It’s safe to assume that few artists appreciate the benefits of home recording more than Tlicho singer-songwriter Digawolf (born Jesse James Yatlayi). Deeply committed to remaining in his hometown of Yellowknife, NWT, the double JUNO Award nominee is keenly aware of the logistical and fiscal challenges of having to travel far afield to make an album.

The making of his 2009 LP Distant Morning Star entailed a lengthy stay in a Toronto studio, and 2019’s full-length Yellowstone – that earned him a JUNO nomination for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year – was recorded in a barn in Denmark.

The just-released album Ini was primarily recorded in the basement studio of Digawolf’s home in the far North, reflecting his increased proficiency in DIY recording techniques. “There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to the North,” he says. “You have to wear many hats here. You can’t just call up a producer, engineer, or songwriter, and there aren’t many available musicians here, either.”

The project initially started as a collaboration with Toronto-based producer/DJ Jason Spanu. “The idea was to explore ideas and run them off each other, co-producing the full album,” says Digawolf. “We worked together on the tracks ‘Seiga Dahte’ and ‘Ehtsee,’ but then I kept working on the other tracks, using techniques Jason showed me for using Ableton [a digital audio workstation].”

Digawolf, Segia Dahte, friend how are you

Click on the image to play the Digawolf video “Segia Dahte (friend how are you?)”

Ini features adventurous, atmospheric sonic explorations, and songs that reflect upon Digawolf’s experience of living and working in Yellowknife. All of them are written in Tlicho, the language he spoke growing up in Behchoko, the capital of the Tlicho nation in Nunavut. “Part of me is really honoured that I can still speak the language, as I know there are many people losing their languages,” he says.

The ambience of the album evokes his surroundings. “The idea of trying to capture the essence of the North is something I always strive for, and hopefully I succeed from time to time,” says Digawolf. “I started off as a cartoonist and painter, and I still keep the paintbrush in the back of my head. I feel as if I still paint, but with audio now.”

Digawolf credits the classic Tom Waits album Rain Dogs for changing his life early on. “I was maybe 12 when I rescued that CD from the garbage,” he says. “Someone here was throwing it out, as he thought Tom sounded like the Cookie Monster, but I listened to it like crazy. I have five older brothers, and growing up I always followed what they were listening to. With Tom Waits, I finally found my own music. I still have to listen to that album when I’m starting a new project.”

Digawolf’s gruff voice and spoken-word vocal style often elicit comparisons to the likes of Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Robbie Robertson, while reference points for his sonically manipulated guitars include Daniel Lanois and Robert Fripp. Citing the former as a real inspiration, Digawolf expresses a desire to work with Lanois in the future.

Doubtless Lanois would be intrigued by Digawolf’s penchant for sonic experimentation with the guitar. “That was my first instrument, and I still love exploring new ideas and sounds on the guitar,” he says. “Trying to find the latest guitar pedal is rather an insane obsession. Right now I’m into the lap steel, using an e-bow on it with two fuzz pedals and using delay. You can hear that on [new track] ‘Ini.’”

Despite the challenges of life in the North, Digawolf is proud that he works on his home turf. “A long time ago, I thought about moving South, but the North is my home,” he says. “It’s a wonderful thing to be doing something you love, and be at home.”

Always mindful of the need to support our members, help them shine, and continue to remain deeply involved in the Québec and Francophonie music ecosystems, SOCAN was ever-present in the 2023 edition of the Francos. Here are the highlights of our initiatives, collaborations, and participation during this 10-day celebration of Francophone music:

SOCAN Showcase at the Rendez-Vous Pros des Francos
As it does each year as part of the Rendez-Vous Pros des Francos, SOCAN showcased two artists, selected by its creative team, whose show promising potential for international advancement. As part of this edition, SOCAN members Parazar and Ya Cetidon showed what they can do in short-but-intense performances, in front of a large group of international delegates, official representatives of Rendez-Vous Pros des Francos (of which SOCAN is a partner), and a crowd of fans, and people interested in discovering fresh talent. And nobody was disappointed!

SOCAN pre-dinner networking reception
The Parazar and Ya Cetidon showcase was followed by a networking reception, where official Rendez-vous Pros representatives, and the artists on hand, had an opportunity to engage with members of the SOCAN team , including SOCAN’s new Director of Québec Affairs Alexandre Alonso – who warmly thanked the attendees, and stressed that sharing opportunities is an essential part of the music ecosystem.

Presentation of the Prix Félix-Leclerc to Ariane Roy
A long-time partner of Prix Félix-Leclerc, SOCAN was pleased and proud to once again present a $2,500 cash award to the- winner – in this case, Ariane Roy, with whom SOCAN caught up with following her June 13, 2023, outdoor concert. Sara Dendane, SOCAN’s Creative & Partnership Executive, Quebec, climbed onstage to present her with the cash award, and congratulations.

SPACQ panel on Artificial Intelligence
Also as part of Rendez-vous Pros des Francos, SOCAN partnered with SPACQ (the Société Professionnelle des Auteurs et des Compositeurs du Québec) for the presentation of a panel, Artificial Intelligence: Copyright and Creation, moderated by Francophone Communications and Marketing Manager and Paroles & Musique Editor Eric Parazelli. It featured captivating discussions on the rights inherent to AI, as well as on the potential dangers and benefits that technology provides to artists. The panel – a video recording of which will be posted on the SPACQ member portal – included composer, producer and music specialist Debbie Tebbs; Alfa Rococo singer-songwriter David Bussières; Gradiant AI co-founder and director Gaëlle Ramboanasolo; and Cabinet Lavery associate and patent agent Benoit Yelle.


Presentation of the Christopher-J.-Reed Award to France Lafleur
In partnership with SOCAN, APEM (the Association des professionnels de l’industrie musicale) capitalized on the timing of the Rendez-vous pros des Francos on June 15, 2023, to present its Christopher-J.-Reed Award to France Lafleur, who devoted 33 years of her professional life to the worlds of music publishing, and writer and composer rights advocacy. A lawyer, she played a number of roles at SOCAN, including that of General Manager of the Québec and Atlantic Division, until her retirement in 2013. The Québec music publishing industry thus recognized France Lafleur’s “exceptional contributions to the recognition of the music publishing profession.”

There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard a Canadian record quite like Debby Friday’s Good Luck. The Nigerian-born, Toronto-based singer/producer’s debut album is a 33-minute adrenalin rush of modern music fusion, with influences including rave, rap, industrial, alternative, R&B, and hyperpop, to name just a few.  Friday’s official bio refers to her as a “zillennial anti-heroine,” and when asked what she calls her style, she offers simply “hybrid.”

Debby Friday, What A Man, video

Click on the image to play the Debby Friday video “What a Man”

Friday herself has a story that’s both typical of many young first-generation Canadians, and unique to her creative mind and vision. She immigrated to Montréal with her parents, where she was educated by Catholic teachers at an all-girls’ school in Westmount and, not much later, the city’s after-hours club scene. While she didn’t grow up dreaming of a music career, she did want to be a writer.

“I was always a very creative child,” says Friday, on the phone from her home, days before embarking on a European tour. “I wrote a lot when I was young, thinking maybe I’ll be an author. But I didn’t have this idea of the arts as a career, because that wasn’t a thing that existed in my upbringing. My parents are very supportive now, but they didn’t have any context for this type of work, or this industry. The younger generation, we have a lot more choices. We can essentially create [our] own career[s], and that’s what I did.”

Good Luck, released on Arts & Crafts in Canada and Sub Pop for the world, follows a series of singles and EPs that established Debby Friday as a new artist to watch – literally. Friday holds a Masters of Fine Art, and her music videos draw on her studies, and passion for visual storytelling. The clip for her single “What a Man” references the infamous 17th Century “rape revenge” painting Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi – one of the only professional female artists of Italy’s Baroque era. She’s also released a surrealist short horror film to accompany the album. Still, Friday says that of all the arts, nothing compares to a song.

“I think music is the greatest connective art because you don’t have to speak the language of the song,” she says. “And a song doesn’t even have to have words in order for you to connect with it, and to connect to other people through it. Like people who are on opposite sides of the globe can have the same feelings elicited within them by hearing a song. I think that’s really beautiful.”

For her full-length debut, Friday explains that she wanted to level-up her songwriting, and her production skills. “I think previously, I was really comfortable with one mode of expression, but this time I wanted to be a little bit more open, more vulnerable. Like, I could just feel that there was something inside of me that was, like, ‘OK, we have to do something different. We have to do something more.’ I listened to that impulse, and I leaned into it.”

Debby Friday, So Hard To Tell, video

Click on the image to play the Debby Friday video “So Hard to Tell”

Part of that process was working with Graham Walsh, a member of electronic experimentalists Holy Fuck, who’s produced for Operators, Doomsquad, Sam Roberts Band, and co-written with Lights. Friday, who writes, records, mixes and produces her own music, met Walsh through her management, and says he “got it right away.” Her initial 17 songs, mostly written during the pandemic lockdowns, were edited down to 10 short tracks that condense decades of electronic music history into three-minute pop pleasures.  And if seductive club tracks like the high-BPM “I Got It” (featuring Chris Vargas of Montreal’s Pelada/Uńas), or the serpentine, Biblical-themed “Let You Down” are brooding explorations of the dark side, a song like “So Hard to Tell” shifts into a beautiful falsetto ballad.

For Friday, her diverse musical explorations are a natural result of growing up in the digital age. “We essentially have an archive of all of human thought and musical history,” she says. “You can pick and choose from that; like, take what works and leave the rest. I do love experimenting. I want to make beautiful things. And we’ve kind of come to this place where everything has become everything else – there’s not necessarily just one context for things now. That’s why I just call it hybrid.”