Montreal

Former Bran Van 3000 singer Stéphane Moraille gets personal with #MeToo-inspired song

"I wanted to be free. I wanted every word to be a reflection of my heart," says Stéphane Moraille of her new English & Creole solo album, Daïva.

Moraille sings about sexual violence on new solo track, Reckoning

"If you're championing other people's truth and you don't find it inside yourself to offer your truth to the world, there's a contradiction in that," says Stéphane Moraille, on singing about her experience with sexual violence. (François Nadeau/Audiogram)

Listening back to her belt-it-out chorus on Drinking in L.A., the 1997 smash hit from Montreal's Bran Van 3000, it may be hard to believe that, 20 years and a law career later, Stéphane Moraille had forgotten what it was like to let her voice soar on stage.

"I had, completely. I was in my lawyer shoes," she said, in an interview on CBC Radio's All in a Weekend. "I mean, I was perfectly happy in my kitchen in Boucherville, singing to my heart's content."

But a phone call from Audiogram, the band's label, brought her back to studio for the first time in years to record a new version of Drinking in L.A. for an anniversary album — and planted the seeds for her new project. 

She already had a lot on her plate as an entertainment lawyer, so if she was going to come out of musical retirement for her first solo album, she was going to do it her way.

It was going to be raw and it was going to be real. 

"I wanted to be free. I wanted every word to be a reflection of my heart," she said.

'A war against my body'

On her album Daïva — Haitian Creole for "diver"— Moraille delves into deep emotional territory while still producing what she calls "feel good, all day, everywhere music."

Expensive speaks of self worth and the Creole track Fanm Vanyan is an ode to the strength of Haitian women. 

But the deepest emotional dive is Reckoning — a powerful anthem against sexual violence co-written with Jim Corcoran, host of CBC Radio's A Propos.

Sitting in a radio studio, mics on and cameras rolling, Moraille hesitated a beat before explaining what the song is about.

"It's about rape."

"I think at one degree or another ... on the surface of the skin or bone deep, almost every woman had to face sexual aggression. It happened to me," she said, quietly.

She doesn't go into detail, but talks about the toll it took emotionally and physically—a ballet dancer at the time, she says she developed anorexia.

"The aggression against me turned into a war against my body, because I had no outlet," she said.

"The whole album was about being raw," says Stéphane Moraille of her first solo album Daïva. (Georges Fok/Audiogram)

That outlet she'd been searching for seemed to fall from the sky when Corcoran approached her with a poem he'd written, inspired by the #MeToo movement. 

"It was such a beautiful movement to see all these women claiming the media space and do what the courts could never do for them," said Moraille. 

"Because if you analyze the history of court cases in rape and sexual aggression, we've failed as a society to protect women."

She decided this was the moment to not just follow from the aisles, but to join the chorus. 

"If you're championing other people's truth and you don't find it inside yourself to offer your truth to the world, there's a contradiction in that," she said.

It's that raw authenticity coupled with the sharp edges of her voice and some infectious dance beats that give the album its power. Yet, Moraille is still uneasy about sharing such an intimate piece of work with the world. 

"I was a fool to do so! Because look, I can't even talk about it now!" she said before laughing, wiping her tears and continuing the conversation.