Belle Boussole
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Belle Boussole

New Paltz, New York, United States | INDIE

New Paltz, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Pop R&B

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"BELLE BOUSSOLE—S/T"

If there’s anything that’s true of the Hudson Valley music scene, it’s that it’s impossible to pin down. Long the domain of sleek European cities, the electro-soul sound is alive and well in the music of Belle Boussole.

Belle Boussole’s self-titled debut is a labor of love for married couple Bryan and Nicole McGurn. A tribute to the imported Acid Jazz Bryan heard during six months spent in Hong Kong, Belle Boussole’s lineage can be directly traced back to the work of artists like the Brand New Heavies and Sweetback, with a futuristic electronic sheen.

Dancefloor dramas like “Hearts Went Black” and “Native Island” are what make the album a perfect soundtrack for summer nights both hot and cool, with the former’s pulsating rhythm track and keyboard flourishes as light and refreshing as the best gin & tonic you’ve ever had.

But it’s not all up-tempo disco, either. “Chocolate Cake” so successfully evokes classic soul it’s almost shocking it’s not a cover. “Free Tonight” also brings the BPM and mood down to a level best associated with getting close to someone special. The strength of Belle Boussole’s conviction is that the songs are as strong whether entirely assembled by Bryan McGurn as they are when live drums and bass enter the mix, as on the outstanding “Walk With Me”.

Belle Boussole’s stellar debut is at once familiar and futuristic, no small feat in a world where artists often lean in one direction at the exclusion of the other.

-Crispin Kott - Roll Magazine


"Artist's Corner"

Bryan McGurn ’08 (Music), began playing guitar at age 14
and has been playing in bands and gigging ever since. He also
developed early on an interest in music technology and has
continued to stay on the cutting edge of music production and
engineering. Bryan cut his teeth on the mixing desk while
working at the famous Greene Street Recording Studio in the
90’s on sessions with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Run DMC, Pete
Rock, Doug E. Fresh, and legendary NYC producers John Robie
(New Order, Afrika Bambaataa) and Nicholas Sansano (Public
Enemy, Sonic Youth). Frustrated with the lack of upward
mobility in the studio engineering world, Bryan exploited his
technical savvy and returned to school, earned a degree in
Computer Science, and entered the high-tech corporate world.
During a 6 month stint working in Hong Kong in the mid-90s,
Bryan was exposed to the sound of Acid Jazz. This sound
continues to heavily influence his writing and production style.
Bryan and his wife and musical partner, Nicole McGurn,
moved from the New York City area to the Hudson Valley in
2005 to pursue a less corporate-focused lifestyle, and Bryan
returned to school pursue a degree in Jazz Studies at New Paltz.
With the education in jazz came the ability to write and perform
music in the jazz-infused style that he became so addicted to in
the clubs of Hong Kong. While still attending New Paltz, Bryan
formed a jazzfunk band, Grooveyard. The couple began to write
material together, and Bryan soon realized that Nicole’s ability
to come up with soulful vocal melodies over his jazz- infused
chord progressions was the final piece of the puzzle necessary
to realize the sound he had been looking for. Their newlyreleased
project, Belle Boussole (“Beautiful Compass”). The
result is a ten song collection which showcases Nicole’s soulful
delivery of introspective lyrics against Bryan’s production
and playing. The album is being released on their own indie
record label/publishing entity Wanderlust Sound. For further
information contact Bryan McGurn at bryan@
belleboussole.com - SUNY New Paltz Observer


"Belle Boussole's Top 10 Playlist"

The awesome electric-soul duo Belle Boussole make another Boomboomchik appearance, this time presenting you all with the top 10 songs on their MP3 players right now. Click on the songs to download them on iTunes.

Nicole:

Said And Done – Mary J. Blige
Right As Rain – ADELE
Apologize – One Republic
Me And Mrs. Jones – Michael Bublé
Cosmic Girl – Jamiroquai
Warwick Avenue – Duffy
Human – The Killers
Heart Be Still – Deee-Lite
Destiny – Zero 7
Good Life – Kanye West
Bryan:

Born Under a Bad Sign – Robben Ford
Starchild – Jamiroquai
My Funny Valentine – Big Muff
The Messenger – A New Funky Generation
Djam – Matt Schofield
Never Stop – The Brand New Heavies
Light My Fire – Astrud Gilberto
Writer’s Block – Just Jack
How Do I Let A Good Man Down? – Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
I Can’t Believe It’s Over – Bent - Boom Boom Chik


"Interview with Belle Boussole"

If one had to chart some points in the history of electric-soul duo Belle Boussole, these might stick out: a love of music-making (Bryan), happening upon a music career on accident (Nicole), a marriage (Bryan and Nicole) and a move to New York.

Belle Boussole’s Bryan McGurn and Nicole McGurn came to music through different avenues but their musical compatibility is undeniable; they create soulful and electronic-infused melodies that put them in the same categories as dance pop bands like Jamiroquai, Madison Avenue and Deee-Lite. Though these bands had their heyday in the ’90s, Belle Boussole’s music sounds timely without sacrificing melodies. Today’s dance, pop, and electronic music can hardly be praised for the originality or complexities of their melodies; in fact many acts have stopped writing melodies altogether and settle for “beats” and noises that are cut and pasted.

We recently interviewed Belle Boussole about their musical influences, their backgrounds and the process of making their album:

Radio Morillo: Can each of you briefly describe how you got to where you are musically?
Bryan McGurn: The road has been long and dusty! I’ve been playing guitar in bands since I was a teenager. Being a guitarist I was naturally drawn to the blues and other roots music forms along with all the popular music I was listening to at the time. I always, however, had a parallel music track running which was a love of electronic music. This started with early ’80s electro-pop, and then carried through New Wave, to Industrial, to Rave/House in the early ’90s. In the mid ’90s while living in Hong Kong I was exposed to acid jazz, which to me was the perfect blend of the rootsy, jazzy music which I had explored while learning to play guitar with the club sounds that I had, up to that point, thought of as being quite separate.

Nicole McGurn: I’ve always been a big fan and lover of music, but never thought I’d pursue making music myself. I took piano and saxophone lessons as a kid and sang in the school chorus in 7th and 8th grade, but that was about as serious as I got with music in my young life. I could always sing along with my favorite songs and knew all the words to songs on the radio, but I though everyone could do that. Through Bryan’s encouragement, I sort of discovered my own singing voice and realized I was capable of writing my own songs.

RM: Where are you from? How long have you been in the New York City area?
BB: We both grew up in Morris County, NJ, approximately 50 miles West of Manhattan. Our towns actually bordered one another although we didn’t meet until we started working for the same company after college. We lived in Hoboken, NJ for about 7 years before moving up to New Paltz, NY in the Hudson Valley.

RM: What’s the inspiration behind the name “Belle Boussole”?
BB: Belle Boussole means “beautiful compass” in French. Since a compass is a tool used to find direction, we liked the idea of our music giving us a beautiful direction in life. We also like the way the words sound together…kind of like a play on words even if you don’t know what the words mean, bringing to mind “soul” music.

RM: What are your musical inspirations?
BB: We are inspired to make music by places we’ve traveled, situations we’ve experienced, other music that we’ve listened to, and vibes that we enjoy. Musically, we’re inspired by many musicians and groups: Jamiroquai, The Brand New Heavies, Steely Dan, The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Astrud Gilberto, Chic, Freddy King, Ronny Jordan, Stevie Nicks, Gladys Knight, Sade, etc.

RM: When did you start making music?
Bryan: I’ve been writing music for about as long as I’ve been playing guitar, but hadn’t written anything that I believed in until recently. I think that the reason for this is partially that, a few years ago, I went back to school and completed a Music degree in Jazz Studies. Ever since I became hip to acid jazz while living in Hong Kong I’ve wanted to imitate those sounds both as a guitar player and compositionally as a writer, but didn’t have either the writing or the playing chops to do so. Now I feel that I’ve bridged that gap and can create compositions the way I hear them in my head. Also, writing with Nicole has really been fantastic. She has an incredible ear for melody and phrasing.

Nicole: I wrote my first song just over 2 years ago, it’s called “Hard Rock” and appears as the last song on our album. Bryan had been encouraging me to explore the musical talent he saw in me but that I didn’t really see in myself at the time. So he said I should try to write a song. I sat down at the piano and over the course of a week or so, that song emerged. Then we began collaborating on songs together, Bryan would come up with chord progressions and I’d develop the vocal melodies and harmony parts.

RM: What are your day jobs?
Bryan: Since graduating college I have worked as a software engineer with a few different companies. I left my day job about a year ago, however, to get this album completed, and hopefully use it to start forging a career in music. I attended an Audio Engineering trade school during summers while in college and worked for a while at a recording studio in Soho, NYC. During that time I got to work with some top NYC producers and learned many of the skills which I’ve hopefully employed on the recording of the Belle Boussole album. Apart from pushing this album because we love these songs and want people to hear them, I also hope the album will serve as a portfolio for me find other work in the music industry.

Nicole: I work as a data and reporting analyst for a well known culinary school in New York City. Music is my creative outlet and alternative to cranking out spreadsheets.

RM: What does success in the music industry mean to you?
Bryan: For me, to be successful in the music industry means to be able to sustain a career in music. I want very much to become better at playing, writing, producing, programming, marketing and everything else musical that I do in the process of creating music and trying to share that music with others.

Nicole: Success in music would be to find our audience and connect with them and create songs that capture the sound and vibe that we love…and financially be able to sustain it without having to keep a day job.

RM: Explain the process of making this album. Are you releasing it independently?
Bryan: Yes, the album has been released independently on my label, Wanderlust Sound. We’re using CDBaby for physical distribution of CDs and all the major digital retailers for digital distribution. In terms of writing, the album contains songs that Nicole has written, songs that I’ve written, and songs that we’ve collaborated on. Basically the process is that we flush out the chords and lyrics first, and then I’ll start creating beats, guitar, bass, and synth accompaniment. For those who are nerdy about production tools, I use Propellerhead’s Record/Reason software for everything! We recorded just about everything in our pretty minimal home studio, and mixed right on the laptop. We did send the mixes out to be professionally mastered.

RM: What advice do you have for other independent artists balancing a day job and their musical endeavors?
Bryan: Become a sponge for information. With the new world of Music 2.0, gone are the days of the artists who had major support from labels with regard to getting the music produced, recorded, registered with PROs, marketed, distributed, etc. Indie musicians now need to do all of this and more. It’s easy to become overwhelmed as I do just about every day, but don’t be afraid to ask people who are a few steps ahead of you career-wise for help on EVERYTHING! - Boom Boom Chik


Discography

Belle Boussole, Belle Boussole (self-titled LP)
http://soundcloud.com/belleboussole
Belle Boussole, Firefly Remix (Glasswax Vocal Edit)
http://soundcloud.com/belleboussole/firefly-glasswax-vocal-edit

Photos

Bio

Bryan and Nicole McGurn, the married musical duo Belle Boussole [pronounced bell boo-soul], grew up just a few miles apart in northern New Jersey, but wouldn’t meet until years later when both worked in the corporate world for the same company.
Bryan began playing guitar at age 14 and has been playing in bands and gigging ever since. He also developed an interest early on in music technology and has continued to stay on the cutting edge of music production and engineering.

Bryan cut his teeth on the mixing desk while working at the famous Greene Street Recording Studio in the 90’s on sessions with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Run DMC, Pete Rock, Doug E. Fresh, and legendary NYC producers John Robie (New Order, Afrika Bambaataa) and Nicholas Sansano (Public Enemy, Sonic Youth). Frustrated with the lack of upward mobility in the studio engineering world, Bryan exploited his technical savvy and returned to school, earned a degree in Computer Science, and entered the high-tech corporate world. During a 6 month stint working in Hong Kong in the mid 90s, Bryan was exposed to the sound of Acid Jazz which was being imported into Southeast Asia from it’s red hot epicenter in London. This sound continues to heavily influence his writing and production style.

While Bryan was drawn into music at an early age, Nicole’s story is quite the opposite. Although she always loved music and gained an understanding of the fundamentals through childhood piano and saxophone lessons, she didn’t begin singing seriously and writing until well into her adult life with a little encouragement from her husband.

The couple moved from the New York City area to the Hudson Valley in 2005 to pursue a less corporate-focused lifestyle, and Bryan returned to school once more to pursue a degree in Jazz Studies at SUNY New Paltz. With the education in jazz came the ability to write and perform music in the jazz- infused style that he became so addicted to in the clubs of Hong Kong.

While still attending SUNY, Bryan formed a jazz-funk band, Grooveyard. After a year playing as an instrumental trio, the group wanted to add a singer to the mix. A few failed attempts with local singers finally led to Nicole getting up the nerve to give it a go. Having never sung before in a band, Nicole nailed the audition, and was eagerly brought on board. The band played extensively in the Hudson Valley area in 2007-08, with local DJs and promoters giving high praise to Nicole’s recently tapped vocal talents. The couple began to write material together, and Bryan soon realized that Nicole’s ability to come up with soulful vocal melodies over his jazz- infused chord progressions was the final piece of the puzzle necessary to realize the sound he had been looking for.

The two saw a great opportunity to put Bryan’s production/engineering background together with their songwriting, at which point they had an entire album’s worth of material. They named their duo project Belle Boussole which translates from French as “Beautiful Compass”. The result is a ten song collection which showcases Nicole’s soulful delivery of introspective lyrics against Bryan’s production and playing.

The couple intend this new duo project, and the self-titled album they’ve created, to serve as their compass for the future.

The album is currently available though CDBaby and all major digital retailers.