you have a celebration together?

Yes, we had a cute little moment during the nomination announcement the other day, and I just love Joel so much. He was one of the first producers I’d ever met when I started coming to Toronto to work on some of my first records, like six years ago. And he worked on [my single] Whitney, which saw probably 25 versions of production. He stuck it through, and we saw it through to the end. So it’s so nice to be able to be recognized for that record together.

You talk and communicate with your fans a lot on TikTok. But as an artist signed with Universal Music, your music has now been removed from the app. What is that like for you? How has that changed how you engage with fans and as an artist?

I mean, there’s other ways of communicating with fans, of course. It’s something that we’re all feeling, but we’re focused on the next chapter, which is the upcoming tour, upcoming music.

Is it something that you’re struggling with, that you’re worried about not having your music on there?

I think it’s a great opportunity to get creative. I think that we’re obviously looking forward to resolution, but I think that it is a challenge, and I look forward to the creative challenge of finding other ways to just kind of navigate this time.

You won dance recording of the year last year and are back now for a pop album nomination for Saturn Return. Do you see yourself as a pop star?

I feel more secure in myself and my artistry than ever, and just to be recognized for my debut album, I put so much into it. It’s a love letter to dance. A love letter to pop, a love letter to the city that I’m from, Montreal. And to be recognized this year for an entire body of work, it’s just so special.

What has it been like for your family to see you get to such heights?

It’s been so great. They’ve always been so supportive. Like, I grew up, like I said, in a very musical household. I think that at first when your kid says, ‘I wanna quit school to run away and become a rock star,’ it’s kind of a parent’s worst nightmare.

But now that they’ve, you know, been able to be at the Junos and see everything that’s happening and hear the songs on the radio — they’ve always been supportive, but now I think that they kind of get it and feel a little bit more at ease.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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