TRUE TALES OF THE ROAD: Michael Rault conquers France

Quick! – the question is fired at Michael Rault – name one big French rock band!

(Montreal doesn’t count.)

Long pause … and nope, he can’t do it. No one can. Why? It is because the French cannot rock, no? Oh, come on, everybody knows. The French and their gentle, gender-sensitive language are better at rendering into music the more romantic sentiments of life. Did not the great Romantic Era in classical music originate in France? Somebody really ought to look this stuff up.

Anyway, the topic comes up because Michael Rault, son of Lionel, has just returned from his SECOND trip playing in France. He performs back in Edmonton at the ARTery tomorrow night (Friday, March 18), playing selections from his new album Ma-Me-O (as in the Pigeon Lake beach). It happens that his manager also manages UK artist Charlie Winston, who is huge in France, and whose drummer Medi took a shine to Rault’s music, so there you go: a foot in the French door. While his record isn’t out in Europe yet, Rault’s ragged brand of feel-good, rhythm-and-blues, retro-garage, too-many-labels-pop-rock music reportedly went over well in Paris. At one of the small club shows, there was even a minor celebrity in the audience – “I can’t remember her name off the top of my head,” Rault says. “She was in Harry Potter, not one of the main characters. So it was cool having a sort-of famous person at one of my shows.”

He goes on, “I think people react pretty strongly to my music there. I’m not sure what the connection is. I’ve heard that French audiences are particularly interested in rock ‘n’ roll. I guess I fit into what they’re interested in.”

Is he worried that the French tend to embrace some offbeat icons of North American culture – like Jerry Lewis or Woody Allen?

Rault laughs, “No, I haven’t thought about it until now. But maybe I should.”

Never mind. There are worse fates than being “Big In France.” The love runs both ways. The magic of Paris has captured the hearts of many Canadian artists – some who loved it so much they ended up moving there, at least as long as they could afford it. A short list includes Feist, Toronto musician-producer Jason Beck (aka Chilly Gonzales) and Edmonton novelist Todd Babiak.

“I would love to live there,” Rault says. “It’s hard to know if I could possibly support myself. It is quite expensive. I really like the vibe. The people are quite friendly even though the stereotype is that if you don’t speak French you’re going to get hated on. But they’re really cool. I did make an effort to speak French, to make a fool out of myself, and I think that inspires sympathy. They thought I was from Britain. When I told them I was Canadian, they’d say, ‘Oh, Montreal?’ ‘No: Edmonton’ – and they didn’t know what I was talking about.”