James Leclaire Gets Everyone Singing Along With ‘Are You Ready?’

Manotick-based folk artist James Leclaire released his sixth single “Are You Ready?” from his ambitious and unique project where he is releasing a new song each month for the next three years.

After the shocking end to his 23-year marriage in 2020, Leclaire recorded an astounding 37 songs that encapsulate his heartbreak and journey as he navigated through many new life experiences.

“My sorrowful songs were always written from a fictional place or as a witness to others pain. Now it was my sorrow, my pain, my wound, and it caused my pen to bleed ink and my guitar to cry chords,” says Leclaire.

To assist on the project, the Manotick folk singer-songwriter amassed an all-star team of seasoned musicians that have worked with artists such as Norah Jones, the Doobie Brothers, and Neil Young. The contributors include guitarist Kevin Breit, drummer Ed Toth, guitarist and pianist John Fraser Findlay, harmonicist Mickey Raphael, and many other local musicians.

“Are You Ready” describes all the ups and downs that one will face while chasing the thing that they love. It enforces the idea that good things are always worth fighting for. Am I ready? I sure am.” says Leclaire.

With a chorus highlighted by backing vocals inspired by 80s metal, combined with the grounded folk and alt-country sensibilities of the musicianship and Leclaire’s life experiences, “Are You Ready?” creates an acoustic driven track with melodies that make it impossible to ignore. Leclaire’s gruff vocals add a sense of urgency and emotion that expels his emotional lyrics like a memorable punk sing-along.

Leclaire’s newest work comes after a hiatus that saw him not perform or record new music for over five years. After his life was turned upside down and finding new life experiences and a new relationship, Leclaire had an overflow of inspiration which resulted in kickstarting his return to music.

The first monthly single, “Things That I Said”, was released in August 2023. Each new monthly song has a different surprise and “Are You Ready?” is one that will get audiences singing and moving.

With Change Comes Challenges

Like everyone, James has had his share of challenges. He was an energetic and creative child who was always daydreaming and displaying his imagination through acting and drawing. That of course was challenging for James’ academics. He struggled in school, expect in art class, in which he excelled. His imagination really sparked when, at 16 years old, a friend put a guitar in James’ hands. Right from the start, James didn’t take lessons and didn’t want to learn other people’s songs. He wanted to write his own songs, create his own characters and tell his own stories. Although a happy individual, he enjoyed writing about life’s struggles. James would pull from experiences that he saw happen to people around him. Stories of love, determination, cheating, abuse, and heartache.

“Creating a song from nothing, then performing it with the same passion as the characters you wrote about, and then seeing how those songs touch others, is unbelievably rewarding.”

After barely graduating high school, James’ drawings got him accepted into an Animation program. This was another huge challenge for James; he was one of the weakest. After a laborious two years he completed the course but due to his skill level he was unhireable on a professional level. Another challenge to face, which he did. After working his day job, James worked on his portfolio at night for a year and a half and eventually squeaked into a position at an animation studio, where again he was the weakest. Challenge accepted. James focused and his skills sharpened.

While still passionately writing, recording, and performing his own music, James’ storytelling skills, along with his evolving drawing abilities, lead him to a successful career as a Storyboard Artist. His hard work paid off. From there, in 2007 he ended up co-founding Jam Filled Entertainment, an animation studio that now has 700 employees with offices in Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax.

“Storyboarding has so many similarities to songwriting. The writing, the acting, the timing; all of which kept sharpening my songwriting skills.”

Shortly after the release of his third solo album in 2015, These Weights, James took a long hiatus from recording and performing music for personal reasons…Reasons he now regrets. But in January 2020, James was slammed with the biggest challenge he had ever faced; his 23 year marriage came to a shocking and devastating end. How did James make it through? James dug deep and wrote songs that were from a place he had never been before. He wrote with new eyes, new ears, and new emotions. His songs now became personal as opposed to observational.

“My sorrowful songs were always written from a fictional place or as a witness to others pain. Now it was my sorrow, my pain, my wound, and it caused my pen to bleed ink and my guitar to cry chords.”

That healing process, along with new experiences and eventually a new relationship, caused James’ song writing well to overflow with material that has amounted to a staggering 68 songs.

James headed into the recording studio with and recorded with producer, Phillip Victor Bova. The new recordings boast the talents of guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones), drummer Ed Toth (Doobie Bros), guitarist/pianist John Fraser Findlay (Juno nominee), harmonicist Mickey Raphael (Nelson/Dylan/Young/Stapleton, etc) and other talented local musicians.

The first single, Things That I Said, was released Aug 4th, 2023 followed by a song a month until the well goes dry. But with the down pouring of inspiration he has felt since the 2015 damming, the flood of new material will not reside for a long time.

The next challenge is to have these songs heard.

“Things That I Said is not only my first new single in eight years but it’s also a rebirth and return to doing what I love, the challenge of telling a good story.”

Manotick singer-songwriter James Leclaire plans to release 36 songs in 36 months.

Things That I Said is James Leclaire’s first new single in eight years.