Through The Looking Glass: An Underdog Story
In an age where pop culture is saturated by reality TV, bridging the gap between the everyday person and the celebrity, it is more evident than ever that the world loves a good underdog story.
As I spend the second of two afternoons at Mollyz Diner (no the "z" is not a typo) with Halifax singer/songwriter Dean Boudreau, the word 'underdog' immediately springs to mind. Dean doesn't look like your average pop singer. He stands at about average height, well above average weight, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and black hoodie. He’s quiet and a bit reserved. "I've got my flashier days" he says "Sometimes I pretend I’m a rock star, though I'm the farthest thing from it.” His eyes shift down to the table. "I've always felt like an outcast, being gay and the chubby kid and I've let it get in the way of my dreams for a long time."
Those dreams have begun coming true. At 26 years old, Dean released his first album on indie label; Juiced-Up Records this past February.
Dean, now 27 grew up as the younger of two children in Riverton, Nova Scotia. His father worked in a tire factory and performed as lead singer in a country band on the side. "There was always music in my home growing up," he says with a smile, "but Dad was of the mind that if it wasn't country, it wasn't music, so I grew up listening to George Strait and Reba McEntire. Until my parents split I don't think I knew much about pop, but once I got a taste there was no turning back."
At the age of eight, his parents divorced and his father moved out; an event that he sees as something that seriously shaped the person he’s become. “I think that was the first time I tasted pain, like before that time there was a sense of ignorant bliss to the bad things in life and when that security gets taken from you... suddenly you’re eight years old and it feels like you can’t depend on anyone or anything, and what else is a child if not dependent?”
With the nineties came adolescence and the difficult realization that he was different from other guys his age. The club music that defined the nineties provided an escape. "In junior high my friend Shane and I would spend weekends with a CD player and a cassette deck. We had really bad DJ names and we made these cheesy mix tapes. Anyone would have thought we were lame but that was the shit to us, you know? Friday nights we’d be trying to tune in Halifax radio stations to listen to Chris Sheppard’s Pirate Radio or watch Electric Circus on Much Music."
Despite his passion for dance music in his teens, a dance album was never something he saw in the cards though his voice is reminiscent of dance-pop singers like Darren Hayes and George Michael. (both of whom he cites as inspirations.) A previous effort, "Lost In Paradise," contained only two club tracks including hit-worthy "Do You Think of Me" which attracted the interest of Philadelphia based record producer Joey Cole, who churned out several remixes and suggested they work on an LP.
"When Joey proposed we do an album I sort of laughed it off at first. I jumped to the conclusion that making a 'dance' album meant 80 minutes of the same beats and painfully cheesy lyrics but when the reality sank in that a professional was interested in working with me, I started thinking about the potential to challenge other people who had similar ideas about dance music and thought maybe I could do something to negate those stereotypes. That’s what I set out to do."
His mission would not be an easy one however. Several roadblocks sprang up and there were times when it seemed the album wouldn’t happen. “There were some reservations about the openly gay lyrics but my label was supportive and before we finished production we chose a release date and started promoting.”
After announcing the 06/06/06 release date a computer system failure resulted in the loss of much of the unfinished material for Dean’s album and put the project out of commission for nearly six months. “I’ve never been superstitious,” Dean laughs, “but maybe I should be. It was devastating. It was the closest thing to having a miscarriage I could experience as a man. When the label reformed, Joey and I started working on new, much darker material but didn’t really talk about our loss, until one day I brought it up and we both agreed that it would be a shame to let the old material go to waste, so we rebuilt.”
What resulted was a 12-track examination of the anatomy of an intense and failed relationship, exploring love from its playful beginnings to its unfortunate and heartbreaking end. "Love through the Looking Glass" is what he calls an "accidental” concept album, though 10 of the 12 tracks are self-penned. "I was writing an album and falling in love for the first time. The songs came as events transpired. In the end, it was evident we had a complete narrative aside from a few tracks we cut that didn’t work. So, the concept fell into place."
Of the title, (and self-produced artwork) based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice through the Looking Glass” he says; “It is representative of fairytale ideas of love created in popular culture and how you’ll find real life is nothing like that. It’s also about reflecting on the experiences you've been through, only to truly see how they can change us we would need to go beyond the mirror and look within.”
"Love through the Looking Glass" is available now on CD and for digital purchase on iTunes, CDBaby.com and various other online retailers.
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