Since her 2011 debut, Ma petite mam’zelle de chemin, Montreal singer-songwriter Ingrid St-Pierre has been used to telling stories—often unflinchingly honest ones about some of life’s biggest challenges. Her fifth album is a remarkable contrast to its predecessors. “It all started with a desire to say nothing,” she tells Apple Music. “To take a step back, to listen to what was going on around me, and to be silent. At the same time, I felt like talking about something completely different, using another medium.” Produced by her close friend and longtime collaborator Philippe Brault, Ludmilla plunges into the intimate, cinematic world of St-Pierre’s childhood memories. “For me, it’s film music, but a soundtrack for the films of my life,” she says. “They are very specific moments, little postcards I’ve put to music.” Gentle piano, whispers, crackles, the pluck of a banjo. “It’s a lot of silence, breathing, nothingness, emptiness, but which, all together, form a whole.” Here, she talks us through each of the scenes that make up Ludmilla. “Cténophore” “There’s deep melancholy in this track, with a strange side to it. The picture that comes to my mind is a piano sinking slowly into the waters of Lake Témiscouata, where I grew up. I see the piano at the bottom of the lake, which is one of the deepest in Canada, and I imagine everything it contains. A ctenophore, or comb jelly, is a sort of glowing, bottom-dwelling creature, so for me all this conjures up something that’s very gentle: I feel the wave, I feel the water all around me. It’s like letting go of something.” “Ludmilla” “It’s my childhood, growing up in the Lower St. Lawrence. At my grandmother’s, there was this blue room with a bed piled high with rag dolls, including my favorite, a ballerina doll we’d called Lumina. A few months ago, I did some research and came across Ludmilla Chiriaeff, a Russian ballerina who immigrated to Montreal in the ’50s, the founder of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. She was a feminist, a businesswoman, and a very innovative artist in her day. I thought it was nice to have that referent without really knowing it. And the synchronicity in all this: My mother is a painter, and she draws ballerinas—there are too many signs! This album is a dance, the dance of my childhood. It’s a poem, it’s a ballerina, and she’s called Ludmilla.” “Petite chorale” “When I first started singing, it was Gregorian chants in Latin, in churches. I felt like alluding to those years. I’ve always been drawn to it, not so much the ecclesiastical side of it, but more the interior, very meditative aspect, so I wanted to write a short chorale, with only vocals. And I say, ‘Louloulou’ in the song because my grandmother used to call me Loulou. It’s the Loulou who sings in churches.” “Les émerveilleurs” “When I was younger, I often said to myself, ‘I must be such a dull person if I can be amazed by the simplest things!’ I was self-conscious about it. I thought I was too ingenuous. I realized recently that I get it from my mother. She’s been running 10, 15 km a day for more than 10 years, and in winter, early in the morning, she stops in parks and people’s yards, which are still covered in snow, and draws giant hearts. When the city awakens, there are hearts everywhere! So, my mother is an ‘amazer’ [‘émerveilleur’]. After fighting it my whole life, here I am now cultivating it, and I try and pass it on to my children.” “Hát ru cho Namiko ngủ” “It’s a moment I recorded with my phone. My mother-in-law, who’s Vietnamese, was rocking [my daughter] Namiko and singing this nursery rhyme. You can hear her laugh afterwards—you can hear me a bit too—and then I added a few piano notes to this lovely voice memo. It’s a nod to my kids’ childhood, who are fortunate to have two cultures.” “Les matins enluminés” “I’ve not had much physical space to write this past year. The house was always full of children, laughter, crying. One morning, when all was quiet for 10 minutes, I sat down at my piano and composed this song, with echoes of the kids running all over the place. It’s kind of a morning tranquility, a house bathed in light, a very gentle return to calm.” “Dire au revoir” “At first, the song was called ‘Petite fête.’ I pictured a party in slow motion with confetti floating down and people tightly hugging one another. And I realized that the scene, which I’d put to music, was actually a farewell party. There’s something a bit sad about it, but with lots of light; it’s very abstract, but I see a party for someone who’s leaving. Is it a new start in life, a trip? I don’t know. I’ll let people interpret it in their own way.” “Je te collectionne” “I’ve always been a huge collector. Little things, souvenirs—I keep everything. My most beautiful collection is the one I’m inheriting from my son. Words he says to me, wonderful phrases. I also have voice memos, and this here is a moment I recorded as I was tucking him into bed and he whispered to me, ‘I love you, Mommy.’” “Petits fruits” “When I was young, I’d calculate time through berries. When school was out, I knew it was strawberry season. After that came the raspberries, then the ferns, the fiddleheads, the blueberries, the apples, and then it was back to school. Berries are my way of seeing the passage of time. It’s my summer vacations spent picking fruit in thickets, the red-stained fingers; creating imaginary worlds everywhere, beneath the trees, in the forest next to where I lived. At the end of the day, ‘Petits fruits’ is the poem of my childhood.” “Les grands ciels” “My greatest heartbreak since I left home, in the Lower St. Lawrence, is the skies. I have the impression, in Montreal, of wasting skies. When there are those great orange skies back home, or magnificent lemonade skies, my family takes photos and sends them to me, and I say to myself, ‘My god, I miss that!’ I have, like, this fear of missing out on beautiful skies; it’s my FOMO. It’s my song where I feel like going back home, where you can see far into the distance.”

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