Childhood and Education
Bélanger comes from a modest background. His mother played the piano, his father the guitar and violin, and family celebrations were filled with music. Bélanger himself plays many instruments, which he began teaching himself at a tender age. Early on, he showed a preference for artists who performed in French, such as Jacques Brel, Robert Charlebois and Charlélie Couture.
At age 21, Bélanger formed the band Humphrey Salade, which performed at a few venues in Montréal. In 1986, as a solo artist, he competed in the Rock Envol contest, sponsored by CBC/Radio-Canada at Montréal’s Club Soda, and scored a second-place finish.
In 1989, Bélanger received funding that let him record his first album, Les insomniaques s’amusent, and work with renowned Québec guitarist and arranger Rick Haworth to fine-tune it before its June 1992 release. The music video for “Opium,”the first single from this album and a truly meticulous masterpiece, wowed audiences of all ages and earned Bélanger a Félix Award at ADISQ’s annual awards ceremony. Les insomniaques s’amusent quickly went platinum, selling over 175,000 copies (see Music Canada). Thanks to “Opium” and other great songs such as “Ensorcelée,” “La folie en quatre” and “Sèche tes pleurs,” the album also earned Bélanger the Félix for Pop/Rock Album of the year in 1993 and four more Félix awards in 1994: Male Performer of the Year, Bestselling Album of the Year, Show of the Year (Singer-Songwriter), and Music Video of the Year.
Bélanger then went to France to perform at the Francofolies in La Rochelle. He returned to Québec with a prestigious award from SACEM, the French professional association of songwriters, composers and music publishers.
Bélanger worked on his second album, Quatre saisons dans le désordre, for three years. A few months after its release in 1996, this album too went platinum. Four songs from the album — “Les deux printemps,” “Les temps fous,” “Sortez-moi de moi” and “Je fais de moi un homme” — received heavy airplay on francophone radio stations. Bélanger won two Félix Awards for this album: Pop/Rock Album of the Year and Songwriter or Composer of the Year.
In February 1998, Bélanger made a solo tour of Québec, entitled Seul dans l’espace [alone in space]. Throughout this road trip, he made weekly blog posts on the Internet, further cementing his ties with his audience. In 1999, he released the triple album Tricycle, an anthology of live recordings from three tours: Les insomniaques s’amusent, Quatre saisons dans le désordre and Seul dans l’espace.
Bélanger composed the title song for the film Le dernier souffle, by Robert Ciupka, which was released in 1999 and earned Bélanger a nomination for the Genie Award for Best Original Song in 2000. In 2006, he won the Jutra Award for Best Music for the song that he produced for the soundtrack of the film L’audition byLuc Picard.
Venturing into literature, Bélanger founded the publishing house Coronet Liv in 1996. In 2000, the firm published Erreur d’impression, his collection of 150 short stories that was enthusiastically received by his fans. He also performed in some notable shows, appearing with Michel Rivard and Jean-Pierre Ferland at the opening of the 12th FrancoFolies de Montréal and with bassist Marc Déry and percussionist Mino Cinelu in the travelling show FrancoFolies sur la route, presented at 10 different cities in Québec with a different guest artist at each.
In October 2001, the singer-songwriter released his fourth album, Rêver mieux, in which he explored a more rhythmic musical terrain. In this work, the listener senses all the depth of the artist’s quest to lend new sounds and colours to his music and to his very genuine lyrics. This album was yet another hit for Bélanger. In 2002, he garnered no fewer than seven Félix Awards (four in the Artist category and three in the Industry category), and in 2003, he received several other awards, including the Juno for Francophone Album of the Year.
In late fall 2003, Bélanger surprised his fans with Déflaboxe, a concept album of electronic music. He did it again in April 2007 with L’échec du matériel, in which his songs convey a rather dark vision of the world, addressing environmental issues and other concerns, such as the depersonalization of the individual. This album earned him the 2007 Felix Award for Lyricist or Composer of the Year. In November 2008, he released Joli chaos, a double album comprising his most popular songs and 10 new ones. In summer 2009, he went on tour.
Music for the Theatre
Bélanger has been involved in many other projects. In 2009, he collaborated with theatrical director René Richard Cyr on a musical adaptation of the play Les Belles-sœurs by Michel Tremblay. In composing songs for this show, Bélanger was inspired by the Motown style of the 1960s, seeing a similarity between the blues as felt by African-Americans and the somewhat different but quite palpable pain felt by the characters in Tremblay’s play. This new musical began its run at Montréal’s Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in March 2010 and later toured both Québec and France, garnering countless plaudits along the way.
Also in 2009, Bélanger created the music for Paradis perdu, an ecological musical co-produced by Dominic Champagne and Jean Lemire. That same year, Bélanger put out a new album entitled Nous, co-produced with bassist JF Lemieux — Bélanger’s deepest venture into soul, rhythm ’n blues and even funk. The album took the 2010 Félix Award for Pop/Rock Album of the Year.
After writing the “song-novel” Auto-stop, published by Les Allusifs in 2011, Bélanger worked on another project with Michel Tremblay and René Richard Cyr, writing the music for the play Le chant de Sainte Carmen de la Main.
A Detour into Country
In 2013, Bélanger surprised his fans yet again, this time with an album of rockabilly music, a combination of country music and rock ‘n’ roll. This project began when a piece of music that he remembered his father listening to came floating into his head. He then immersed himself in the world of country music and was inspired to write several more songs in the rockabilly genre. Some of the songs on the resulting album, Chic de ville, were recorded at the famous Blackbird Studio in Nashville. The strings on Chic de ville were arranged and conducted by well-known US arranger/composer Carl Marsh, who has worked with other major Canadian artists such as Jim Corcoran, Diane Tell and Shania Twain, as well as with Cirque du Soleil. The musicians on Chic de ville included Ben Caissie on drums, Richard Gélineau and Eddy Blake on bass, Alex McMahon on piano, and Guillaume Ozoux and Noël Thibault on guitars, all of whom lent their charm and character to this masterpiece.
In July 2014, Daniel Bélanger received the Miroir de la Renommée award from the Festival d’été de Québec for his exceptional, original contribution to francophone culture. For Bélanger, writing and singing his songs in French has been a fundamental expression of his social commitment.
In November 2016, the singer-songwriter released Paloma, a brand-new album recorded in both Los Angeles and Montreal. A critical success, the album received eight nominations at the 2017 ADISQ Awards. It went on to win the Félix Awards for Pop Album of the Year, Show of the Year (Singer-Songwriter) and Sound Artist of the Year. For the second time in his career, Bélanger received the Juno Award for Francophone Album of the Year in 2018. Québec audiences have thus enjoyed the artistic talents of a poet and an ingenious, innovative musician who is true to his roots.