Andréanne A. MaletteSome album are new beginnings, a new swing of things. Such is undeniably the case for Andréanne A. Malette, who left the Productions J record label after Bohèmes, her first album, which sold 15,000 copies. As if to illustrate this fully assumed autonomy, the cover of her sophomore effort only bears her name as a title, and a picture of her and a ghost double.

“I’m a girl who constantly asks questions, who wants to know how things work,” says Malette. “I didn’t leave angry. On the contrary, I left with the idea of doing things my way. Simple as that.”

After completing various training sessions on production, taxes, distribution and marketing, Malette decided to bet on complete control, and moving forward will act as her own producer, artistic director, administrator and publisher.

These new responsibilities allow her to express her new creative approach. After writing in English for many years, she admits having tried for a long time to find her own style of writing in French. “I’m inspired by music I like, folk that’s best sung in English, like Bears of Legend and First Aid Kit,” says Malette. “So obviously, when I sang in French, there was something ‘off.’ I would veer towards text-based chanson française, gypsy music, which is not like me. On this album, I wanted to work on my delivery, how I stress words when I sing a text. I wanted to make French sound the way I like, and I did.”

The writing process also differed, this time around. Where Bohèmes was a compilation of seven years’ worth of writing, this time Malette was filled with creative urgency. Used to waiting for inspiration, she decided to force the issue, holing up in a cabin in the woods with a single goal in mind: write songs. “But the truth is, inspiration didn’t come when I wanted it,” she says. “There I was, with writer’s block, taking walks in the woods and making fires, hoping it would soon come. But the context did provoke things; I managed to write six songs, and forest is one of the most common nouns in the songs. It left its mark…” Since then, Malette’s phone is constantly in record mode to capture her melodic ideas, and a notebook is never far, so she can jot down themes, or lyrics snippets.

In order to convert those introspective creative impulses into financially viable ones, Malette also had to come up with new financing streams. She rapidly abandoned the idea of crowd-funding à la Kickstarter, a model that’s become over-used and impersonal, to her. After the Bohèmes tour, Malette wanted to keep going, so she came up with the idea for her “Feu de camp” (“Campfire”) tour. She contacted more than 300 camping sites. The response was immediate. In no time, 40 gigs were booked. No middlemen, no venue to pay, only one musician to accompany her (Judith Sun), minimal expenses.

“It creates deep ties,” says Malette. “You have a beer with people, you pee in their bathroom, you partake in their méchoui (spit-roasted whole lamb)… I have spare keys for cabins all over the province. And I’ve learned a lot.” Nowadays, she repeats this winning formula for other artists like François Lachance and David Paradis.

The other financing stream she set up is a VIP Fan system. For a certain amount of money, three interactive shows were presented to her fans in Montréal, Québec City and Granby, and the fans chose which songs she would sing, as well as those that would appear on the eponymous album. Malette also asked for their comments in order to get to know them better. “I did everything on my own, and I needed to step back from my songs a little,” she says. “I knew my fans could provide me with that perspective. I was surprised to find out that what they crave the most are my compositions. I did a cover of Francine Raymond’s ‘Pour l’amour qu’il nous reste’, [‘For the Love We Still Have Left’] and my fans were very clear that that was only OK live.” The singer – who has left her mark on the Star Académie TV singing competition, the Festival de la chanson de Granby, and Ma première Place des Arts – honours those ties with her fans in various ways, notably an early release of her second album just for them.

A multi-talented artist, Malette questioned the “complete control” route she’d taken until the very end of the process. “I thought it’d be faster,” she says. “And I’ve realized how much time doing all of that requires. It’s very demanding, but I have good support. A month before the album’s release, I got an offer from a record label. I did hesitate for a moment. But I thought it was crazy to have worked so hard on self-producing, only to embark in another vehicle. It’s like I had decided, five minutes before a marathon’s finish line, to ask somebody else to cross it for me. I did not go through all this for that.”

Don’t miss Malette’s “making of” video playlist for he new album:


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Cory Crossman

Cory Crossman

A Music City: What does this really mean? Nashville claims the official title, and rightly so – as the home of The Grand Ole Opry, with a rich musical history that includes a seemingly inexhaustible wealth of hit songs, seminal records, and iconic venues such as The Ryman Auditorium (“the mother church of country music”).

Recently, more North American cities are adding this designation to their marketing and tourism efforts — realizing the economic, social and cultural impact that music has on a community. Opening a Music City office, as a liaison between bureaucrats and the industry, is one way to formalize these efforts. In Ontario, as with the cities of Toronto and Hamilton, London is one of these trail-blazers.

In recent years, London has mapped out a strategy and hired a music industry development officer, Cory Crossman, whose main roles are to make connections between the music industry and City Hall, and to educate and advocate on behalf of the local music industry.

“It’s not just about the musicians, but the industry and all of its elements… all the jobs within the music sector,” says Crossman. “I compare the music sector in our city to an iceberg: there are small bits that float above the water – the artists – but there are dozens of people behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. To make a Music City you need all of those elements.”

FUEL is the acronym summarizing The London Music Office’s goals. It stands for:

  • Foster music education and incubation
  • Unite the music business
  • Engage the musicians and artists
  • Liven events and venues.

Some early successes Crossman credits to his office include the Music City Exchange, a program allowing London artists to perform at marquee events in Toronto and Hamilton; it also helps artists from those two sister markets to perform in the Forest City. September of 2016 marked the first time that London hosted The Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA), bringing in more than $8.4 million to the city. That was led by Tourism London, but other successful events that the London Music Office organized and hosted include the Canada’s Music Incubator (Coalition Music) Bootcamp and the city’s first-ever music career day. One hundred people were projected for this free event, and 190 registered. Topics included songwriting, production, music synchronization, publishing, royalties, radio tracking, music promotion, venue management, social media, public relations, industry development, and incubation.

Behind the scenes, The London Music Office is working, on an ongoing basis, to make changes to the by-laws governing amplified/live music on patios. Crossman is hopeful by the time patios are open for business in 2018, they’ll have a revised by-law that helps local artists.

London: Music City by the Numbers (2015)

  • $7 million: amount London artists made from SOCAN – earned by 1,144 music creators and 59 music publishers
  • 53 live music venues
  • 875 music students at post-secondary schools in London
  • 4,520 live music events held in the city.

To truly understand a sector or an industry, one needs to first understand the demographics that drive its growth. In the summer of 2016 The London Music Census captured figures from the 2015 calendar year. Over the six-week timeframe, 1,536 surveys were filled out. A major focus was to determine barriers that exist to music in the city, so that the London Music Office could look to potential solutions.

At a high level, the census results show the majority (45%) of musicians in London are between the ages of 20-34. Most musicians (89.5%) perform popular music genres such as; R&B, Roots, Country, Rock, Pop, Alternative, Jazz, Folk, EDM, Indie, Punk or Metal. Of the surveyed musicians, 83 per cent reported identifying as male. The Forest City’s musicians are a young, emerging demographic. Another key census finding showed that London’s music industry businesses aren’t applying for funding grants. The reasons vary, but a common theme emerged: London businesses largely don’t have the ability to submit for granting opportunities, citing the lack of time and low past success rates as major contributing factors.

Poesy

Poesy (Photo: Chelsea Brimstin)

SOCAN member Poesy (a.k.a. Sarah Botelho) is one of London’s rising stars. She started playing music in the city about three years ago, and from the outset noticed a diverse and supportive scene.

“The more London is becoming a music city, the stronger those bonds and those communities are,” she explains. “The city itself is dynamic musically, because London is a city that really feels like a town. It’s possible to play at every venue in London, and get to know all of the people involved: sound engineers, bookers, club owners, other musicians, etc.  And it’s a much more personal exchange than I’ve felt in other music cities.”

Poesy says another way The London Music Office has really benefited London as a music city is through their involvement in helping new talent get established.

“Before I started getting involved with various London Music Office opportunities, hardly anybody in London knew who I was, or had heard my music,” she says. “Getting selected to play at London’s Canada 150 Sesquifest event [a Music Office initiative] really helped get my name out there… having support from the city you’re in really lights a fire under you.”

Chad Price, a London singer-songwriter, agrees. He says the music scene in London is alive and well, “bursting with talent” in so many genres.

“There’s definitely something good going on here right now, and I’m proud to be one of the people contributing to this momentum,” says Price. “What makes London so special and dynamic is that there is a real musical community beginning to take shape. As artists, we’re doing everything we can to help each other find success and not just be thinking about ourselves. I will be out there rooting for acts like Texas King, Poesy, Ivory Hours, Jessica Allosery, and Genevieve Fisher, just as much as I will for myself. We support each other, and it’s also great to have an organizational body and advocate for London music in the London Music Office.”

Chad Price

Chad Price (Photo: Craig Chambers)

Price adds that the support from the city is also helping to inject some new life and confidence into London’s music scene. On a personal note, it has helped the songwriter better disperse his music. “I was the recipient of a grant from the London Arts Council’s Community Arts Investment Program this year, and used those funds to create several videos bringing awareness not only to my music, but also to culturally and historically significant landmarks in the city.”

Live music venues are key to supporting and incubating any music scene. With 53 live music venues, ranging from large-scale arenas (Budweiser Gardens) to more intimate spaces with varying capacities (The London Music Club, Call the Office, Aeolian Hall) the London scene is healthy and growing.

Looking ahead, numerous exciting initiatives are underway in London, led by Crossman’s team and supported by partners such as the London Arts Council, the city’s Culture Office, and Tourism London. The London Music Strategy, which Crossman inherited, aims to promote culture as a key part of economic growth and quality of life as identified in Council’s 2015 -2019 Strategic Plan and the Cultural Prosperity Plan for the City of London.

“When I was in high school I was asked by my guidance counsellor, ‘What do you want to do for a living?’” says Crossman. “I was 16 years old, and told her I liked hockey and music. She replied, ‘There’s no career in those, so go find something else!’ That conversation always stuck with me. What we’re trying to do is show that there are so many opportunities to get involved in the music industry, and arm students and the public with the message that these opportunities do exist.”


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Long before she imagined having a career as a musician, Tamara Lindeman was a self-described rabid music fan. “I wasn’t really connected to the music scene and I didn’t know musicians,” she explains. “I was just really into the local music scene in Toronto.” Her earliest forays into making her own music began with her concocting instrumental soundscapes in her bedroom in the mid-2000s. Hoping to share them on MySpace, Lindeman realized she needed a name, and settled on The Weather Station. “I said that these were the sound recordings of a woman who lived at a weather station in the Arctic,” she recalls with a laugh.

Though Lindeman’s music quickly evolved, the name stuck. The Weather Station – now a folk-rock driven, sometimes-solo project, sometimes touring band – has put Lindeman squarely on the map as a singer-songwriter to watch. Her fourth full-length album – self-titled and self-produced – was released in October to rave reviews, including those from Pitchfork, The FADER, Exclaim! and from the U.K’s Uncut Magazine, which has listed it in fourth place in their ranking of 2017’s top albums.

But Lindeman, whose third album, Loyalty, was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize in 2015, still largely finds herself watching her success from the fringes of the music scene. “I have this problem where I feel like I will always feel like a total outsider,” she says of her success to date. “I can’t feel like any of this is natural, and I can’t take any of it for granted.”

While she sang in choirs and learned piano as a child, Lindeman – whose voice is frequently compared with Joni Mitchell’s – is still largely self-taught. She first ventured into writing songs when she realized she needed to have something more suitable than an atmospheric soundscape in her repertoire if she was going to begin sharing her music at open mic sessions. “From the beginning, I did have an instinct to sing,” she says, describing her learning curve as “swimming blind.”

“I’ll riff on an idea, or I’ll find myself singing about something and not know why, and then I’ll try to understand what’s going on.”

Lindeman, who has also worked as an actress, began developing a continuously evolving stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting – which sees her developing a few strong riffs and melodies, then improvising lyrics afterwards to suit. “Basically, I sing and then see what I am saying,” she says of the process. It sees her recording everything as she goes, then sifting through it in search of stuff worth keeping. “I’ll riff on an idea, or I’ll find myself singing about something and not know why, and then I’ll try to understand what’s going on,” she says. She explains that it sometimes means singing very slowly, or leaving long gaps while she works out what to say next.

A self-described perfectionist, Lindeman admits the editing process can be a lengthy one, in which she transcribes her sung musings before settling on the words that seem to best capture what she’s trying to say. “The process of deciding is the craziest part,” she laughs.

The result is lyrics that often feel personal, with the occasional poetic non sequitur, particularly on her latest album, which Lindeman describes as “a lot more crazy than my other records.” “I think it’s my most forthright album,” she explains. “It’s definitely the most ballsy. My past albums are more subtle than this one.”

According to Lindeman, this is in part due to a desire to make a more assertive, rock-oriented album with stronger rhythms more suited to her current state of mind, as well as to this time in history. “It doesn’t always feel right to play subtle music – sometimes something else is called for,” she says, of songs that tackle subjects from politics, to climate change, to her parents’ divorce. “Based on where I was at emotionally, and where the world is at right now, it felt like playing beautiful, quiet music didn’t feel right to me,” she says. “I don’t have anything really beautiful to say about what’s happening right now”.

The other change with this album was Lindeman’s decision to take the lead on its production. While she describes her very first albums as “super self-produced,” her last two were made in close collaboration with other musicians, including Afie Jurvanen (a.k.a. Bahamas) and Daniel Romano, who, Lindeman explains, had experience and reference points that she didn’t necessarily have, and helped her to overcome her self-doubt.

By contrast, Lindeman says that when it came to producing The Weather Station, which features Ben Whiteley on bass and Don Kerr (The Rheostatics) on drums (both also make up the heart of her touring band), along with many others, she had a clear sense of how she wanted the album to sound. “I thought I could explain it, but realized quickly that nobody can tell what’s inside my head other than me,” she says. “So I had to learn how to take control and make decisions and be the guiding force of it.”

For Lindeman, it was an empowering experience, and one that continues to build her confidence as a musician. She admits she still has moments, oftentimes at her own shows, when she marvels not only that she’s performing for a full house, but that she’s found a career in music at all. “Music is so hard. It’s hard to succeed emotionally, or artistically, or at all, business-wise,” she says. “So to have all three happen is basically the best feeling in the world.”


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