If trying to get played on mainstream radio is a challenge for independent musicians, you can imagine what a gargantuan task it is to get their music placed in popular films and television shows.
Winnipeg producer Arun Chaturvedi, who won Producer of the Year honours at last year’s Western Canadian Music Awards, never expected to write for TV, but the singer-songwriter is now working on one of the hottest reality shows in the U.S.

“I was in L.A. promoting my [self-titled 2010] solo album, and Manitoba Music arranged a dinner with various music supervisors,” he says. “The restaurant had a grand piano so I played and sang a few songs. One of the guys from Keeping Up With The Kardashians ended up placing a few of my songs, and a little while later he asked me if I’d be interested in composing some custom music for the show.”

Chaturvedi has been providing music for the show for about a year, and explains how he composes music for it.

“The Kardashians definitely have a sound that they go for, so I stay true to that,” he says. “It’s sort of pop/hip-hop but the characters often get into some crazy antics so the music reflects this. For example, I often do ‘sneaky’ or ‘comedic’ sounding cues using the xylophone, timpani, and violins with a pizzicato articulation. And sometimes, I’ll compose instrumental rock music for high-energy transition scenes.”

Chaturvedi has been writing and producing since his early teens, but only professionally for the last seven years. Having a great ear, being able to write songs and play different instruments in a variety of styles are all marks of a good producer, says the former frontman for Driver, an indie rock group.
“It helps, of course, to know the technical ins and outs of recording and mixing music,” he says. “But, the most important aspect is being able to interact with people, and draw the best performance out of them. I can usually get a track sounding good pretty quickly, and that puts artists at ease. I’d like to think that after only a few minutes of working with me in the studio, it’s clear to them that I get it.”
Chaturvedi says he doesn’t follow a template when writing.

“I like to start with a premise or a title, and lyrics are important to me,” he says. “Other times, I have a melodic-harmonic framework and I add words to it later. Once in a while, songs seem to flow out naturally – melody, lyric, chords all at the same time. It’s a gift when that happens, because a lot of times I have to roll up my sleeves and put some elbow grease into it.”

Track Record
• Chaturvedi’s former indie rock group, Driver, had a hit in 2005 with the single “She Laughed at Me.”
• To date, he’s worked with artists such as James Struthers, Don Amero, Luke McMaster, and Little Hawk.
• In addition to Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Chaturvedi’s film and TV placements include Bad Girls Club, Pretty Little Liars, Being Erica and Casino Jack.

Over the past decade, Simon Wilcox has always placed an emphasis on forming strong personal relationships with her professional partners. “True trust and friendship are hard to come by in the industry,” Wilcox says, “but they’re everything. You won’t give 100 percent creatively unless you absolutely love your team.”

That was the driving force behind the L.A.-based songwriter and recording artist’s decision to ink a worldwide enhanced administration deal between her publishing company, Fun Cooker, and peermusic Canada Inc. in January 2012, at the urging of longtime friend and supporter, Cheryl Link, peermusic’s Director of Synchronization and Creative.

The two first met at the North by Northeast conference in Toronto 12 years ago. Shortly thereafter, Link loaned Wilcox the money to press her first album, Mongrel of Love (1999), acted as her manager for a time and, while working at BMG Music Publishing Canada Inc. in the early 2000s, attempted to broker a deal between Wilcox and BMG. They’ve literally grown up in the industry together.

“I consider her my best friend,” Link says. “We can be completely honest with each other. But we’re also providing the deal she was looking for – ensuring her copyrights revert to her, and that she not be subject to delivery requirements.”

“Really, what was instrumental in going with peermusic was Cheryl,” says Wilcox. “I know she believes in me and if I’m going to win, or lose, I want to do it with her.”

Personal connections have always been integral to her career, Wilcox insists, particularly those developed following her 2003 signing to EMI April Music Canada Ltd., a partnership that led to collaborations with Grammy-nominated Quebec duo, Beast, The Trews, Three Days Grace and Quebec singer/cellist, Jorane on “Stay” – which garnered Wilcox her first SOCAN No. 1 Song Award in 2005. “EMI were instrumental in my career. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Although Wilcox felt very much at home at EMI, changes at the company – including President Michael McCarty’s move to ole – left her shaken. When the deal ended in 2011, she was hesitant to sign with anyone. “I was gun-shy, so I just wrote songs for a year, but at the end of that year Cheryl was, like, ‘Okay. C’mon now. I’ve waited long enough,’” she says, laughing.

Currently, Wilcox and Shridhar Solanki (PRS) are preparing to release their first full-length independent album as Cider Sky, tentatively scheduled for release this summer. As a writer, Wilcox is experiencing truly global success with tracks such as “Northern Lights,” featured on the Twilight Saga-Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 soundtrack, and “Blackout,” from Breathe Carolina’s 2011 record, Hell Is What You Make It – both of which have achieved certified gold status (500,000 sold) in the U.S.
“[And] I’m really excited to see what new relationships I can build with peermusic internationally.”

For Tony Dekker, recording – like real estate – is all about location. The Great Lake Swimmers frontman has made a habit of working in unusual settings, beginning with his Toronto-based group’s 2003 self-titled debut, recorded in an abandoned grain silo. Since then, Dekker has opted for churches, legion halls and even an historic castle in the Thousand Islands to commit his atmospheric folk-rock songs to tape.

With its fifth album, New Wild Everywhere, the Great Lake Swimmers chose what was, for them, an exotic location: a real recording studio. “It was a new challenge for us,” laughs Dekker. “We’ve been so used to all the work that goes into putting together these location recordings. Andy Magoffin, our longtime engineer who produced the new album, was really excited to hear what we’d sound like in a so-called proper studio.”

Recorded at Toronto’s Revolution Recording, New Wild Everywhere benefits from the freedom to focus on music rather than location logistics. It’s also enhanced by the group’s current lineup. Says Dekker: “We developed great chemistry touring the last album [the Polaris Music Prize-nominated Lost Channels] and that’s given us a really natural, organic sound.”

Songs like “Cornflower Blue” and “Fields of Progeny” (along with its French counterpart “Les champs de progéniture”) are slow waltzes steeped in the rural sounds of Dekker’s youth. But the spirited title track and the rousing “Easy Come Easy Go” are easily the band’s most uptempo songs to date.
That new energy is another byproduct of the confidence that comes from lengthy touring. Dekker, who started Great Lake Swimmers as a solo project, has long been hailed for his fragile songs and ethereal voice. Now he has a solid band to stretch out with. The use of a string quartet, with arrangements by Higgins, has further enriched the sound.

As with all of Dekker’s writing, New Wild Everywhere deals largely with spirituality and nature, especially the elements of wind and water. “I love the kind of harsh reality that underlies the natural world,” says Dekker. Growing up in a rural location will do that. So, too, will studying the works of Walt Whitman, William Faulkner and Henry David Thoreau, as Dekker did.

One exception to his rural-world focus is “Parkdale Blues,” a song set in the Toronto neighborhood that recalls Bruce Cockburn’s brand of urban reportage. Another is “The Great Exhale,” which was recorded in Toronto’s unused Lower Bay subway station. Clearly, Dekker couldn’t resist the chance to make at least one location recording.

“It was a very nocturnal session, because we had to record when the trains above weren’t running,” he explains. “And because it’s like a ghost station, that gave it some amazing ambience.”

Track Record
• Great Lake Swimmers’ current lineup is guitarist and banjo player Erik Arnesen, upright bassist Bret Higgins, drummer Greg Millson, and newcomer Miranda Mulholland on violin and backup vocals.
• Tony Dekker grew up on a working farm in tiny Wainfleet, Ontario.
• He’s also earned a literature degree from the University of Western Ontario.