Prog Rocker Martin Larose Scales New Heights On “Skyscraper Jumper”

When an artist has been in the game for three and a half decades, acathere’s often nowhere to go but down. And then there’s Saguenay, Quebec’s Martin Larose, whose elevator has instead landed him on a brand new floor with his latest album, Songs from the Kite, and its appropriately upward-facing first single, “Skyscraper Jumper.”

The album represents a self-admitted leap into the heavens of prog, folk and even pop for the Saguenay-based guitarist/songwriter, after years spent performing his fretboard gymnastics largely within the idioms of rock and blues. The evolution is especially apparent on “Skyscraper Jumper,” which has the airy, dizzying feel of climbing to the roof of the tallest building you can find and daring to look down.

Musically speaking, the track is a sight less guitar-oriented than one might expect of a player who was inspired by Michael Hedges and Eddie Van Halen and only recently released a solo acoustic rendition of “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush. This one is more of an equal blend of guitars, keys, atmospheric electronics, and ethereal vocals—a mix that perfectly matches the heady lyrics Larose has concocted with co-writer Qual Ix (the nom de plume of emerging Canadian artist Felix Dionne):

Fifty stories, then fifty more
Concrete tower as a sky door
Grasp the star light with your feet
Taking the clouds as a seat
If you were told you could fly
Would you jump from the skyscraper?
If you knew you couldn’t die
Would you jump from the skyscraper?
The acrophobics are going to have a field day.

“Songs from the Kite is the album I have always wanted to create,” LaRose says. “It represents everything I have developed over a career spanning 35 years, both in terms of my craft as a guitar player and as a songwriter.”

To help him realize his vision, he’s pulled in collaborations from all over. Future single “I Laid Low” features the legendary British bassist Tony Franklin (who’s played with Jimmy Page both solo and in The Firm) and German singer Ben Jud (of The Martin Miller Band), hammering away at a number Larose co-wrote with Canadian lyricist Nath Farley. There are also compositional team-ups with British lyricist Roger Penkethman and a cover of “Accordingly” by the late Texas blues rocker Chris Whitley.

“Chris’s massive legacy has always been close to my heart, and this particular song has always stayed with me,” Larose says. “It’s my tribute from up North.”

Speaking of “up North,” the album’s title doesn’t refer to kite flying as an actual hobby, but rather to the Saguenay-Lake St. John area LaRose hails from, the geography of which makes it resemble an upside-down kite. The title is also a metaphor for “finally taking off and flying after years of struggling,” he reveals.

It’s interesting to hear him refer to the past as a struggle, when anyone else looking at his résumé might only see achievement. A musician since the age of 7, Larose studied classical guitar and double bass at the Chicoutimi Conservatory of Music. His skills were soon being hailed everywhere from the pages of Guitar World magazine to the International Guitar Show in Quebec, where he became a regular guest artist.

Over the years, he has been a warmly welcomed presence at jazz and blues festivals and shared stages with the likes of Richard d’Anjou (Too Many Cooks), Matt Starr and Fred St-Gelais. And he’s made eight studio albums, including the new one and its predecessor, 2021’s NORTH.
When he isn’t recording or performing his own material, Larose’s dedication to music education and production has epitomized the plaudit “works well with others.” He founded an arts-and-crafts program at a local school that became the talk of Quebec, and from his own Studio Septentrio—a state-of-the-art recording facility in Jonquière that he co-owns with his spouse— he continues to produce albums for artists from Canada and Europe. His mentorship work includes training and recording Jeanick Fournier, last year’s winner of Canada’s Got Talent.

Peer relationships are important to him too, as he showed when he collaborated with Glenn Lévesque of the Montreal Guitar Trio on “Boreal Ritual.” And he’s done it all while hosting and performing on the show Studio Boréal on MAtv.

Right now, though, his focus is on Songs from the Kite and the stratospheric achievement it represents. “Throughout my career, I have explored guitar pyrotechnics, acoustic music, rock and blues,” Larose says, “but this album is the best representation of who I am as a musician, songwriter and producer.” In other words, onward and upward.