Born and raised on the east coast of Canada, the multi-talented Denique LeBlanc started step dancing when he was seven years old and moved on to the fiddle at the age of ten. At 16, he became obsessed with a few female singers who, in his words: ”changed my views on what singing really was.“
He’s been around the world, he’s opened up for RuPaul along with his ex-gay male jazz quartet called “Velvet” – but now he’s focusing on his solo music career and film making. During his travels around the world, he had one ultimate goal: To end up in Scandinavia and promote himself there.
And now he’s in Iceland…
…well, he was here but he’s currently back in Canada, waiting for his Icelandic work visa. We caught him on a train in Montreal, where he was more than happy to chat and kill some time.
Halla: ”Describe yourself as you would to … Hillary Clinton.“
Denique LeBlanc: ”I would say: “H-dog, my name is Denique and I am the pop star you haven’t heard of yet.”
I was born into a family that loved to travel and because of this, I was able to live in multiple cities and quickly learned the value of leaving your comfort zone. I am actually Scandinavian at heart, although my passport disagrees, and have been obsessed with Nordic countries for as long as I can remember.
In music, I’m a one-man team and like to experiment with all facets of creation, from the writing of my music, to sound engineering, to videography, to the promotion, etc. … I don’t want to box myself in as “just a singer” or “just a video editor”. I want to do it all. I think there are many advantages to seeing the industry from all sides of the spectrum both in front of the lens and behind it. Why not acquire new skills along the way? Oh, and I can cook a mean grilled cheese.“
H: ”That’s Hillarious.
But tell me… why would anyone be obsessed with the Northern countries?“
Denique: ”When I first moved to Iceland, that was the exact reaction I always received: “Why would you ever move here?” Having lived in the North American culture for 20-something years, I was able to see the differences in both places on so many levels. I don’t think one is better than the other, as I love Canada and everything it has provided me. However, if we look specifically into the arts world, I would argue that Nordic countries put more value into creativity and treat their artists with more respect, encouraging them to push their passions into stable careers. Whereas, Canada offers a massive range of talent, but often doesn’t value the hard work that thousands of artists are putting into their art every single day.
Also I’ve always been fascinated by the relaxed, chilled out nature of the Nordic countries. In North America, we stress out. We’re always stressed; school, family, finances, traffic, relationships. Perhaps you Scandinavian folks hide it well, but at least in Reykjavik, everything feels much more calm. People never lose their minds over the tiny things.“
”In music, I’m a one-man team and like to experiment with all facets of creation […] I don’t want to box myself in as “just a singer” or “just a video editor”.“
H: ”Interesting. But, speaking of which, we love your music! Your creative work seems to be a simultaneous stream of video and music making, as you produce your own videos. Do you consider those processes to be one and the same, in a way?“
Denique: ”Thanks for checking it out! It’s still so weird that people are actually paying attention to my homemade videos, which is so cool. I do record and edit all my own videos, sometimes with the help of my oh-so-patient friends. Since I was 13, I was really passionate about photography but four years ago, I began filming random things. At the time, I had no idea what it would eventually become.
Over time, I collected a ton of footage that sat in my computer. Finally, I thought: “Hey, why don’t I try to make a music video”. And bam, that was the moment where everything changed.“
Denique: ”Yeah, I also don’t write music in a traditional way. I can’t just sit down and write a song, or sit in a group and force a song to happen. I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll see an object or anything, and ta-da! It’s a song. When I wrote “Electrical Wires”, I remember seeing a pile of wires in my dads garage and that was it. I could instantly hear the melody in my head, so I ran to my computer, transcribed the lyrics from my head and voila, the track was born!“
H: ”So you’re practically always working. Seeking inspiration everywhere. Do you feel you get different inspiration in Iceland?“
Denique: ”From a visual standpoint, of course. Iceland is world-renowned to be one of the most bizarre and stunning places on the globe. I would definitely agree with that. I remember driving to Akureyri and thinking “Jónsi, Björk, Sóley… it all makes sense now.”
I think no matter where you travel to, you’ll always be inspired. When you step into a new place, your brain has to work extra hard to process what’s happening, so naturally you’ll see things from a new perspective. This being said, Iceland feels strangely familiar and 100% comfortable. It’s as if I’ve been from there forever, lived in Reykjavik in a past life and worked at Rúmfatalagerinn since the beginning!“ (Laughs)
H: ”You should definitely try to get a job at Rúmfatalagerinn. (Laughs) But let’s cut to the chase now, tell me about you and RuPaul!“
”Finally, the day before the show, our manager called us saying: “So, yeah, you’re opening for RuPaul!”.“
Denique: (Laughs) ”Yes! When I moved to Melbourne at 18, I had no idea what the fuck I was getting myself into. It was terrifying. I scrapped my University plans, hopped on a plane and never looked back.
Upon moving Down Under, I lived in a share home with 21 different people from all over the world, and began networking to make my music goals happen.
I think the day I found out I had bedbugs was the same day I got called to be part of a men’s vocal jazz group called “Velvet”. At the first rehearsal, there was me and three Australians. Such lovely men, all young aspiring performers. We instantly bonded, sang everything from Etta James, to Motown, to Adele. It was so amazing.
Finally with RuPaul, I heard he was coming to town and Nick Len, my fellow Velveteer, and I were thinking “we need tickets!”. Finally, the day before the show, our manager called us saying: “So, yeah, you’re opening for RuPaul!”.“
H: ”With a day’s notice!“
Denique: ”I know, right! It was such a surreal moment in my career, as it proved that anything was possible. What are the chances I’d move to Australia at 18, become friends with thousands of bedbugs, get into a fab jazz quartet and open for RuPaul?
My visa eventually expired, which was a hard pill to swallow, but I love those boys and still keep in touch with them every now and then. I think our friendship will be forever, I mean, we’ll always be Velveteers at heart.“
H: ”Denique, I heard you had a dream to do Eurovision! Are you planning on applying for the ESC 2016? 2017?“
Denique: ”I am! (Laughs) For Eurovision, I want to do something like this.
This is just a small example of what I will do… singing, dancing, and fiddling, the whole shabang!
”I want to win Eurovision for Iceland. I want to release a larger body of work. […] Run into a field of arctic terns with Jónsi and scream. […] and take selfies with Páll Óskar.“
H: ”We’ll see what happens! So tell us… what does the future look like in the world of Denique?“
Denique: “You know, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock for way too long. I’ve been so territorial over my work, so adamant about doing it all on my own. While this approach helped me to develop my artistic intuition, I want to let people in. I’m craving new perspectives. I want to work with as many passionate artists as possible and create magic. Short term, you can expect new homemade videos, new tracks and most importantly, more live shows (with mermaid ears, hehe). I spent four years crafting this project and I’m in the final stages of bringing this online world to the stage! S’about time, eh?
Long term, I have so many goals. I want to win Eurovision for Iceland. I want to release a larger body of work. Perform at Pride celebrations all over Europe. Sing on the Ellen Show. Sign onto a label like XL. Run into a field of arctic terns with Jónsi and scream. Play live at Harpa. Wear a matching glitter onesie and take selfies with Páll Óskar. Pick up a few Juno Awards and maybe get an e-mail from Björk that says “A, E, I, O, U…”?
I’ll never limit myself to the possibilities of the universe. I’m a singer, a writer, a film-maker, a fiddler, a dancer, a runner, a professional grilled cheese maker… I don’t have to pick and choose. Besides, success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion; ya gotta set yourself on fire.“
Denique recently launched his first Icelandic music video: “Vegvísir” . You can watch it and all his other videos at DENIQUE.CA!