I’m Leaving You is a personal victory,” Florence K summed up after describing how the creation of her sixth album had helped her weather one of the worst storms in her life. Strong and radiant, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who hours earlier had hosted the latest installment of her Ici Florence show on Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, announced that she was now ready to open a new chapter in her career.

Florence K’s most recent collection of luminous songs betray the dark moments she was living through as she was creating them in the wake of a painful breakup with her daughter Alice’s father two years ago. Despite lingering doubts about her ability to regain her self-confidence, I’m Leaving You, her chosen therapy, has been her most successful achievement so far.

The new album covers an extensive emotional palette in songs like “Remember Me,” a gut-wrenching, yet pretty ballad reminiscent of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” or like “Don’t Come Around Here Anymore” or “You’re Breaking My Heart (Mi Droga).” But there not an ounce of self-pity in sight, and Florence K made sure of that. “We’re not dealing with Hole’s Live Through This here! I love that album, but I was not trying to come up with my own tale of woes,” she warns.

“The songs on this last recording are telling my story. They’re about me, and I can live with that.”

Instead, I’m Leaving You was written and recorded in what can only be described as a blissful creative state in Los Angeles with Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell’s ex-husband, who has produced recordings for the likes of Melody Gardot, Herbie Hancock and Tracy Chapman. The album’s 10 selections also include musical contributions from David Batteau and David Baerwald, and were mixed by Tchad Blake, “the guy who mixed the Black Keys’ El Camino,” Florence K enthuses. “I can’t believe my luck!”

Her whole California experience was “magical,” Florence K marvels as she reaches out to her iPhone to sample some of the demos she recorded at the time.

With the help of Larry Klein, Florence K worked on expanding her musical colours by adding more pop- or soul-sounding tones to the Latin sounds of her earlier Bossa Blue or La Historia de Lola albums, while at the same time adding new depth to her compositions. This was far from being a radical departure, the musician explains, but a carefully planned new development: “We tried every possible way of mixing Latin, jazz and pop roots. I have a good knowledge of Caribbean music, and Larry introduced me to the East L.A. style, and one of the album’s cut, “You’re Breaking My Heart,” clearly has a Mexican sound.”

For the first time, Florence K also allowed herself to draw inspiration from her own experiences for her lyrics. Her Bossa Blue album, she admits, was based on events involving people she knew rather than herself. “I was only 21 at the time. That couldn’t have been me. I was appropriating stuff,” she giggles. This time, however, the stories came from her true life, with just the right amount of poetic licence. “The songs on this last recording are telling my story,” she says. “They’re about me, and I can live with that. It’s nice to be able to step back a little and get some perspective.”

The new release’s promotional tour was underway with a Montreal concert at the end of February, and others planned for France, English-speaking Canada and, more importantly, the U.S., where dates had already been set in a few small venues or events attended by music industry professionals. The new Florence K is poised to conquer the world, but just one step at a time. “Things are moving,” she says, “my pawns are in the right positions. When I was working on this album, I was not thinking of the places I would be playing those songs. It never occurred to me. But it’s interesting to see how all this is panning out now, where it’s all going.”

A 2014 JUNO nominee in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category, Florence K is ready for the big time, and if this means playing small U.S. and European venues for some time yet, she’s willing to pay the price. With an attitude like that, who’s going to stop her now?

I cover myself in napalm so I can burn like a bomb /
And go up in flames in front of the crowd – I want gas

On the lips of another rocker, this kind of lyrics might sound tacky or over the edge, or meant to create an aura of toughness and bravado that has nothing to do with real life. Éric Lapointe, a transparent artist singing without shame, embarrassment or filters of any kind, doesn’t need that, and fans listening to Jour et nuit (Day and Night), his latest album, already know that its excessive lyrics reflect the excesses of a rock ‘n’ roll life well lived.

Broadly exposed in the popular entertainment media and through such soul-baring earlier albums as Obsession, Invitez les vautours (Let the Vultures In), Coupable (Guilty) or Le Ciel de mes combats (My Demons’ Heaven), Lapointe’s personal life is no longer big news.

“There were times when I thought that being such an open book was not serving me, but in the end it’s proven to be the right thing,” he says. “People are well aware of my dark side. I’ve never hidden anything. So, if I ever find myself on the front page of the newspapers for something other than my music, well, nobody’s going to fall off their chairs. I am who I am. What you see is what you get.”

Should we, however, be concerned about Éric Lapointe’s future? His loved ones might, but his fans definitely shouldn’t. Artists going through long troubled periods tend to be treated as outcasts, existing in their own bubbles, but their life experience is too rich and too precious to be discarded off the bat. Lapointe belongs in that category with Quebec singer Jean Leloup, another mythical character with irreplaceable life experience.

“People started seeing me in a certain way because of my self-admitted alcoholism,”

“The thing is that, at some point, people started seeing me in a certain way, mostly because of my self-admitted alcoholism,” says Lapointe. “Sometimes, the myth becomes larger than life. At other times, the reality is even worse. I can only blame myself for that image I created by spelling my problems out in my songs. Everything I put in there is something I’ve gone through. That’s why I can identify with Roger Tabra, with whom I write many of my lyrics. We share the same lifestyle. I could never sing a lyric that wasn’t patterned after the way I live.”

In May 2014, Lapointe’s first album, Obsession, will have been out 20 years, and the artist will have been working with the same creative team (French-born lyricist Roger Tabra and guitarist Stéphane Dufour) for two full decades. “You don’t mess around with a winning team,” Lapointe insists, recalling how his first collaboration with Tabra came about. “I had completed all the lyrics for Obsession, but I still needed that one ballad. I had just broken up with the Marie-Pierre portrayed in ‘Marie Stone,’ and I was still too messed up to write it down – it was just not going to happen. Tabra came over my house for a ketchup spaghetti dinner and said to me, ‘OK, you and I are going to write this sucker. What is it you want that woman to know?’ I said, ‘How would I know? Anything!’ Without missing a beat, Tabra looked me and said, ‘That’s our title right there!’ The rest of the song was written in a matter of a few hours.”

Stéphane Dufour, whom Aldo Nova brought in towards the end of the studio recording sessions for Obsession, and who has produced Lapointe’s latest albums, also is an indelible part of the rock musician’s creative signature. “He produces and arranges all my songs. We’re so used to working together that we don’t even have to speak any more. We just look at each other and know exactly what’s going on. It’s a cosmic relationship,” Lapointe says. “If there is such a thing as inspiration after all, it can’t be striking if you’re not working.”

This, for Lapointe, usually happens in the middle of the night, as it did for his most recent album. “I don’t know why, but my brain seems to be working better then,” he says. “Maybe it’s because I sometimes find myself alone, and that thought frightens me. But I never feel alone with a guitar or a piano. Anyway, my studio is in the basement of the house, and it’s always dark like a son of a bitch down there at any time of the day or night. When we recorded Jour et nuit, the only way I could tell the time was when I could hear my kids’ footsteps overhead.”

So even as a dad, a rocker’s life is a rocker’s life.

Inspiration and talent play a big part in any successful songwriting venture. But so, too, does luck, and being in the right place at the right time. Just ask Stephan Moccio.

The man who co-wrote “Wrecking Ball,” one of the biggest songs of 2013, might never have had a hand in composing the Miley Cyrus smash if he hadn’t kept an appointment in Los Angeles.

It was September 2012 and Moccio had been spending half of his time on the West Coast for work, leaving his wife and two young children behind in Toronto. Although he was extremely busy in L.A., he accepted an invitation to perform for the Canadian Olympic athletes in Toronto. Tempted though he was to stay at home with his wife and kids, and rest after the gig, Moccio flew straight back out West for a previously booked writing session.

“I didn’t know a thing about the other two writers [Sacha Skarbek and Maureen “MoZella” McDonald], but something told me I needed to go back and do it,” recalls Moccio, still amazed at how it all happened. “We met and there was great synergy in the room. MoZella had just cancelled her wedding and was very frail, but wanted to write about her experience. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I first played these chords on the piano. It was such an emotional moment and that melody, which I’d had hanging around, became the chorus. We knew as soon as we’d recorded the demo, with MoZella singing, that it was a special song.”

There were a number of ingredients that made the song special, Moccio continues. “It had the right tempo (60 beats per minute), the right key for a pop ballad (D minor), and the right message for a dark song about toxic love or a relationship gone bad,” he says. “We weren’t trying to write a hit, just the best possible song. We took the time to write a proper verse, pre-chorus and bridge, and to make it emotional and exciting.”

“We knew as soon as we’d recorded the demo that it was a special song.”

Luck came into the picture when MoZella, who knows Cyrus personally, was able to present “Wrecking Ball” to the singer. “Miley instantly fell in love with the song and recorded it a few weeks later with Dr. Luke and Henry Russell Walter, better known as Cirkut, producing. Miley’s vocal performance is staggering, I think. And my piano, which MoZella originally sang to, ended up being the final piano on Miley’s recording.”

“Wrecking Ball,” the second single from Cyrus’ Bangerz album, came out in late August 2013. By that time, Moccio and his wife had decided to move their family to L.A. and landed there a week later – just as news broke that the song was number one globally in digital downloads.

“It was quite an arrival,” he admits. “My friends at Universal Music Publishing said they couldn’t have dreamt up a better script for me.” A controversial video, featuring a nude Cyrus straddling a swinging wrecking ball, attracted 19.3 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours of its release. That attention helped the song rocket to top the Billboard charts.

The singer’s even more controversial appearance on the MTV Video Awards, behaving in sexually provocative way with Robin Thicke, further boosted “Wrecking Ball” into the pop-music stratosphere. To date, the song has sold more than three million copies in the U.S. alone. At press time, its video had more than 511 million YouTube views. Twitter also extended the reach, as “Wrecking Ball” became the year’s most tweeted song.

Moccio’s life was caught in the song’s jetstream. “Things were suddenly moving at Mach10 speed,” he recalls. “The phone was off the hook crazy, so much so that I had to immediately change my number. I wasn’t doing anything differently. It was just that Miley’s recipe worked; she had brought our song to the world. Now a lot of other artists are looking at my catalogue and want a song by me. And everyone takes my publisher’s calls now.”