It’s mid-winter in Las Vegas, sunny and warm, and uOttawa graduate Rémon Boulerice (BCom 1995) and Véronic DiCaire are on a roll. While Céline Dion’s name is on the marquis at Caesar’s Palace, right across the street, at Bally’s Casino, it’s “Veronic: Voices.” DiCaire’s concerts, featuring pitch-perfect impressions of fifty female singers from Edith Piaf to Adele to Dion herself, have been selling out since her debut in the summer of 2013.
Her concerts at Gatineau’s Lac-Leamy last month sold out in ten minutes. Overflow shows at La Salle Odyssée in Gatineau sold out in seven minutes.
Ten years ago DiCaire was only singing impressions to amuse the studio crew between takes with her own band, Sens Unique. With the help of Boulerice, Dion and husband/manager René Angélil, and Angélil’s son-in-law (and one-time music impressionist) Quebec singer Marc Dupré, the girl with the huge voice from small-town Embrun, Ontario, has worked her way to international fame.
Boulerice met teenager DiCaire at his hometown hockey rink in Casselman, near Ottawa. He was 21, studying marketing and human resources at the Telfer School of Management. With visions of an NHL refereeing career, he was officiating a game when he noticed a girl in the stands. “She was watching her brother play,” says Boulerice. “She was yelling things at the referees, and she was wearing this white jacket from a play in Casselman that I used to be in.”
Driving home afterwards, he was recognized by the DiCaire family in their car. They gestured in ways that made clear their lack of admiration for his refereeing.
“I remember that like it was yesterday, and so does she. It was only a few months later that I produced my very first community show, and there she was, singing in that production. So that is how we met, and we’ve been together ever since.”
At first, helping manage DiCaire’s musical career was just a girlfriend-boyfriend thing, says Boulerice. “I was at uOttawa and she was in a band. The first deal we had was that I would be her manager until she found someone else who could do it better. I think Véronic became an artist and learned the ropes at the same time as I became a manager and learned mine. We evolved together, and it became one plus one equals three.”
They say it takes years to become an overnight success. In 2007, Dupré was helping produce DiCaire’s third album — in her own voice. They started clowning around doing impressions. Dupré and Boulerice talked, and Dupré offered to send a demo tape to Dion and her husband and manager (and Dupré’s father-in-law), René Angélil. They loved it, especially DiCaire’s take on Dion. In 2008, DiCaire got the nod to open for a series of Dion concerts at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Usually a warm up act performs while people file in waiting for the main show, but this time it was different. “Celine’s people were saying, ‘We can’t believe it, it’s eight o’clock and everyone is in the house to see Véronic perform!” On the third night, with a TVA documentary film crew on hand, 23,000 people gave DiCaire a roaring standing ovation that lasted forever. On stage, DiCaire was in tears. But she still had to sing one more song. Boulerice says, “I was trying to make eye contact with her because I’m always at the side of the stage and I was trying to help her focus. But she’s a pro and she did it on her own and sang that last song. When we saw that moment in the documentary it just gave us chills.”
Boulerice says he still uses the marketing and HR skills he learned at uOttawa. “Yes, big time. I know what it means to sell a product. You need to be able to define it, and find the right market. It’s a lot of soft HR. Travelling for three months in a tour bus, you need to be able to deal with all the problems that can arise from being stuck in a confined environment.” These days, husband and wife have a pact to keep work and private life apart. Boulerice laughs and says, “Like when we go to bed at night I can’t bring my computer anymore. I always ask questions and I work, and she feels this is a zone we don’t want to cross into. But we do a lot of business in the car, and that way we can concentrate on the personal stuff when we’re with friends and doing other things.”
While Boulerice and DiCaire are starting to consider Las Vegas a second home, they have a house on four acres in Morin Heights in Quebec’s Laurentians. “We’re in the woods. We needed to find a place to disconnect from everything. Véronic likes the outdoors, she likes to do the gardening and we like to do it all ourselves because it helps us get back to basics.” Boulerice is especially fond of his John Deere tractor. “I’m a sucker for man-toys. I can go and dig out big rocks and drag trees with it. Snowblowers, barbecues and tractors…very fun!”
What makes the husband/manager-wife/star combination work? “Véronic’s really smart about the emotional part of life. She was always impressed by my academics, but I was always impressed by her capacity to communicate emotions, and that’s why we complete each other. So that’s why we’re together, yeah.”