Jean-Michel Blais is a pianist from Montreal, Canada. His enchanting instrumental compositions pair the melodic pop sensibilities of Amélie-era Yann Tiersen and Arts & Crafts alumni Chilly Gonzales with the breathtaking technical skill of classical minimalists like Philip Glass and Erik Satie.
Jean-Michel Blais is a post-classical pianist and composer from Montreal, Canada.
Blais grew up in a rural French Catholic town in Quebec and began tinkering on his family's organ at age 9. By 11, he began writing original compositions and taking piano lessons. A natural talent, by 17 he was invited to the Trois-Rivieres Music Conservatory and began training as a classical pianist. The constraints of formal training began to wear on Blais who started to gravitate towards experimentation and improvisation. He eventually left the school and put aside his musical path. Blais moved to Europe in his mid-20s living in Berlin and spent six months in South America before settling in Montreal where he rediscovered his love for composing and performing, which caught the ear of Toronto-based indie label Arts & Crafts.
Blais’ debut album, Il, was written and recorded in his apartment over two years by improvising every day. It was released on April 8, 2016, and amassed 50 million streams worldwide, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Classical chart in Canada 14 times, earning a Polaris Music Prize long list nomination and a spot on Time Magazine’s top ten albums of 2016.
The following year, Blais performed at the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in collaboration with Grammy-nominated producer CFCF. This spurred a partnership between the two musicians that yielded Cascades, a collaborative EP released on March 15, 2017. The release earned praises for its brave interplay piano and electronics, including by the likes of Pitchfork and BBC Radio 6’s Mary Anne Hobbs.
After a year of touring North America and Europe, Blais began working on his sophomore album, Dans ma main. Now set for release on May 11, 2018. Jean-Michel Blais’ Dans ma main is an expansive album of post-classical piano music with strands of electronic detail.
Blending his classical skill and precise pop sensibility with synthetic accompaniment, Blais creates unique environments where the piano’s intimacy can be subtly disrupted at any time. Dans ma main weaves harmony and tension in a double-helix of acoustic and electronic arpeggiation, tethering techno, industrial, ambient, and new age music to Blais’ solo piano essence.
Fascinated with the cathartic response of audiences worldwide to his pin-drop performances, Blais considers how music has served as a tool of wellness in his own life: from his early career in special education, to his parents’ use of ambient music to soothe the Tourettic symptoms he experienced as a child. On Dans ma main, Jean-Michel calls upon these periods of his life, reimagining a serenity that he previously found only seated at a piano.
Dans ma main rolls like clouds of nostalgic fog blown away on a clear wind, at once recalling and signifying the end of Il, pointing listeners to a new and possibly endless horizon of Blais’ musical imagination.