With a global footprint, a focus on the international recorded music market, and synchronizations from Korea to South Africa to Sweden to Spain, CYMBA Music Publishing is placing songs, one artist at a time.

CYMBA (a division of Chapter 2 Productions Inc.) formed originally as a production and publishing house; it’s now become a creative, collaborative, and extremely active Canadian music publishing company. CYMBA stands for Crushing Your Music Business Apathy. This philosophy is apropos, since it has long served as a guide for founder Vince Degiorgio. As President and Chair of the Board of the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA), the industry veteran has his pulse on the world of music publishing.

“It’s the most exciting business in the world,” says Degiorgio. “The reason I feel that way is because you never know who’s going to knock on your door with a great song.

As a music publisher these days, there are no easy wins. As just one example, Degiorgio cites the co-published Serena Ryder hit and 2015 Pan Am Games theme song, “Together We Are One,” which earned a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award for scaling the peak of the CBC Radio 2 Top 20 on July 10, 2015. “It was almost like an industrial synch, a song with Scotiabank,” he explains. “At the end of the day, I don’t care where the opportunity comes from, I just need to make sure that we don’t miss anything.” These days, there’s little the 2017 SOCAN Publisher of the Year Award nominee misses.

“You never know who’s going to knock on your door with a great song.” – CYMBA founder Vince Degiorgio

In 2016, after more than two decades in operation, CYMBA went through a dramatic re-branding, growing the roles of its staff and opening its doors to new writers, adding to a globally established presence. “CYMBA is a celebration of not giving a shit,” Degiorgio explains. “A lot of people I thought would help me along the way, didn’t… I had to do it by myself a bit. That’s where the name comes from. We just want to be a part of the business; we are not asking for preferential treatment.”

Beyond placing songs for its artists, CYMBA has long supported its roster of songwriters with an on-site writing room, international song camps, creative development opportunities, a company conference, mentorship, and much more.

 CYMBA is also, increasingly, placing songs into films and television programs. Recent examples include landing more than 150 synch licenses for such properties as Disney’s Chimpanzee, ABC-TV’s Agent Carter, the CW’s about-to-wrap The Vampire Diaries, ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, Netflix’s Degrassi: The Next Class, and CBC’s Mr. D, Pure, and Crash Gallery. CYMBA has also landed in theatrical trailers for The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Bad Moms.

How CYMBA finds new songwriters
One wonders where these new signings are found? “Word of mouth, and sometimes it’s somebody that comes into one of the events we do,” says Degiorgio. “We’re known as a publisher that’s willing to start at the bottom, and not just go after someone that’s uber-established. It all starts with a connection we feel on the human side with the people we meet and write with; that’s been a big part of how we do things. We want to find people that are going to fit with the people culture among our other writers.”

Recent additions to CYMBA’s roster include Halifax East Coast Music Award (ECMA) nominee Reeny Smith (who Degiorgio dubs “the future”) and urban pop/TV personality Keshia Chanté. Along the way, they’ve continued to nurture and solidify the careers of producer Ari Rhodes and Davor Vulama. “We’ve signed more artists in the last three years than we did in the previous 20,” says Degiorgio. “That’s a huge shift in our game plan!”

And, while they’ve grown their placements – and their roster of writers – domestically, the global market is still the key for CYMBA.

“The domestic market is always a challenge because it’s harder to have a hit in your own backyard, so much of what we do is outside the country,” says Degiorgio. “Export is a sexy buzzword, but we started exporting songs in the late 1980s. CYMBA was invented to explore the musical universe that Canada wasn’t ready to offer yet… We’ve been ‘export-ready’ for more than 20 years.”

Looking ahead to 2018 and beyond, CYMBA plans to continue its evolution. Part of that includes signing its first Francophone writer, which Degiorgio admits has been “a dream of mine for a long time.” That, and – of course – to continue reaching the top in his home and native land.

“Now that we’ve got a No. 1 hit,” he says, “we want to fill a wall with No.1s for all of our writers!”

Among the plethora –and that’s putting it mildly – of albums coming out in the fall of 2017, one clearly stands out because of its artistic direction, and that’s Hugo Mudie’s very surprising Cordoba. Well-known in music circles as the frontman of The Sainte Catherines and Yesterday’s Ring, Mudie has launched his first solo album, and it’s a big departure from what are considered his musical roots, while retaining the sarcastic and off-beat tone that he’s owned since the start of his career.

“It’s probably the most representative album I’ve made, because there were no compromises,” says Mudie. “It’s the first time I can really be who I’ve always wanted to be. My closest friends do recognize me in it… I was always a little more fucked-up and open to all styles of music than most.”

Pop Goes La Vie

Hugo MudieLet’s tell it like it is: Mudie ventures into pop territory that few would have expected him to approach to this point. “I don’t know if we can call it a pop statement,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, it came very naturally. I’ve always listened to a lot of pop music and I’ve always based my compositions on melodies, even in my bands. The difference is that it was executed in an aggro or country way, depending on the band I was writing for.

Add to that the fact that the songwriter was saturating his ears and mind with rap during the writing and recording of the album – from Kanye West to Chance the Rapper to Young Thug. “I love the way they try things, sonically,” Mudie says. “There truly is a lot of research that goes into it. I get a feeling the genre re-invents itself every six months. It’s crazy.”

Yet, despite all that, his “natural” side re-appears every now and then, on tracks like “Ferme ta radio” or “Tofu Dogs,” where Mudie lets loose the punk/hardcore energy that drew the spotlight to him early in his career. “I wanted to do pure, bona fide Minor Threat or Dead Fucking Last, and I like the idea of having a couple of tracks on the album that are pure punk, like the Beastie Boys did back in the day,” he says.

Add to the mix a large pinch of Wavves and Beach House, and you’ll start having an idea of the multi-genre affair that you can expect. “In the end, I guess it’s my attempt at making Beach House tracks,” says  Mudie. There. Case closed.

We Are Wolves’ Alex Ortiz is credited with his first official production duty. “I didn’t know him and he had never done this,” says Mudie. “I liked what he did with WAW and, musically, his personality seemed as all-over-the-place as mine. We clicked immediately when we first met, and it was an awesome collaboration.”

Dyed-in-the-Wool Punk


And not only has the release enjoyed great visibility – “Livre d’or” has earned rotation on a few commercial outlets – the man behind the project is also the object of media attention, being a guest columnist of the ICI Première, Urbania and Vice platforms, to name a few. More often than not invited as an “industry” columnist, Mudie recently penned an op-ed piece on the role of music critics that was considered incendiary by some.

At a time where social media occupy most of our collective imagination, critics have a hard time finding their rightful place. The reactions to the op-ed were just as colourful as the piece itself: “I wasn’t expecting people to react with such intensity!” says Mudie. “Some even flat-out refused to talk about my album. But to be honest, I prefer that to pure disinterest. I’ve always loved stuff that shakes things up.”

Again, let’s be clear. “Even good critics piss me off,” says Mudie. “When I read it, all I can think of is that the writer has never made music. I truly believe that, and it drives me mad. And Québec is so small, everyone knows everyone. That drives me nuts too, when I think about it too much. All of that is who I am, I don’t over-think it before I commit. People who know me know I’ve always been that way. In school, people said I was a negative leader. When I was in a sports-study program, my teacher once told me: ‘You’re not a hockey player, you’re a rock star.’ Apparently, she had great vision. There comes a point in life where you either embrace your larger-than-life personality, or you are ashamed of it. And if you try to dumb it down, you’ll feel bad. In the end, it’s simple: if you like me, you’re welcome, if you don’t, oh well.” Another case closed.

“I’m only at the beginning of my career,” says Mudie, “and I already have songs ready to go. I’ve hung up my multi-band singer role for now, and I’ll no longer try to justify the style I choose. If I want to do balls-to-the-wall music, country, or pop, then that’s what I’ll do.” Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

In early 2017, Gabrielle Shonk appeared on SOCAN’s list of 10 artists to watch this year.

The shock wave began in the spring of 2016, when the video for her song “Habit,” produced with video artist Dragosh, was an instant hit. Yet she was still without a record contract. “The video went viral,” says the 28-year-old musician from Québec City. “I got a ton of e-mails from labels all around the world. The impact was much bigger than if I had simply shopped around a master recording.”

Thanks to her 10-track calling card – seven songs sung in English, three in French –Shonk joined Bobby Bazini on Universal Music Canada in early 2017. At the same time, Rimouski’s Louis Bellavance, the programming director of the Festival d’été de Québec, also became her manager.

“I was a little bummed out for a while, I thought that a bilingual album would be hard to sell in this market, but that’s how I wanted it to be,” says Shonk. “In the end, it’s a nice outcome, I’m happy. In any case, my musical culture has always been more Anglophone; my dad [Peter Shonk & The Blues Avalanche is celebrated on the Québec City blues scene] is American, and my mom from Québec. I loved Céline Dion when I was younger, but in fact, I come from the punk rock / hardcore scene.”

After a SOCAN showcase during the M for Montréal conference an festival a few months earlier, she was introduced to a wider audience on Feb. 24, 2017, when she opened for Bazini at the city’s Métropolis club. It became obvious: backed by her five-piece band, she infused her soul-tinged folk with powerful energy. There are no orchestral flights of fancy here; this woman has a romantic temperament, in the best sense of the words. Her music is touching, like a caress. Of her many influences, Feist, Kurt Vile, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell are on the short list.

Simon Pednault produced this first album, while Guillaume Chartrain was in charge of recording and mixing. They collaborated with Louis-Jean Cormier and Tire le Coyote. “I write my songs with a guitar and my voice,” says Shonk. “I love intimate stuff, and I consider myself as more of a musician. I’m always looking for melodies and chord ideas. It is certainly an intimate, very personal record. And we recorded live, all playing together, so we’d get a feeling of something real.” That meant ten songs to fine-tune, for which to create arrangements, and to record all at once – even though some of them were composed six, eight or even 10 years ago.

From one song to the next, the joy of bilingualism was preserved. One listens to “Raindrops” and “Part plus sans moi,” then from “Trop tard” to the more commercial “Missing Out,” and it all flows seamlessly, naturally. It’s exhilarating, and it’s clear that Shonk is an extremely sensitive, private songwriter.

When we walked towards the stage, itself sitting next to a railroad track, on Sept. 3, 2017, at the inaugural edition of the Mile EX End Music Festival in Montréal, she was singing Al Green’s soul classic “Let’s Stay Together” under the Van Horne overpass. “I have to do covers, because I only have 10 songs and they go by fast,” says Shonk. Her distinctive, stripped-down covers tell a lot about Shonk’s idea of pure singing: “One Dance” (Drake), “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) and even U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – which she had revisited during her galvanizing tenure at TV talent contest La Voix, the Québec franchise of The Voice, in 2014 – are ideal for her. Less is more.

Louis-Jean Cormier, her mentor during the show’s second season, advised her to bet on simplicity. And that’s what we hear on her first album. Ten sparsely, yet finely arranged songs. “I went on La Voix wondering if I’d be able to deal with such a level of stress,” says Shonk. “The audience, a big televised show. In hindsight, I learned much more about myself than I did on a musical level. I gave me confidence. And it gave me a swift kick in the ass to start composing my own songs.”

Gabrielle Shonk plays
Feb. 23, 2018, at L’Astral during Montréal en Lumière