Claudia Bouvette Who would refuse being admitted to Paradise Club? After all, it’s a space of freedom, empowerment, and free speech. Over the course of the last few years, we’ve gotten acquainted with Claudia Bouvette as a musician, singer, and actress. She’s even detoured into reality TV, but the version of herself that always re-surfaces, stronger than the others, is the music-making one. The young woman’s true love takes centre stage with the release of her first full-length album The Paradise Club.

Beyond being an album of orary heartbreak, Claudia Bouvette’s first full-length is also a major statement. “It’s such a personal project,” she says, to open. “I want to share with the world this state of relief that came with my songs and my album.” Through each story and verse, what stands out most, for her, is that “it’s really going to be okay, no matter what shitty situation you find yourself in.” Musically, she took great care to emphasize the rhythm: “The themes and topics are on the sad side, but the music is upbeat. I’ll never be able to hide from my recurring theme: decrying the behaviour of the ‘uglies.’ Yet, I try to do it with a somewhat positive vibe,” she says, giggling.

Aware of the constant pressure on women, and the performance they’re expected to deliver, she remains a proponent of genuinely letting go, and taking a moment to choose what’s best for us. “We’re told we’re supposed to be able to do everything at once, as women and as musicians,” she says. “What ends up happening is, we get confused, and don’t know where to start. It gets depressing, because there’s a good chance you can’t manage having the weight of the whole world on your shoulders.”

Not one to hide her ambition, she knows what she’s worth, and her lyrics reflect a desire to point toward the less-than-perfect road that nonetheless leads to self-accomplishment. “You can’t go very far when you don’t know where to start,” she says. “It’s happened to me. I wasn’t doing well at all, but it’s amazing how time will fix everything, and how taking a break allows you to move faster afterwards.”

For her, songwriting begins with synth chords and a few onomatopoeiac phrases, which allow the phonetics to dominate. “What’s crazy is that words and phrases create themselves this way, thanks to words that don’t really exist,” Bouvette explains. “I build around that. I always write the lyrics las,t and I fine-tune the phrasing with Connor, since he’s Anglophone.”

He whose name is on everyone’s lips lately, Connor Seidel, co-wrote and co-produced The Paradise Club with Bouvette. Chosen by many artists to assist in the production of their work, Seidel knows how to deploy his talent where it’s needed, allowing the full grandeur of the artist’s skill to unfold before him. Bouvette is thus captain of her Club, in full control of her words and sound. “I’ve known Connor for many years,” she says. “We did my first EP together. He gave me the space I needed to express myself, and believe in myself. I’m very instinctive, but that implies a certain level of insecurity. His humility opens creative doors for me.”

Once the songs were written, the work was long and meticulous, both in the studio and at home. ‘I did a lot of work alone in my bedroom,” says Bouvette. “Then we created universes together. There’s something very organic in our approach. I can be very picky, but very easygoing, too. I like being surprised by sounds I’d never think of pursuing. The end result is totally uninhibited.”

While happily mixing French and English, she still feels stronger in the latter, although what drives her even more is the range of possibilities when you can play with both. “The sounds roll around in my mouth easier in English, but I think it’s really enriching to be able to have both co-exist,” she says.

Bouvette is increasingly able to recognize the tools that push her creativity further: listening to music, analyzing texts, reading books, or poetry. “I also put my phone down!” she exclaims. “The second I spend too much time on my phone, I lose all my creativity. In the end, though, it’s really my suffering that motivates me. Even when I feel fine, I’m inclined to go reach for darker feelings that I experience in everyday life. Maybe I write songs to liberate myself from something.”

When she debuted in 2012 with her album Aware, alt-pop indie artist Nuela Charles did most of it herself: she wrote it, recorded it, released it. Six years later, a Songwriters Association of Canada ProWorks song camp in Edmonton was the moment it all changed for the Kenya-born singer… Well, at least during the second day. She purposefully skipped the first.

“I actually called in sick the first day, because I was terrified,” says Charles, a three-time JUNO Award nominee and the recent co-winner of the SOCAN Foundation’s 2022 Her Music Award. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to contribute to anything. I’ve never done this before. What if my idea sucks?’

“Then, the second day I went in, I was partnered up with Rob Wells, and we wrote the song ‘Melt.’ It was the best song I’d ever written to that point; vocally, it was my best performance ever. It just opened my eyes to the world of co-writing, and I haven’t looked back since.

“That totally changed my trajectory, in terms of who I am as a songwriter. I just love sitting in a room and trying to create something from nothing, with people who’ve probably never met before, in most cases. It just allows me to soak it all in.

“Now,  I have this mindset of just going in, no ego, not really expecting anything, and just being open and willing to receive and share. And not being afraid of sharing stupid ideas, because no idea is stupid – it just either works or doesn’t work. It’s definitely been a huge part of my development as a writer.”

Now she’s ready to enter a new chapter, as indicated by her recent single “Awakening,” and the next one, “Worthy” – and the Her Award certainly brings new confidence with which to move forward.

“For me, after doing it for so long, I kind of feel like I’m still at the beginning of my career, in a way,” says Charles. “It feels good to be recognized and know that what you’re doing is resonating with people. Since I’m an independent, doing it all alone, basically, it’s just such a boost. You get that outside validation of, ‘Hey, you’re actually doing well.’”

That validation has been extremely important to Charles during this time of introspection, documented in part by “The Awakening.” “I’m in a period of digging into… who am I as a person. I feel like I kind of lost myself the last 10 years trying to do Nuela Charles. Like, ‘Who am I without the music?’

“So I started going through more affirmations, and really giving myself the space to breathe, grow, and just sit, without trying to actively do something to further my career. ‘Awakening’ was just this thing that came in – and I was kind of looking at myself and how I started as a musician. I was very eager, I wanted to conquer everything, but fast-forward 10 years, and I wasn’t excited about anything

“I felt like I kind of sat back and dimmed myself for the benefit of others. And at some point it became, ‘No, you’re worth it: stand up and stand in your light!’ ‘The Awakening’ was initially very down-tempo and chill, more of an Afrobeat vibe, until my L.A. producer [Matt Parad] said, ‘Let’s push the envelope and not settle for the first demo you came up with.’ When he created the chorus, I thought, ‘This sounds like an awakening’: She’s trying to be a flower/who found her super power/ this is an awakening.

These days, Charles starts writing by jotting down ideas before passing them through Parad, who she also met through a songwriting camp.

“For most of the newer stuff, I start it myself in my little home studio, where I’ll have either a lyrical idea, a melody, or a sample,” Charles explains. “‘Worthy’ is one I started on the piano, and I really wanted to capture the feeling of not being loved, or not being worthy, but realizing  you’ve got to believe that you’re worthy –  that’s the gist of it.

“I produced it in Logic, and was able to capture all the parts, arrangements, and then pass it to my producer, who fleshed it all out, and built it back towards the song it’s going to be. Matt’s really great, because he didn’t touch the lyrics. He said, ‘These are your stories to tell… if you need help, I’m here.’ Which was awesome, because he gave me the freedom to sit there and think, ‘What do I want to say that’s going to resonate?’”

Currently dividing her time between Edmonton and Toronto, Charles is readying her self-titled album for a September release.

“It’s 10 songs, and I’m really excited,” she says. “All the lyrics are mine, I’m really proud of what they are and what I’m saying, and it’s probably the most personal, yet universal, record that I’ve made to date. I feel like I’ve finally arrived.”

That synch-ing feeling

Nuela Charles has successfully placed her songs with a number of TV shows –  Jane The Virgin and Tiny Pretty Things among them – and says writers should explore similar placement opportunities if they can.

“It’s super-important; that makes up 75% of my income,” Charles explains. “It’s been synch placements, and it’s fun because, for the most part, [for] a lot of my songs, I’ll always write with, like, either a storyline or a visual in my head,  where I think it would be cool as a soundtrack to a theme that doesn’t exist. But it’s also where music supervisors and directors have taken songs and placed them in their own narrative and had fun with them, which is really cool.

“It opens up a whole new world of people discovering your music,  because a lot of my online streaming and sales have been from [other] countries, and from people who’ve heard my songs through TV shows, that I would never been able to reach if it wasn’t for those placements. So, it’s huge.”

Nano Talrose has always used music as a tool to express his deepest feelings. While talking over Zoom from a recording studio in London, Ontario, he pauses for a second to figure out how to properly articulate the therapeutic value he finds songwriting: “Music helps me to express myself,” he says with a smile, “in a way I can’t while talking to a friend.”

In the past, most of his meditations have turned into soft, thoughtful pop ballads, but working on his debut EP, about a turbulent past relationship, he’s found himself taking new creative risks to express complex feelings. The result is a foray into a slightly edgier, more rock-oriented sound.

Talrose has always been interested in the rockier side of pop, and his favorite artists include Olivia Rodrigo and M83 – even though his early releases were gentle love songs. While working a job in the banking industry, he wrote music in his spare time to deal with emotional moments in his life. His first single, “Stay Quiet,” released in 2019, was a minimalist ballad that paired his lovestruck vocals with a finger-picked acoustic guitar. The sounds may have changed somewhat now, but his emotive, personal lyrics, and expressive vocals have remained the same.

The last few years have been a period of transition for the singer-songwriter. He left his job and used three years of savings to pursue his pop-star dreams full-time. Moving from Niagara to London, Ontario, he had to connect with a whole new community of musicians. Eventually, he met a drummer, bassist, and electric guitarist, building new creative partnerships that led to him taking new risks with his music. Now, Talrose meets with guitarist Hayden Dyson once a week to record demos and flesh out song ideas. “It’s great working with him, because he’s helping me experiment with more rock elements,” says Talrose. “‘He shreds. He’s a great guitar player.”

It seems to be working. Early in 2022, Talrose was briefly interviewed nationally by CTV’s eTalk, which called him “an up-and-coming star you’re going to want to keep your eye on this year.” To that end, Talrose and Dyson have been working together on the upcoming EP, which will tell the story of a fluctuating relationship he was in from 2017 to 2021, and the rollercoaster of emotion he experienced. Talrose plans for the EP to follow the narrative arc of an love story, going from the honeymoon period to the heartbreaking end. Working with new sounds has helped him express himself: “I have more options now with what genres I want to throw in,” says Talrose.

He released several singles last year, co-written with producer Damian Birdsey. Talrose penned “Strangers”  back in 2020, about a sorrow he experienced; but a year later, he re-tooled and released it as a more danceable song. In October of 2021, he released his latest single, “Falling Deeper,” about going head-first into new love. His voice works well with the new instrumentation, as syncopated drumming and prominent guitar strums elevate the song to a greater intensity.

Talrose has grown a great deal in a short time, finding his voice – and in working on his EP, the singer-songwriter has also located his inner rockstar. “It’s super-satisfying to be able to let this side out of me,” he says.