Music & Fashion with Nicolas Ouellet

We joined Nicolas Ouellet, radio host and DJ, at a café on St. Viateur Street to warm up to top-notch coffee and get down to the source of his projects, interests and inspirations.

Nicolas heads up three nationally-broadcast TV shows and hosts his music podcast Union. He has a ton of projects on the go and is involved in seemingly everything new and hip. Some people tick—Nicolas runs full-throttle. Still, the atmosphere was relaxed as we fired off Q after Q, which he was happy to answer.

V—Tell us about Jusqu’au bout, your new radio show on CBC Radio Canada.

N.O.—It’s a Friday night show, a bit lighter than the usual Friday-night fare on Radio-Canada Premiere. The idea is to kick-start the weekend. Half is all about new Quebec music, choices I make that wouldn’t usually be played anywhere else, and another half of whatever goes! News stuff, interviews with artists—like a big culture jumble.

V—What does music mean to you?

N.O.—Everything! When I think of my UNION and Jusqu’au bout podcsasts, it feels like my life revolves around music.

V—Where does your drive to discover new music come from?

N.O.—There’s no better feeling that discovering your favourite new tune. Nothing equals it. Then you end u with a library so big, each song is a gateway to memories. My friendships are connected to songs or artists. I also love introducing my friends to different artists I think they’ll like. 

V—When was that moment when it clicked for you, when you had to share the music you listen to?

N.O.—My parents didn’t listen to music. Because silence was everywhere in my youth, me and my brother started playing our own music. I sang classically too. The radio started me thinking about sharing music. At 16 or 17 I got my start in radio and music became my way of connecting with people. Doing radio also let me refine my own approach to music.

When I was in the VJ Recherché show on MusiquePlus—that’s when it clicked for me. At that time in my life I was analyzing, I needed to express myself. The people I respect the most are people who can talk about music. But I can’t stand formal music criticism. I don’t care what someone’s opinion is about a song. But I am interested in what people like. From that comes my curatorial work, sharing music and letting people make up their own minds about it.

V—Your music tastes are eclectic, with a lot of different genres. Is that also part of your sartorial outlook?

N.O.—Not really. I’m always dressed in all-black—makes things easier. I wear the same pair of jeans every day. They wear out, I buy another. A hoodie or sweater on top, with something over top. Or I like classy things, like black blazers, a black or white Mao-collar shirt, rolled collars with jewelry. I have a lot of stuff in my wardrobe, but everything has a simple style.   

V—How do you connect with fashion?

N.O.—Fashion is important to me. I notice how people dress, the shoes they wear if I like them. When I buy clothes I want to know if it’ll last, if I’ll wear it again, what will happen when I wash it. Wearing only black or neutral colours means I buy a lot less than I did.

V—Timeless classics, then. Like Vallier?

N.O.—Vallier is rooted in Montreal, in the identity and community of the city. Looking good in urban and country settings, looking classy. We exist in this dual state-of-mind here and are always looking for the right clothes for that reason.

A trench coat for winter, one that’s actually warm? Rarely seen it, and I’ve tried plenty of coats! And made in Canada too, durable, that’s the kind of thing I want to wear.

V—What’s the best concert venue in Montreal?

N.O.—The Ritz PDB. I love the proximity of the stage and the crowd. The artists they book are different than the big venues too. The crowds are really diverse and more respectful of who they’re going to see, maybe because you’re so close to them. The people who are at those shows are early adopters, enthusiasts not there because it’s cool.  

V—Is there one project you’re really proud of?

N.O.—Right now, everything I do, I do it to the max. It’s automatic, and that’s the point of pride for me. Pride is connected to work. I’d have trouble being proud about something that I hadn’t put my energy into. Pride is making something happen from nothing.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do my kind of work not to talk with people. I love being behind the mic, but TV lets me connect with even more people. It’s more direct too—people see how you move, how you dress, how you react. When I get stopped in the street by someone who saw me on TV and recognize me as that person they see on TV, there’s a pride in that too.

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Nicolas wore the Chelsea Wool Coat and the Faroe Half Zip Sweater. Discover both on Vallier, and follow Nicolas’ projects on Instagram.

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