Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

As a radio host on Ici Musique, Nicolas Ouellet shares his visionary taste in music and  inspires his listeners to seek out new musical worlds. We sat down with him to discuss what he’s been up to when he’s not helping others discover their next favourite song. 

The long-time Vallier ambassador has been busier than ever, but still had the chance to share his perspective with us on what his role in society means to him, how he defines his fashion sense, and who influenced him to be where he is today.

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet
  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

A closer look at society

What are your social concerns - and in what ways do you try to address them?

Equality and diversity - since it’s such a part of me. I was adopted, but I still grew up in very whtie surroundings. Most of my friends were white. But even if you have a Quebecois accent, white friends, and benefit from a privileged background, the first thing people see when they look at you is a Black man - and this goes for professional as well as casual situations. 

In my work, I don’t have a lot of control over how the government decides to recognize the importance of this diversity. Recognizing systemic racism, for me, means that I make sure to think about how diversity fits into my radio shows and try to represent it as accurately as possible. 

At the same time, gender equality also plays a role: we live in a society that’s composed of 50% women and 50% men. I always try to keep this in mind when I’m working. But  this world is still also dominated by white people and men, and this power structure is  reflected in all aspects of society - even culture and music.

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

You’re currently hosting the Nouveaux sons show on Ici Musique, at Radio-Canada. You’re a major music expert - so what does music bring to your daily life?

I don’t love the term “music expert” because it implies a certain erudition that I don’t feel I have. I’m simply a huge music fan. I’m always discovering new things, which brings me so much joy. Music is an accompaniment. It’s a catalyst for emotions. When you’re feeling good, you listen to a song that makes you feel better. And when you’re living through a more difficult moment, listening to sad music makes a difference too.  

Music brings people together. Despite my job, I’m quite an introverted person, and music allows me to meet the world. Talking about music creates a direct connection, it’s like another language. When you’re talking about music, it’s possible to have deeper conversations. Music helps me to come out of my shell. 

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet
  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

With Nouveaux sons, you make it possible to hear musical genres that one might not necessarily take the time to discover. How do you determine what music to share? And why is helping people to find these new musical worlds so important to you?

I think it’s important because our next favourite song is always just around the corner. We just don’t know how to find it - and sometimes we don’t even know where to look. That’s why there are still so many people dedicated to seeking out and sharing pieces. Plus, it’s so important to be nourished by new things.

Some studies out there say that after 30 years, you crystallize, you lose the curious parts of yourself, you stop discovering new music. I guess I see my role as something to stimulate peoples’ curiosity and make it easier for them to find something new. In my humble opinion, if you listen to Nouveaux sons, I believe you’ll come across a song that ignites something in you. The idea is, of course, to go into the show with open ears and an open spirit, and discover what moves you.

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

A closer look at fashion

When it comes to clothing, who is your all-time fashion idol?

There are many people out there whose style I appreciate. For example, Frank Ocean and Kanye West.

At the end of day though, I’m inspired by strong images. This week, I saw a photo of French musician Ichon, where he was wearing a large frock coat with a scarf around his neck. I downloaded the photo and told myself that upon the opportunity to dress a little more chic, like for a gala or an event, this is the type of style reference I would share with my stylist. 

I love black clothing and I’ve always been drawn to the monochromatic look. I pay close attention to the cut of clothing, so I’d say I look at garments more in pieces than as a whole.

How would you describe your style?

Very simple. I love black. In my closet, I have three different shirts in four variations. I have black hoodies, jackets, and pants that I love for the way they fit. It’s very simple: my style is somewhere between streetwear and casualwear… I wear what I like. In the end, that’s all my style really comes down to: wearing what I like.

What’s your must-have piece from the Vallier collection?

The Vallier sherpa jacket. I wear it all the time: in the winter, summer, at the chalet, anywhere! And now that fall is here, it’s perfect. Every day before heading to the radio station, I put on my hoodie, my sherpa jacket, and I’m golden!

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

A closer look at the person

Who is your greatest influence? (in your personal as well as professional life)

For my personal life, the answer is easy: my family, my brother in some ways. My brother is five years older than me, and so many of the things I did in my youth, like sports, can be linked back to his presence in my life. Having an older brother, who is quite different from me, has really helped to define myself as a person. My brother was the one who transmitted his love for punk music to me. Since we were always so different from one another, there never seemed to be any competition between us. We were each being evaluated in our own universe. My parents always told me to follow my heart and do what made me happy. Though it’s not the most original advice, it’s something that really stuck with me.

As for my professional life, I have to mention Quebec radio show host Michel Lamarche. He noticed me in a public speaking contest when I was twelve years old, and told me that I could easily work in the communications field. He gave me my first microphones when I was just thirteen or fourteen years old. I don’t think I would be a part of this field in the same way I am today if it wasn’t for him. Of course, I also have other role models, people who have inspired me but who I do not know personally. George Stroumboulopoulos, Zane Lowe (my favourite radio show host ever), and Christinae Charette are all big influences for me.

  • Vallier meets: Nicolas Ouellet

Since last year, your projects have multiplied. What impact have they had on your life, and what do you do to stay balanced?

The truth is, at the moment, I can’t say I have much of a balance going on! I could try to skirt around the question and make myself look good, but to be honest, I’m doing nothing but working right now.

There’s radio, a series I’m working on, and plenty of other things I want to do. There are so many great opportunities at the moment - I never feel like saying no to them when they come my way!

I spent my twenties trying stuff that interested me less in order to familiarize myself with the domain and discover the way I liked doing things. Today, I’m getting so many chances to do what I enjoy. I can’t find reasons to turn them down.

I try to cook every night and regularly keep active with my trainer. The rest of the time, I’m working. This lifestyle unfortunately has some consequences on my relationships with my friends. Things are going well in my love life, since my girlfriend is always just as busy as me. Plus, I make sure to speak to my parents every two days.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I think that I see myself leading a life that is not so different from the one I’m living now.

I am so lucky to have just bought a home in Montreal. I have my friends, a girlfriend, and a great relationship with my family. We are all in the middle of working on really interesting stuff at the moment…

On the more professional end of things, I’m having fun because I have plenty of new projects. I might like my life to be a bit more organized, with a lighter workload, but I don’t really want things to change too much.