“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.

Soon after striking their first chords in the backroom of a Contrecoeur, Quebec, woodworking shop in 2006, the three members of the pop/rock group going by the name of On a créé UN MONSTRE (OacUM for short) took the fast lane to musical fame, at least on the local indie/pop/rock scene. “It happened very quickly,” Antoine Lachance confirms. “We got so busy we didn’t have time to realize what was going on.” As the three thirtysomething musicians had no idea what to call their group, they thought of the phrase “We’ve created a monster” and just called it that: a prescient move.

And a monster it is, in the sense that intuition, and intuition alone drives everything that bassist/frontman/main lyricist François Larivière, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist/composer Antoine Lachance and drummer Ghislain Lavallée ever do. Admittedly, François, Ghislain and (until 2011) Félix-Antoine Viens had had some time to develop a symbiotic creative relationship as part of Manchester, their previous Sorel, Quebec, punk rock band. “I too, came from a previous group, and we all met in bars around there,” Lachance, who joined OacUM in 2009, explained. “François studied guitar when he was in Cégep, and I took voice training at UQAM. Ghislain and Félix-Antoine are highly instinctive self-taught musicians. All this is good because our diverse backgrounds add value to the band.”

“The writing process can be triggered by a situation, an atmosphere, the feeling of the moment, anything.”

Stemming from wacky conversations and airy jams, the first original songs of On a créé UN MOMSTRE went viral on Myspace. After taking part in the 2008 Francouvertes music competition, the musicians recorded their first EP with the help of ex-Malajube member Renaud (Coeur de pirate) Bastien, an old friend from Sorel days. Signed by Slam Disques in 2010, OacUM released L’Iceberg, their first album, at the Montreal Divan Orange club in front of a rapt audience. In rapid succession, the “Dorval” excerpt began rotating on MusiquePlus in a Jessy Fuchs-produced video and playing on Radio NRJ, while making the TOP 100 BDS and XM Satellite Radio charts. Other tracks such as “5,0,” “Je pleure ou je ris” and “Brûle” also made waves. The band was later invited to perform at a JUNO Awards Pandemonium concert in Ottawa and at the Rencontres de l’ADISQ (where they collected a Sirius XM Award). They also opened Jean Leloup’s Festival de la Gibelotte concert, and attracted a lot of attention at the 2011 FrancoFolies de Montréal festival.

Thanks to their pop/rock style, based on aggressive guitar riffs, stellar vocals and universal lyrical themes, the band’s songs appeal to a cross-section of listeners of all ages. “We are rooted in punk music, but all three of us have very different inspirations and tastes,” Antoine points out. “We’ve been greatly influenced by the Winnipeg group The Weakerthans, for instance, with their varied folk/country/alternative punk palette. We also like Ben Howard and a lot of Quebec artists like Peter Peter, O Linea or Arcade Fire.” Music critics, in turn, have linked some L’Iceberg sounds to Pinback, Three Mile Pilot, The Police or Malajube.

Creatively, the band sides with a type of spontaneity and freedom that is consistently tempered by deep questioning. “François and I often bring in song sketches, draft lyrics or a few chords,” Antoine explains. “This sets off a great democratic exercise. We discuss things, we argue, but always in the interest of the song itself. One thing we’ve always known, though, was that we were going to write in French. It’s the language we love. It’s part of our identity, it defines us at the most basic level.”

Co-produced by Renaud Bastien and recorded by Jérôme Boisvert, La Dérive [Drifting], the band’s November 2013 sophomore album, is a more somber, piano-driven collection that evolved out of a need to explore a new sound. “The writing process can be triggered by a situation, an atmosphere, the feeling of the moment, anything,” Antoine continues. “Our lyrics can often be understood at different levels. We want each listener to come up with their own interpretations. ‘Le corps est lourd’ [‘The Body is Heavy’], the album’s official video, could be read as a tune about suicide, but what I was picturing in my mind when I wrote it was a tightrope walker. ‘Charles-de-Gaulle (Paris)’ was inspired by a real event. ‘Ta langue sale’ (‘Your Dirty Tongue’) deals with psychological aggression, something François learned about as part of his work with people with autism. ‘La dérive’ explores the carelessness that can lead to addiction. It’s probably the darkest song on the whole album.”

At press time, On a créé UN MONSTRE was embarking on an extensive Quebec tour that could lead them some day to France and beyond. The dynamic trio doesn’t know for sure but, as usual, expects the unexpected.

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.