Matt Maw, director and lead artist manager for new Indigenous-owned and operated management and record label Red Music Rising, found out about his First Nations heritage when he was four. But he didn’t start investigating what it meant until much later in life.

Maw, now 32, was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, but his mother’s side of the family are Chippewas of The Thames First Nation. “We had no inherent connection to our cultural heritage until we reconnected with my mother’s family,” says Maw, an only child, whose father is white.  “It was something that both of us were excited about.

“For a long time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, because I hadn’t started examining the process of my own cultural history, and then subsequently exploring what reclaiming my cultural history and my Indigeneity looked like,” Maw explains.

Until such time, Maw immersed himself in another passion that wound up shaping his life and career path – music. He took piano lessons from an early age and sang in the choir through high school. He then moved to Toronto to attend Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts (now Randolph College), studying music performance and theatre. While he quickly realized he wasn’t cut out for performing, he was still really passionate about music.

Maw returned to Waterloo and managed a Sunrise Records in a mall, booked some local shows for bands, and occasionally deejayed. A graduate of Harris Institute told him about the music business and tech school. A few months later, he was back in Toronto, and started at Harris.  “It was fastest year of my life,” he says. “I learned a lot.”

“My primary focus with Red Music Rising is to assist Indigenous artists and Indigenous people”

From mid-2012 until the start of 2013, he held two simultaneous internships, one at Arts & Crafts. “To be able to peek behind the curtain and see how they operated was special,” he says. He also worked for a spell at Vapor Music Group (now Vapor RMG), a studio, and music licensing and jingle company.

Maw’s first paid job was in 2014 with Collective Concerts, which provided a “crash course in the world of live music and running multiple venues [The Horseshoe Tavern, Lee’s Palace, Danforth Music Hall] and programming,” working as social media and marketing manager, as well as a production manager. “Working out of the back of the Horseshoe and seeing all my favourite bands come through, and soundcheck seven feet from my desk, was an absolute dream come true,” he adds.

After 15 months, Maw accepted a position as label manager of newly formed Home Music Co., a partnership between Nettwerk and Marked Music’s Khaled Verjee and Andrew Kennedy, after they purchased and re-branded Bumstead Records. Maw, who signed BANNERS and DYLYN during his two-plus years there, calls that stint “an expedited education from a Canadian label perspective.”

By that time, Maw says, “Things stated to percolate in the Indigenous music scene. I was a white-looking Indigenous person working in the music industry, and A Tribe Called Red were making waves and gaining attention with the music industry, and bringing issues to light and making an impact socially and musically.”

APTN reached out to offer him a full scholarship to attend the eight-week Artist Entrepreneur program, put on by Coalition Music’s Canada’s Music Incubator. “My cultural and personal and professional life up until that point had been fairly separate,” says Maw. Through the CMI course, he met Indigenous music industry veteran Alan Greyeyes, who in turn introduced him to Jarret Martineau, co-founder of the Indigenous-run Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) Records, who offered him an eight-month contract in the Fall of 2017 as label manager.

“This is what I needed to be doing,” says Maw. “I needed to take all of what I’d learned in my mainstream, predominantly white industry, and the knowledge and the reputation that I’d built, and the network, and apply it to help accelerate and proliferate Indigenous artists, but also the Indigenous industry within music.”

When he finished at RPM, in May 2018, he started working as an artist manager associate for Six Shooter Records, whose roster includes Tanya Tagaq, Riit, and, at the time, The Jerry Cans. He left in March of 2020, and by June had been offered this “dream job” running Red Music Rising – a partnership between Coalition Music and The Aboriginal People’s Television Network, via APTN’s holding company Dadan Sivunivut.

“The way that I’ve been describing Red Music Rising is it is a holistic music company,” says Maw. “We’re artist managers, but we’re also a full-scale record label.” There are other Indigenous labels in Canada, such as Sweetgrass, Hitmakerz, Aakuluk, Moon, Musique Nomade, and, the aforementioned RPM, but Maw says he wants to take what he learned at Arts & Crafts and apply it.

“Ethos-wise, the sense of community that they managed to foster was so integral to how they grew as a brand and how their acts were branded,” he says. “I think that’s vitally important, and is something I’m striving to create with Red Music Rising.”

His first management signing  is producer/artist and cultural educator Boogey The Beat, whose contemporary EDM samples powwow singers, but “chopping and screwing and making big-stage festival dance music with it.” On the label front, in late October RMR released a single by the artist Drives The Common Man called “Night Vision,” and on Friday, Nov. 6, iskwē and Tom Wilson (featuring Chuck Copenace) released a collaborative single, “Blue Moon Drive.”

So far, he’s been finding artists through existing relationships. “It just comes down to community and word of mouth and networking,” says Maw. “I’m hearing from people from all across the country who are making vastly different-sounding music, who are reaching out to work together, or to collaborate in some capacity with artists that I’m already working with.”

And how does his mom feel about him exploring his Indigenous side of the family and integrating it into his career?

“She repeatedly lets me know how proud she is that I’m reclaiming my own identity, and my own culture,” says Maw. “But also, that my primary focus with Red Music Rising encapsulates what I want my life’s work to be – to assist Indigenous artists and Indigenous people in general.”

When her album Landing was launched three years ago, there was a lot said about the meandering journey that led Amélie Beyries to songwriting. A long creative process, strewn with personal pitfalls, had pushed the thirty-something to declare herself an artist late in life, although she was still a little embarrassed to assume this role completely.

BeyriesThe success of Landing, and the numerous accolades that followed, informed the project that would become BEYRIES. After a smooth landing, the artist wanted to meet the audience that had embraced her intimate songs.

“I sometimes wish I would write lighter songs that I could sing with a degree of detachment, but I just can’t,” says the singer. “I’m the type who’ll break down crying on stage, and it happens a lot! It made me anxious, initially, but I quickly understood that audiences are generally benevolent towards artists, they don’t want you to fall flat on your face, they’re there to support you. I’m not an entertainer, and I don’t think I’ll ever be, but I’ve come to love this trade, thanks to the exchanges I have with the audience during my concerts.”

Encounters are indeed the central theme of her sophomore album, Encounter, where she offers the same timeless sound, which she’s nonetheless expanded and tweaked alongside her longtime producer, multi-instrumentalist Alex McMahon. “We found out we still had a lot to say, and we wanted to see where our musical relationship could go,” Beyries explains. “Alex asked me what I wanted to do, and all I said was that I wanted… wider songs, something more unifying.”

The folk roots remain the same, but BEYRIES ventures into pop territory on catchy songs like “Over Me,” which is almost reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, or the languid Keep it to Yourself, in which the bass line engages in a dialogue with the strings. Those string arrangements, penned by Antoine Gratton, are an integral part of the desired sonic expansion, and one of the rare elements that’s not the fruit of the creative BEYRIES-McMahon powerhouse.

“Alex is so talented, he can play any instrument! During the recording sessions, he played the guitar and bass parts, and they’re not at all his favourite instruments, yet when we asked ‘real’ guitarists to play those parts, everybody agreed that Alex’s versions were way better. He plays with instinct and passion, which a very rare talent.”

Although she says she listens to a wide variety of musical genres, Beyries remains true to the core artists that made her who she is: Cat Stevens, The Beatles, and Elton John. Through those influences, she seeks to bring a timeless touch to her own compositions.

Landing was voluntarily a sparse album,” she says. “I wanted the focus to be on the vocal harmonies. This time around, I felt like hearing something bigger, wider, although all of those songs can easily be boiled down to their simplest expression; I can sing all of them guitar-voice, piano-voice, or even a capella.”

That comes as no surprise, since all of them were written on the family piano, a 1923 Heintzman that Beyries had meticulously restored. “It’s the only object I’m attached to,” she says. “I’m self-taught on the piano, but playing on that particular instrument, that my mom and grandma used to play, is a connection with my past. It’s something highly emotional for me.”

Although Beyries is a specialist in the intimate sphere, she still looks outwards, notably on the incisive “Graceless,” which might almost be classified as a protest song. “I usually try to leave my songs open-ended, so that people can read what they want into them, but with this one I really wanted to express my distress about the direction the human race is going in,” she says. “Call it my pre-apocalyptic song… I wonder just how far we’re going to go in the de-humanization and destruction of our planet. Are we going to succeed in coming together to face the major issues that threaten our survival?”

Short of offering an answer, BEYRIES songs are there to accompany us, and remind us of our common humanity. It’s a good start…

On Spectrum, his first solo EP, Zach Zoya dares to “re-visit the idea that an album should be limited to a single atmosphere.”

Zach ZoyaAnd haters beware: the challenge the Montréal – by way of Rouyn-Noranda – singer and rapper has set for himself isn’t presumptuous. It’s actuallyhonest and, dare we say, humble.

“I wanted to establish that people need to know me as someone who does many different things,” he says. “As someone who’s just as comfortable doing rap as I am doing sentimental R&B. I don’t want to have to convince everyone again on another album. I want to avoid a rift from happening.”

With versatility as his “primary musical value,” the 22-year-old artist is staying true to his family’s musical background, rooted in both North America and South Africa (his father’s country of origin).

“My big sisters listened to Beyoncé, Drake, and a bit of ‘90s R&B like Usher,” says Zoya. “I think his very rhythmic way of singing perfectly in sync with the drums had a big influence on me. My parents listened to Elvis and African music. On a subconscious level, I think the super-rich and textured African harmonies have also influenced me.”

Zoya makes no bones about one thing: Québec music has very little place in his own work. Having grown up for the better part of his life without a computer or TV, the young man had very limited contact with Francophone music, which is why he chose English as his mode of expression, even though he was raised in French.

“All I had was the radio, so every now and then I’d hear Marc Dupré or Marie-Mai… Shout out to them, but it wasn’t really my vibe,” he says politely. “At a time when everyone was watching the WordUp! Battles, I was discovering Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80. I knew the lyrics by heart, and my friends and I would sing them out loud just for fun. Then, around the age of 15, I started doing that at parties, and the way people reacted really gave me confidence. That’s when I said to myself: ‘I’m doing this for real!’”

The next year, Zoya arrived on the North Shore of Montréal to complete his high school diploma, and it turned out his best friend had a contact in his family for a sound engineer and a studio. The result was his first mixtape – that Steve Jolin heard on Souncloud in 2017. The head of Disques 7 ième Ciel, a hip-hop label based in Rouyn-Noranda, saw in that a natural and almost pre-destined alliance. Luckily for both of them, so did Zoya.

Alongside the Laval-based producer High Klassified, the up-and-coming artist launched Misstape, his first official release on 7ième Ciel, in 2018. Several high-profile international labels liked what they were hearing, notably Universal Music Canada, and the label’s most famous A&R rep, Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall. “We sent demos to a lot of labels and it’s Kardi who was the most enthusiastic,” says Zoya. “Everything happened really organically with him.”

These demos are part of a library of 200 songs created over a period of three years, alongside the Parisian producer Bougo – Zoya’s “go-to guy” – and a few other talented composers, like Ruffsound, NeoMaestro, Gary Wide, and the aforementioned High Klassified. With only six songs, Spectrum was born of a careful listening and sorting process.

“Instead of trying to compile a bunch of similar beats, I chose instead to go with a vocal common thread,” says Zoya. “Sure, there are different vibes, but it couldn’t sound like it was two different guys, one who sings and one who raps. It needed to sound like it’s a single guy with different emotions.”

The opener, “Le Cap,” sets the table over a vigorous trap track, the perfect playground for Zoya’s percussive flow. It’s a convincing show of strength, the only equal of which is the epic, heavy closer, “Slurpee,” a hard-hitting first single that was released last summer, accompanied by a remarkably off-the-wall video.

Between those two poles, the artist stays closer to his emotions, as on “Pillz,”, his favourite song on the EP. “I used specific moments from my break-ups of the last five years and gathered them in one song,” says Zoya. “I wanted to create a narrative that truly demonstrates my vulnerability.”

Whereas he proclaims his independence on “In Da Way,” where he slays all the superficial friendships that have littered his musical journey, on “Stick by You,” Zoya delivers an amorous “statement of intent.” “I was in a pretty closed state of mind about two or three years ago,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t able to get involved or invested in a romantic relationship because music was my priority. Things change, though, and that song is me promising to my lover that I will try anything for her. ‘This is gonna be fucked up, I can’t predict the future, but I’ll give you the best of who I am.’”

Elsewhere, on “Patience,” the singing rapper reflects on his relationship with happiness, with surprising philosophical insight. “Every time I think of joy, I lose a little,” he confesses on the song. “I rarely have a good feeling when I experience a good moment,” he says. “It’s like, as soon as I realize it’s a good moment, I start enumerating everything that’s wrong about it.”

Even though Zoya is aiming for an international career, he’s careful to avoid chasing instant happiness or success. To him, the road to glory or, as he puts it, “maximum fulfillment,” is more important than the end itself. “I was always looking forward to the plane ride when I’d visit my family in South Africa,” he explains. “Once there, the excitement subsided, and my destination became my new normal.

“I want my career to be that exciting ride before I get somewhere, no matter where that is.”