It’s a lesson that Canadian songwriting power couple Raine Maida and his wife Chantal Kreviazuk learned the hard way after 21 years together: the family that plays together, stays together. They immortalized what they learned in their eponymous new debut disc as the duo Moon vs Sun and in a feature-length film charting the album’s turbulent conception and creation, “I’m Going to Break Your Heart.” They never recorded together before, but the decision to finally do so literally helped save their foundering marriage. Since 1992, Maida has fronted the Juno-winning rock outfit Our Lady Peace while moonlighting as a solo artist and a tunesmith for hire, a side career also maintained by Kreviazuk, a Juno- and Grammy-winning pop star. To date, the Torontoans have — either separately or sometimes together — collaborated on hits for artists including Drake, Shakira, Avril Lavigne, Josh Groban, Mandy Moore, Kendrick Lamar and Jennifer Lopez. But for Moon vs Sun, the parents of three retreated to a remote French-governed island in the Saint Pierre and Miquelon chain off the Newfoundland coast in the dead of the 2019 winter.
Once you hung out your shingle as session songwriters, you rarely worked together, right?
Raine Maida: Well, we did, but just never on our own stuff. We’ve been in sessions together with other people, and we obviously always really care about that stuff. And my thing was always like, “Hey, what do you want to say as an artist?” Whether it was working with Dan Wilson, Martha Wainwright or whoever, it’s always been, like, we don’t want to write the lyrics, but we’ll help you and we’ll guide it and we’ll build the music because we’re really trying to pull something out of the artist. But for this? It was like we needed to say stuff that only we can say, because we have that ability, and it’s pretty unique, you know? So having all that baggage, we can say stuff that will hopefully really resonate with people, since there are only a handful of couples that do music together.
Chantal Kreviazuk: We’re hitting on something really personal, I think. And I don’t know if I would have been able to do this five years ago, even. And it’s been really liberating to just give up space to each other and listen. What’s that saying? Youth is wasted on the young? It’s so amazing to be older, because you really come to realize some things. And where that puts you at an advantage, creatively is, just forget about it! Raine and I don’t need any direction, we don’t need any suggestions or manuals or people around saying “try this” or “try that.” And it’s because we’ve done so much work — on ourselves and with each other, as writers — so now there’s authenticity galore.
But you were worried about the relationship at the beginning, right?
CK: Yeah. We were in a bit of a valley. But the neat thing was, by us not getting our footing at that time when we were a little off the rails as a couple, we still had this amazing…gift, if you will, or advantage, that we were planning on making a record together. We had that conviction and we had that commitment. So that was what drove us to get in a room and figure out our bulls—-, because our dynamics were off. We had to figure out how to lift each other, navigate each other, in a way that was diffusing and healing, not judging and shaming.
Your harmonies on the album are amazing. And some of the songs — like “The Work,” “I Can Change” and “I Love It When You Make Me Beg” — almost sound like couples therapy.
CK: Sometimes it felt that way.
RM: And we just needed to get away — I think that was a big part of it. And it became a metaphor for a lot of other things in our lives just connecting — just being in the moment without distractions. But it also applies to being a parent — you really need to find that time, too.
CK: You’ve got to find the zone. You’ve just to find that zone as a couple.
And “I Can Change” — that’s what they all say, right?
RM: Yeah. But writing that song right there, in the moment on the island? It really kept us on the island when we might have left. It was born out of something real, not cliche. Because talk is cheap, but saying it in a song really validates it and puts a stamp on it, like, “OK — it’s real. We said it.”
CK: And you can’t un-sing it, that’s for goddamned sure!