Published Nov 07, 2018There are all sorts of reasons why musicians take on their stage names.
Bob Dylan wanted to create a whole new persona, and the name Robert Zimmerman just didn't fit. Donald Glover ran his name through a Wu-Tang Clan name generator and became Childish Gambino. Vincent Damon Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper so he could keep using the name of his former band. Mostly, artists do it because it sounds more show business-y than the name their parents gave them.
Elliot Maginot took his name because he wanted to actually be someone else entirely.
Known to friends and family as Gabriel Hélie-Harvey, the Montreal singer-songwriter emerged from his teen years in punk bands with a privately honed aptitude for the craft of melody and structure, but took some persuading to do anything with his demos. What that meant was inventing a side of himself that wasn't afraid to sing to a crowd.
"I never thought I would ever dare to walk on a stage and play my songs," Maginot tells Exclaim! "Gabriel would never actually do that. I knew when I started that it was just impossible to do it under my real name. I'm a pretty shy, introverted guy, so I needed someone to walk on that stage for me. So I created him."
As it turns out, he's quite the talent. Naming Nick Drake, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Sigur Rós and the War on Drugs among his influences, Maginot has emerged as a gifted songwriter who styles himself on layered, almost orchestral arrangements, using an array of tools and instruments or, in many cases, just his voice. His second album, Comrades, came out November 2.
The record follows his 2014 debut Young/Old/Everything.in.Between, and finds him both expanding his musical purview and looking inward to understand his own identity.
"[Comrades] is about how difficult it is to be this unique person, and to try to figure out who you are and where you belong in these very complicated relationships," he explains. "It's about how it's very hard to navigate that, and to keep a closeness and a distance at the same time. It's about figuring out where you belong, and at the same time those you need to let go, things you need to work on, what's worth giving a second try. I think it's a very universal thing."
In the weeks before Comrades was released, Maginot shared the music video for "Common Place," which depicts a movie director who harasses and abuses the actresses on set, while Maginot's character watches silently.
It's a chilling portrayal of the abuses of power and influence within the entertainment industry that have been brought into the open over the past year by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
"It's very hard to know what the right thing is to do when you're facing it. That's what my character is struggling with," Maginot says. "It's okay to be scared, it's okay to be worried about the consequences of taking a stand or calling people out, but it's going to come back and bite you in the ass if you don't.
"I'm saying this to myself, as well," he says. "I've been weak before. Just go out there and do the right thing. That's the only way to go."
Comrades is out now on Audiogram.