There’s a line of thinking that, to truly live life to its fullest, you need to step out of your comfort zone. Montreal’s Geoffroy has bought into that on multiple fronts.
The singer-songwriter’s sophomore release, 1952, was written on piano and guitar, two instruments that he knows well. But rather than shoot for candlelit coffeehouses or a seat at the beach bar next to Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, Geoffroy pushed himself on the album’s 12 downtempo tracks, layering on neon-bathed synths and chill-wave beats.
It’s his music videos, however, that really make a statement on getting the most out of one’s time on Earth. Ask anyone who’s hooked on travel what they like best about boarding planes for foreign lands, and they’ll tell you the little moments are just as important as the big ones, whether it’s eating feta cheese and olives for breakfast in Turkey, or watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat. The importance of this isn’t lost on Geoffroy. That’s how he ended up communing with a Mexican shaman in the clip for “Sleeping on My Own”, and hanging out with the locals on a Bollywood movie set in “21 Days”.
“I really do try to push the limits—to always reach for the unknown, and to have a sense of curiosity,” he says, reached on his cell at home. “That’s what drives me. I love being home and I love coming back home, but there’s always some new place to discover. It seems like the list is endless, and the time you have on Earth isn’t.”
Tellingly, he suggests that immersing yourself in a country is more important than running around attempting to see everything.
“A genuine beginner’s mistake when you start to travel and get excited by it is that you want to go to every country on the planet,” he says. “But the most important thing to do is spend long enough in a place where you can acclimatize yourself and learn about the people and how they live their lives.”
The finite time we have is something that hangs over 1952. In many ways, the album is about remaining centred in the face of trauma, as Geoffroy himself had to do while his mother battled hard against cancer, which she succumbed to in 2017. Almost half of the record’s songs are inspired by his mother’s fight and the impact it had on him, all of which is evident in “Closer” lyrics like “Lying awake self-medicated/I picture you singing to that ’60s love song” and “Still watching over your son/Still fighting your war.”
“I put my life on hold because I wanted to be at home to devote a lot of time to my mom and my dad,” Geoffroy notes. “After, and even before my mom passed, I was writing for this record, so naturally some of what I had to say was about her fight. I couldn’t really focus on anything else for a long time.”
A relationship of a different kind colours the other half of 1952. Songs like “By the Water” (sample line: “Strong independent woman crying on the bathroom floor”) and “Come Around” (featuring lines like “Let it go, let me walk out in peace”) accurately suggest Geoffroy was also working through some relationship drama. But instead of anger or bitterness, what shines through on 1952 is that he’s above all philosophical. Importantly, the album ends on a celebratory note, with “Fooling Myself” finding the singer repeating, mantralike, “Gotta believe in something/Gotta believe there’s something more.”
“Hard as it is to say, after my mom passed it was a relief because of all the pain and suffering that not only she was going through, but all of us,” Geoffroy says. “Around the same time, I got out of a toxic relationship, and that also comes out on the record. But a big part of 1952 is the fact that I wanted to leave people with a feeling of hope, not a feeling of sadness.”
Geoffroy plays the Fox Cabaret on February 15.