Corner Brook songwriter pens award-winning tribute to her father
Louise Gauthier wrote Il S'en Va to work through her grief about her father's death
The bond between a daughter and her father was the inspiration behind a song that recently won a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Award.
Louise Gauthier wrote Il S'en Va around the time of her father's death last summer, as a way to process her grief and to honour her dear Papa.
"Those words actually mean 'he is leaving.' So the chorus is about me accepting that he is leaving me," she said. "But he'll always be close to my soul."
Omer Gauthier was nearly 85 years old when he died last July in North Bay, Ont., after an extended period of illness.
Louise started to write the lyrics as she was travelling home to be with him.
King of the family
Having Omer as a father was, she said, like being the daughter of a superstar.
When she was growing up in Corbeil, a small town near North Bay, Gauthier said, her father had a larger-than-life quality about him, like a cowboy in a western.
"You will always be the King of our Family," the obituary read.
Omer loved the outdoors, cutting wood and hunting, and he enjoyed his five trips to Newfoundland to visit Louise after she moved to the province with her family 11 years ago.
She said he never did see a moose in Newfoundland, an animal that is plentiful on the island, and it became a joke in the family — although it might have been a good thing for the moose.
"My dad was a sharpshooter. They called him 'One-Shot Omer.' He always got his moose," she said.
"He was a man with a steady hand, a steady gaze. He was just humble, and really kind."
Le Cowboy dans le film, le hero de western
Atmosphere super cool, cigarette qui brule
Ton silence comme une page qui invite nos pensees
Sans jugement, juste tes yeux, qui soulage sans brisees
— Lyrics from Il S'en Va, by Louise Gauthier
A way to pour out her grief
Gauthier said the first lines of her award-winning song were jotted down in a notebook as she was trying to get connecting flights to get home to be with her father.
She was in airports and on airplanes on her way from Corner Brook to Ontario, and she often felt like crying, but she didn't want to do it in a public place.
Instead, her intense grief about losing her father poured out in words on the page.
"It was just kind of holding those emotions in," she said.
"In the emptiness, you're screaming inside, and nobody can hear you are crying."
Another cut for the album
Gauthier has been working on a full album of original songs in French, collaborating with western Newfoundland musician Lou McDonald.
She said the songwriting has been a painstaking process, in which McDonald writes out the melody that Gauthier has in mind, as she hums or sings for him.
But Gauthier said she figured out the tune for Il S'en Va on the piano herself based on some basic chords she'd learned.
"I played it over and over all the way through the fall, and bawled my eyes out," she said.
"It really soothed me, and helped me connect with my dad, stay connected with him after he passed. I felt like he was in the room with me when I was singing."
Gauthier did not write the song with the intention of putting it on her album, which has a tentative working title of Petit Coeur. But after sharing the song with others, she's been encouraged to include it.
She was delighted to find out in March that the song was a winner in the Senior Music Section of the 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards.
Gauthier has also received a grant from Music NL to continue work on her album of French songs.
As a result of precautions due to COVID-19, Gauthier expects the album's release date will be delayed until at least the fall of 2021.