The trajectory of Broken Back (the stage name of Jérôme Fagnet) almost feels like the screenplay for a boxing film. It's the story of a young man on a promising career path who experiences physical collapse only to find salvation in music and major success as a result. Broken Back is the turning point in this dreamlike journey. The self-titled first album is filled with twists of fate, resilience and happiness regained.
The Breton artist had already defied expectations with his 2015 EP Dear Misfortune, Mother of Joy. Elegant, effective and illuminated, his work sits somewhere between alternative and pure pop, a hit with the press, radio and festival crowds (Solidays, Francofolies, etc.) that has taken him to some of the most prestigious stages in France (Le Trianon, Café de la Danse).
The result: songs like “Happiest Man on Earth” and “Halcyon Birds” that have brought fans together and gone viral, racking up millions of views. That is quite a turnaround for an artist who, three years earlier, was confined to his bed, his back broken and his morale on the wane.
His story is one of a talented guy, with his head screwed on and with everything to play for in the world of entrepreneurship. Someone who didn't spare himself. By day, he was attending classes at a major business school. At night, he was running his own start-ups. All of a sudden, at twenty-two years old,
his back could take no more. It gave way.
That led to a long period of convalescence.
But restricting himself was not his style. So Jérôme pulled his old classical guitar out of the wardrobe. His music school days were long behind him at this point. As were his years spent playing the tuba, his first instrument. But music was never far away. So he tried out some covers (Bon Iver’s "Skinny Love"), and recorded a few of his own compositions on Logic. And Broken Back was born—the natural heir to artists like Chet Faker and Hozier. The result of a personal crisis turned into a second chance.
"Misfortune fathers tomorrow's happiness", a popular refrain, a nod to Albert Cohen. "The idea is that, in every unfortunate experience, there is an element of collateral happiness. The level of happiness varies according to whether you embrace this concept or not."
This philosophy has become his driving force.
Posting his latest demos to his SoundCloud page and Facebook profile, in a matter of months, Broken Back had built up a buzz on the web. Picked up by influential DJs and blogs (Klingande, Synapson), his unlikely success soon brought Jérôme to a crucial turning point. Should he continue his musical adventure, or return to the world of business at a time when fundraising and "business angels" were knocking on his door?
We know what happened next: back home in Saint-Malo, he spent weeks perfecting songs such as "Mild Blood" and "Young Souls". His self-produced first EP was a thing of beauty. Sunny and catchy, melancholy and haunting, Dear Misfortune, Mother of Joy offers a range of colourful settings that are carried by a voice that comes along maybe once in a lifetime.
Tender, frayed, fragile, but full of desire to sing of happiness regained.
Since then, having shared stages with Synapson, Jain and Milky Chance, the Saint-Malo native has ensconced himself at home to compose his début album, mixed by Skydancers. With a folk edge and house dynamics, artisanal charm and efficiency 2.0, this important and bright record—composed alone—once again juxtaposes genres and styles, effortlessly blending homemade excellence, serenity and strong emotions with an intimate and universal touch.
Just like "Excuses", a meditation on friendship and love. "Halcyon Birds", a pop masterpiece that describes a relationship given a second chance. The diptych of "Better Run" and "Got To Go" that tells the story of a kind man who dreams of being a bad boy, who travels to hell to make a deal with the devil. “Lady Bitterness” is a modern fable where bitterness turns into fascination, then addiction, then poison. Further on, the hit "Happiest Man on Earth" offers multiple interpretations and asks an honest question: "Who is the happiest man in the world?" And "Seven Words", a light-hearted fable where a modern Don Juan falls in love with his mistress. "Young Souls" speaks of longing for the innocence of childhood. And finally "Modern Tale", where infidelity between men and women is called into question.
A world of space, sunshine, vast panoramas and a knowing depiction of ordinary and ephemeral life—this is Broken Back's gift to his generation. Is the current climate all depression and fear of dark days to come? Broken Back soothes the wounds and comforts you, guitar in hand, with a silky beat behind lyrics that speak of hope and joy, bringing blue skies where before there was only grey.