Accompanied by light guitars and soft-rock arrangements, Jonathan Roy sings of longing and regret - sensitive stuff for a 20-year-old who remains the archetype for on-ice brawling in Quebec junior hockey.
In March last year, Roy, a goalie for the Quebec Ramparts and the son of famed hockey netminder Patrick Roy, won infamy for his part in what he describes as "the biggest thing that happened in 2008" in Quebec City. The incident is behind him, he says, as he gears toward a musical career, even if he admits it's still very fresh in the minds of the hockey public.
For those outside that cultural sphere, a little background: During a major fight among a number of players, Roy skated across the rink and began punching opposing goalie Bobby Nadeau of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Video footage of the incident became a YouTube sensation, of course, and polarized hockey fans, particularly those who also knew of Roy's singing ambitions. He was suspended for seven games that season and will return to criminal court this summer to face charges.
But ask him whether sensitive, nylon-string melodies like Everybody's Been Hurt and What I've Become (also the title of the album), are an effort to change his public image, and Roy will tell you "no."
"Not at all. These songs are things that happened in my life. What I've Become is about my uncle passing away from cancer. So, no, none of the songs are trying to change the image," he says.
His appearances on Quebec talk shows, though, are a different matter. He has made the rounds on TV to re-introduce himself publicly. "Going on shows, going on [the widely popular talk show] Tout le monde en parle , yeah, those were for the image. Those were to show people that I wasn't the person they saw on TV [fighting]" Roy says by phone from Quebec. "I went on about 15 or 20 talk shows, trying to show everybody that I wasn't that person."
The music also isn't about hockey, he adds, even though the song All Because of Me is about his experience of going through the aftermath of the fight and the media glare, he says. But the music, in general, isn't a grand attempt to make amends. It's something he has been doing since he was a teen, he notes.
"I started when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I started writing poems at school. I loved writing, and it was a way for me to express myself. And at the age of 16, 17, I started to put my poems into songs and that's just where it started."
His gigs are still centred around the province, but "I'm talking to René Angélil to get out of Quebec." Angélil, a celebrity in his own right, is more widely known in the Anglo word as Céline Dion's husband and manager, and he is offering advice to Roy. That connection is thanks to Father Roy's input.
As Roy explains, "[Angélil]is a great friend of my father's. He's the one that helps us out. Me and my father, we don't know what we're doing. This is new for us. We've only been in hockey, so we need somebody to make sure we're going in the right direction."
Roy won't express regret about the fight per se, noting that he isn't allowed to talk about it at all due to the pending criminal case. But he has apologized many times for giving the finger to the opposing team's fans.
Hockey isn't something he plans to disassociate himself from. His last season was one of his best ever, even though it may also be the final one of his hockey career, since his prospects of continuing into the top ranks are slim because he isn't good enough, he says. Music has become the fallback, with his radio-friendly sound and sufficiently hoarse voice to avoid sounding too soft - placing him at the lighter end of a continuum that stretches to other ubiquitous singers like Nickelback's Chad Kroeger.
"I never actually thought I was going to make a CD. I was doing hip hop at the beginning when I was around 14 years old. Here in Quebec, it was very popular. It was just something I liked, and at the age of about 16, 17, that's where I pretty much changed style."
Fans on the Internet haven't always been kind toward the goalie-turned-singer. Have teammates given him a hard time? "Never. All my buddies and teammates, they come to the shows. They like my music. Music is for everyone. Everybody loves it. So I don't think I need to be shy about it."
Roy sings in English. He speaks French fluently, he can't read or write it, he says, having gone to school in English. When he started performing under the hip-hop moniker Daking, as in "the king" (some past references on the Internet mention him as J.O.E. Daking, but Roy insists it was simply Daking), he recorded the song Perfect Vacation . The lyrics aren't exactly hardcore: " Went down to Florida, didn't know what to do/Turns out, turns out, it was you/Didn't know how to fall in love with you/But I guess it was meant to be ." The song received 600,000 listens by users of his MySpace site, he says. "So we said, Wow, it works."
Even though it's party rap, Roy was listening to what was going on around him, incorporating a hint of the wait-a-half-a-beat lyrical pauses popular at the time with more cutting acts like England's Lady Sovereign. Perfect Vacation now appears on the self-released new album, even though it runs noticeably counter to the trend toward the rest of the disc's John Mayer and John Mraz-inspired songs.
"Me, I don't have enough talent to play in the NHL, that's for sure. Maybe play in Europe one year. I mean, I have limited talent," he says. "If music keeps going the way it's going, for sure I'm going to have to leave hockey."