Although she was born in San Francisco, Nathalie Bonin’s parents were Francophone Québécois. Although she spent her entire life in Québec, it seemed like going back to California was written in the stars. With the help of a SOCAN Foundation grant, and her mentor Michael Levine – composer, among other things, of the music for the Netflix series Sirens and the videogame Resident Evil – she got to experience the Game Developers Conference (GDC) during a one-week stay at the L.A. SOCAN House in 2016.

Nathalie Bonin“I had a three-year plan in mind, I was tired of living in the cold six months out of every year, so I took a leap of faith,” says Bonin. Serene, she couldn’t be happier with her new life. “If I was a city, I’d be Santa Monica! I think my authenticity opened doors for me. I love challenges.” Which isn’t surprising, coming from someone so eager to experiment. Bonin is a demanding artist who’s able to clearly and objectively question herself.

An acoustic and electric violinist, she‘s toured extensively with the band Tocadéo. She accompanied Stevie Wonder the last time he played Montréal. She’s been suspended from the Jumbotron at Montréal’s Bell Centre, as part of an amazing aerial number in collaboration with Cirque Éloize, during the opening ceremony of the NHL All-Star Game in 2009. She was imperial in stature during a wild performance alongside Klô Pelgag at the 2018 ADISQ Gala, followed by an intimate duet with Michel Louvain. She’s played in concert with Marc Dupré, composed two seasons worth of music for Messmer’s Hyp-Gags on Z Télé, and wrote the theme song for the show Prière de ne pas envoyer de fleurs, hosted by Patrice L’Écuyer on ICI Radio-Canada. She’s participated in 75 episodes of the show Hommage à Joe Dassin and, last November, Bonin played in a jazz concerto at the Gesù alongside New York saxophonist and composer Quinsin Nachoff. As if all that wasn’t enough, her music was selected for a Fondation du Dr Julien fundraiser.

“In L.A., I can’t rehearse eight hours a day, my life is a marathon and I like it just the way it is,” says Bonin. “Most of the people I work with aren’t from L.A., they’re from elsewhere. They’re people who followed their dreams and set challenges for themselves, like mine. We each try to help each other out through that process. I’m not there to take someone else’s place. It’s not a competition.

“I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”

“Screen composing, film scores, are mostly about communicating an emotion,” she says. “Composing for a story I see, I’m inspired when I play in real time. I’ll watch the film several times, and then talk at length with the director to make sure that the characters are well supported by the music, in terms of quantity and tone. I’m at the service of the images. But I don’t play over the images; if people don’t realize that music has entered a scene, you’ve done a good job. I become a creator, but at the service of a work of art.”

Nathalie Bonin, Brandon Garmon

Nathalie Bonin and Devil’s Hour director Brandon Garmon

She’s a member of the Grammy and Emmy academies, of the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), of the Malibu Composers Club, which convenes once a week, and she won the highest distinction at the Live Score Film Festival for her work on The Devil’s Hour, a horror movie.

“Ten composers were paired with ten directors,” she says. “We didn’t know which horror film we were going to work on. It was no small feat, because I hate horror movies! I was grossed out by images of blood. I range from fully enthusiastic to completely panicked. That anxiety is always there: ‘Can I pull it off?’ I’m reassured to know that the big-name composers I work with feel the same uncertainty, even after working on hundreds of movies. You get there by impregnating yourself with a film’s atmosphere. At some point gridlock is broken, an idea pops out, there’s a click and everything falls into place. You need to trust yourself.”

Bonin has also composed 20 pieces for eight different albums of library music on Michael Levine’s label, MPATH. She often works at home, alone, tinkering with sounds and experimenting with the music software Logic. She also recently launched an album, Emotional Violin, chock full of dark tunes, under label CrimeSonics distributed by BMG Production Music.

On March 1st, she will fly to New York at the DIY Music Festival to give a workshop about the art of combining her business and artistic side to succeed in her career. And, after having realized a project of music for 3D phones, she plans on the composition of a musical work intended for virtual reality. In other words, 24 hours is hardly enough for a day in Bonin’s life. And she does all of it without an agent or manager.

“I battled with myself for a long time, wondering if I was too scattered with my countless projects,” she says. “But the truth is, as a musician, you can’t just be good at one thing. I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”

Adriane CassidyIf music is the breeze of youth, that’s not the purpose we’ll assign it here. At 21, Lou-Adriane Cassidy offers timeless sounds and states of mind. On C’est la fin du monde à tous les jours, she sings about the daily nature of death, the small things that slip through our fingers, memories that never fade, and what’s left when our heart’s been emptied.

“It’s my first album, so I don’t feel there were any expectations about it,” says the artist, who landed on many a critic’s list of artists to watch in 2019. “I didn’t think it would flop, but I’m surprised and grateful for the way it’s been received. But I do wonder, on what do these people base their judgement,” she adds, laughing.

The album opens with “La Fin du monde,” a song that ties all the others together, “It’s only when the album was done that I realized that was the meaning,” says Cassidy. “I was afraid to complain too much on my album. But the end of the world every day is the perspective I wanted to impart through those complaints. I’m putting things into perspective.”

Known for taking part in many a song contest, Cassidy is adamant that this step had to be transcended. “The world I navigate nowadays is directly, or indirectly, because I participated in all those contests, and I feel very lucky,” she says. “But I was fed up of feeling like I was passing a test every time I got up onstage.” In her mind, the way she did things isn’t the only way to succeed. “I naturally fit in the contest format because I’m a songwriter, but that’s not the case for everyone, and that’s why I think it’s not essential.”

Many Stories

On her first album, Cassidy, to quote her 9translated) song lyrics, was “waiting for the burn to subside,” admitted that she “embraces excessively,” “spits on being 20,” and “devours with her eyes a body that’s already cold.” She draws the portrait of a carnal aura, of a love outside the bounds of her obviously young age.

The stories she writes are hers, but  created with the help of Tire le coyote or Stéphanie Boulay, to name just two. As an alumnus of the televised talent contest La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice), Cassidy was strongly and negatively criticized as a singer, after the fact. During last spring’s edition of Francouvertes, she was criticized for not singing only her songs, and her first single, “Ça va, ça va,” was written by Philémon Cimon.

“It’s a question of one’s era,” says Cassidy. “My mom was a singer her whole life, so it’s something about which I have a privileged point of view. It’s truly typical of our era to be snobbish about people who sing other people’s songs. There are people who write damn good songs, but who can’t transmit them. Collaborations are beautiful! I love bringing my own interpretation to something that was created by someone else.”

She was told that one day, she should be able to make an album on her own. “But that’s not what I want,” she says. “Singer-songwriters are put on a pedestal, but collaborations are much more satisfying to me.”

Becoming One With Music

Having barely turned 20, being an emerging musician in 2019 is a peculiar thing. Given the changes that the industry is undergoing, one wonders what awaits artists who are just starting their careers. “There’s no way of knowing where music is going, because we’re in the middle of a storm,” says Cassidy. “My whole life has changed completely, every six months for the last three years. And when I look back at where I was six months ago, I can’t even understand how I got to where I am.”

In her mind, the key is knowing how to diversify, a strategy that aligned with her approach to music: one can wear many different hats. “I want to keep playing with Hubert Lenoir [who she accompanies onstage as a musician and backup singer], write music for stage plays, produce albums,” she says. “My goal in life is not to make albums as a singer-songwriter. There are other possibilities.”

Thus, Cassidy creates a universe where she’s the master, but where it’s also allows others to gravitate to her. The door’s open, everyone’s invited. And even though this album was created by many hands, Cassidy remains categorical: she’s in command and in charge of the emotions that it carries. “‘Amours immatures’ [written and composed with Rebecca Leclerc and Simon Pedneault] is a good example,” she says. “I think it’s a fun subject. It’s not a perspective you often see. I’m proud of being the standard-bearer for saying it’s possible to love someone by ignoring their age.”

Onstage, the songs will be strung together to take the audience from the very small to the very large. The gentleness of songs played solo on guitar will be followed by rock flourishes alongside Pierre-Emmanuel Beaudoin, Simon Pedneault, Alexandre Martel and Vincent Gagnon. “There will also be a few covers, and it’ll all be understated, without being overly dark,” she explains.

Cassidy appreciates the fact that her collaboration on Hubert’s project helped her shed some of her goody-two-shoes image, and she reminds us that she’s fully capable of holding her own, front and centre. “You know, it’s possible to jump around on stage for two hours, and have a deep metaphysical discussion right after,” she says. “We’re all complex beings. No one is only just one thing, and I’ll never be just my solo project.”

When Madison Kozak was 10 years old, she won a contest to perform in front of thousands at the Havelock Country Jamboree in rural Ontario. It was a moment that changed her life, and made her realize that music was something she wanted to pursue. “I felt this unforgettable adrenalin rush connecting with the audience,” she recalls. “At that time, I was singing all cover songs, and I saw the way people sang the lyrics as if it were the soundtrack to their lives… It hit me that music is something that connects people, and I just knew that was something I wanted to be a part of.”

To do that, to dive head-first into the music industry, then-14-year-old Kozak did what many aspiring country singer-songwriters do: she moved to Nashville. Now in her second-to-last semester at Belmont University, where she’s a music business major, Kozak believes being “a small fish in a freaking ocean” helps drive her to work harder, become a better songwriter, and work her way back to performing in front of thousands – but this time, singing the words to her own songs.

A big step towards achieving that dream is her upcoming signing to a successful publishing company, which Kozak will do this year with Big Loud Shirt, home to writers like Craig Wiseman (Blake Shelton, Brooks and Dunn) and Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley. It was an opportunity that arose in one of her Belmont classes, where she presented songs to a panel of publishers, which included Hannah Wilson from Big Loud Shirt. “She immediately took me under her wing, and showered me with awesome advice and support,” says Kozak.

Forever adhering to the idea of “writing the truth,” Kozak hopes her music – which includes released singles like “Trailblazer” and “First Last Name” – can make others feel the way her idols make her feel. Idols like Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain, and Taylor Swift, who make her feel “that I’m not alone, and that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and am nice to people.”

“Like I said, I believe music connects people, in which case I hope I can be a bridge,” she says. “God knows in this day and age, we can never have too much of that.”