Here’s an intriguing creative cross-promotion. On June 17, Montreal-based singer/songwriter JF Robitaille will release his third album, Palace Blues, via Sparks Music/Universal in Canada.
On the same day, he will publish his first book, Minor Dedications, out via Sparks Ink and Toronto book publisher Book Thug. This is a collection of his original poetry plus lyrics from both Palace Blues and his acclaimed second album Rival Hearts.
In an interview with FYI, Sparks Music’s Andy Crosbie explains that “the book is shrinkwrapped with a sticker telling you, the consumer, that inside you get the new album in the back of the sleeve. In turn, if you buy the CD in a record store, it is stickered as well, telling the consumer that it contains a free offer to download the book digitally.”
Crosbie notes that the idea of a book had been around for a while. “JF is such an extraordinary lyricist. In Canada I’d place him alongside Leonard Cohen and John K. Samson from The Weakerthans. The guy has such a gift. Over a year ago I asked him if he’d be interested in putting some of his poetry into a book, and then we realized his lyrics are poetry as well.
"We did something different here too. At Sparks we have a division of called Sparks Photographers, representing high-end commercial photographers. I went to 11 of them and gave them just the lyrics, not the music, from the new album, telling them to go out and shoot what we call an artistic response. In the book there is original photography shot in response to the lyrics.”
The book is edited by Suzanne Zelazo, a published poet who is with Coach House Books (she also contributes an eloquent foreword). Crosbie explains that “she is an American, but she grew up in Montreal. Her parents were huge Cohen fans, hence her first name. She’s a very gifted writer and we’re lucky to have her involved.”
Minor Dedications also marks the debut of a new publishing company, Sparks Ink. “This is our first book, but there will be more,” promises Crosbie. “Some may have music elements, others may feature photography.”
The publication of the book opens up performance opportunities for Robitaille. Crosbie cites Leonard Cohen’s occasional recitation of a poem in concert as an example, stressing that “the book now gives JF permission to interact with audiences in that way.”
Summing up the joint projects, Crosbie notes that “there is definitely a marketing angle in this that separates him from the hordes of singer/songwriters in Canada, but above all else, this is truly a celebration of JF’s talent.”
Robitaille has Canadian and UK dates lined up after the release of the CD and book. These are:
June 24 - La Vitrola (Montreal)
June 25 - Bell Jar Cafe (Toronto)
June 26 - Free Times Cafe (Toronto)
July 27 - The Society Club (London, UK)
July 29 - Port Eliot Festival (Port Eliot, UK)