Singer-songwriter Alejandra Ribera, a new Montrealer with a deep warm voice, is reaching out to scores of music lovers through La Boca (The Mouth), a collection of evocative and haunting original melodies performed in English, Spanish and French.

To produce this second album, released in February 2014, Ribera brought together a dream team that included producer Jean Massicotte, who has worked with such major Quebec artists as Pierre Lapointe, Lhasa de Sela and Jean Leloup, and the seasoned musicians Yves Desrosiers and Mario Légaré. She also called on the French-born singer Arthur H, with whom she delivers a scorching performance of Un cygne la nuit (A Swan in the Night), a move that has helped add to the buzz about this fascinating new artist.

Born in Toronto to an Argentinian father and a Scottish mother, Ribera studied violin and cello at a young age. In 2009,  she released NavigatorNavigateher, an album that was recorded over a mere five days and brought unhoped-for attention to the young performer, who had only been trying to raise money to pay her stage musicians, and suddenly heard her songs being played on CBC Radio. She later toured extensively across Canada and Quebec, where she was a repeat guest on Télé-Québec’s popular Belle et Bum weekly program.

“My songs are not about everyday life. I don’t see myself as a storyteller.”

In an incredible stroke of luck, Ribera was presented with opportunities to pay tribute not once, but twice, to the great Lhasa de Sela following the artist’s untimely death in 2010, first at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal, and later as part of a touring multi-disciplinary production called Danse Lhasa Danse.

Comparisons have been drawn between the two passionate performers with unique signatures. Ribera gratefully accepts this, if with a tinge of embarrassment. “Lhasa had a special place in my life,” she says. “There is a connection, that’s for sure. I have so much respect for her!”

Alejandra also had the good fortune of meeting a member of Lhasa’s inner circle, producer Jean Massicotte, whom she calls the reason she moved to Montreal. “Jean is a true artist. Your songs are his babies. As a songwriter, you’re attached to each of them like children, and entrusting them to someone like Jean is like sending them to the best university.” Massicotte, in her mind, has been a mentor and teacher who was able to take her much farther along her creative path than she ever thought possible.

In spite of industry pressure, Ribera took her time preparing her new album, if for no other reason than she finds it impossible to write on cue, calling herself a dilettante who finds nothing wrong with taking three years to come back to a song idea scribbled on an old scrap of paper. “When everything else is telling you to go one way, and your inner voice is telling you something else, that’s what you should be doing,” the instinctive songwriter suggests.

Ribera finds inspiration in images, myths, historical figures and the like. La Boca’s title song was inspired by an article she read on Lake Vostok, an Antarctic wonder discovered by Russian scientists. “It got me thinking about underwater creatures, bioluminescence and the unreal light that filters down to the bottom of the sea.

“My songs are not about everyday life. I don’t see myself as a storyteller,” she admits. “I couldn’t be talking about a love affair that turns sour after a few years. Others are better equipped than I am to write those kinds of stories. I prefer hinting at things and allowing listeners to use their own imaginations.”

Besides its inherent beauty and sound, the use of the Spanish language for some songs affords Ribera a modicum of protection when dealing with subjects she considers too personal. “I still don’t feel as comfortable writing in Spanish as I do in English,” she explains, “but it gives me more space when the topic is hard to address.”

Alejandra Ribera now hopes to take La Boca to the rest of the world. She performed some of her new pieces in New York City recently as part of an industry event, and is eager to present them to Quebec audiences and as part of a European tour. And, while she’s there, why not consider a billing at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, her ultimate dream? La Boca is certainly a step in the right direction.


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“No one wants to play ‘name that tune’ with me,” says Catherine Jones, Director of Music, Bell Media.

A scan of the music memorabilia in her office – such as the framed black-and-white photograph of a twenty-something Jones with her arm around the late Joey Ramone – is all it takes to not challenge this claim. These days the publisher doesn’t hang with famous musicians as often. Nor does she see many shows. Regardless, her love for music is just as strong as those defining days, many years ago, when she bought her first LP (Saturday Night Fever) and attended her first concert (Tears for Fears).

After 20 years clearing the master use licenses for music owned or controlled by Universal Music Canada, Jones now sits on the opposite side of a licensing deal: She currently represents Bell Media, finding background music to enhance all of its in-house TV productions.

“I’m not managing a roster of composers, I’m managing a catalogue of compositions,” Jones explains. “We commission certain packages of music, similar to a work-for-hire arrangement. We pay for the services, but we own everything. We become the publisher. The writer retains their writer’s share, so they get the back-end royalties.”

“I’m not managing a roster of composers, I’m managing a catalogue of compositions.”

The songs that Bell Media commissions become part of its growing library, which currently numbers around 5,000. Compositions are used, and re-used, on a variety of television shows: from Daily Planet and W5 to news, sports, and pop-culture programs.

A typical day for the corporate publisher includes meeting with producers, searching for composers already in their in-house roster to match their requirements, reaching out to new artists, and reviewing demos the broadcaster has already commissioned.

Jones started in the music business in 1993 as the assistant to the lawyer at Universal Music Canada (then MCA Records Canada). She advanced quickly, assuming responsibility for the label’s nascent licensing business.

“In 1995, I received a phone call from an ad agency who wanted to use the John Lee Hooker song ‘Boom, Boom’ in a Ford commercial,” recalls Jones, who now also oversees licensing for Bell Media. “I reached out to the U.S. office, they said I could do the deal, and that’s how licensing started at Universal [Music] Canada.”

Today, Jones relies on this extensive music industry experience in her new corporate role. “I’m reaching out to a lot of the artists I’ve met over the years and helping them to develop a different career path.”

Nick Fowler is one example. Jones met the New Brunswick musician five years ago at the East Coast Music Awards. Now Fowler has already written several pieces for Bell Media, including the theme song for CTV’s daily talk show The Social.

“When I arrived there were composers that wrote consistently for CTV, and still do, but I’m trying to open it up and bring in new talent,” says Jones.


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Jonathan Simkin isn’t just the “Nickelback guy” anymore.

The Vancouver music business maverick, who first rose to prominence as the lawyer for Chad Kroeger and co., is now the head of two successful independent labels (604 Records, Light Organ Records) and his own Simkin Artist Management, with dozens of artists under at least one of his many wings.

His biggest success story of late is undoubtedly the incredible breakthrough of “Call Me Maybe” (which Amazon recently announced is its best-selling digital single of all time) by Carly Rae Jespen, co-written by Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench, an act on 604. And while Simkin admits scoring another “Call Me Maybe” would be like “hitting the lotto jackpot six times in a row,” that doesn’t mean he won’t be trying.

Since Jepsen is busy starring in a Broadway production of Cinderella, Simkin says it might be unrealistic to expect another album from the singer this year. Meanwhile, he’s excited about Marianas Trench, which has signed with Cherry Tree/Interscope for outside of Canada and is currently in the studio.

“When the bottom fell out of the business, that was the best time to start signing bands.”

“Josh just continues to amazes me,” says Simkin. “We’ve really worked hard to build the band’s name up all over the world. It feels like this could be their year.” In addition, 604’s country division is getting stronger, with singer-songwriter Dallas Smith (ex-Default) recently being signed to Republic Nashville in the U.S., part of the Big Machine group.

Simkin also continues to grow Light Organ, an alternative label launched in 2010 that’s home to acts like The Zolas, who recently toured with Hollerado; Polaris Prize nominee Louise Burns; and The Mounties, a new project from Hawksley Workman, ex-Hot Hot Heat singer Steve Bays, and Ryan Dahle of Limblifter.

“When the bottom kind of fell out of the business, to me that was the best time to start signing bands,” says Simkin. “I’m not competing against other Canadian labels!” He’s particularly excited about gathering his acts all under one physical roof this year. Simkin recently purchased a building in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighourhood that will become his headquarters, complete with recording studio and soundstage for music videos and live performances.

“It’s a dream I’ve had for a while,” he says. “To have our own production suites will enable us to make great music on a reasonable budget. It also creates a cross-pollination that has been a big part of our success. Look at Carly’s ‘Call Me Maybe.’ Why did Josh Ramsay produce that? I was working with both, and I put them together. I love creating an environment where people meet and work together.

“We’ll have a space in our building where people can write. We’ll also be able to have pay-per-view shows live streaming from the building. It’s about facilitating the creation of art, but also to record it, and disseminate it.

“Nobody knows 100% where the business is going, but I’m trying to create an establishment so that I’ll be able to monetize it wherever it goes. Plus it’s going to be fun. We’re going to experiment.”


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