Got a gypsy soul, I’m a rebel and rogue
And I’m always on the run
With a fire inside I ain’t ever gonna die
I’m a locked and loaded gun

– “Outlaws & Outsiders”

After a country-rock song you wrote surpasses 25 million cumulative streams worldwide, a move to Music City, where the heart of the industry lives, might feel like the logical next step.

Not for Cory Marks. Despite “Outlaws & Outsiders” reaching Top 10 on rock radio South of the border – and peaking at No. 3 in Germany – the songwriter is content to stay close to home. He lives in Sturgeon Falls (population 6,798), 39 km West, along the Trans-Canada Highway, from his hometown of North Bay. This fact is no surprise. As “Outlaws & Outsiders” suggests, Marks writes songs filled with truths learned from his rural upbringing. At heart, he, too, is an outsider.

“A lot of my songwriting is based on real and honest things that have happened to me, or close to me,” he says. “I would much rather write a true story – and [have] my own story really resonate – than create one with five or six other writers in a room with the hopes of a big hit. I always try to keep it real that way.”

Catching up with the songwriter on an autumn afternoon finds Marks enjoying time at home, writing more songs (he figures he probably has close to 50 set aside for his next record), hitting the gym, and finishing the requirements to obtain his private pilot’s license.

“Outlaws & Outsiders” started as simply a cool title for the cross-Canada tour Marks did with Aaron Pritchett five years ago. Canadian country radio is where the songwriter would love to land, but like the song’s title, he’s an outlier. His sound isn’t poppy enough to fit the mainstream mold. “I feel like I’m a country artist, first and foremost,” he says. “I want to give country radio something different for the fans and for the genre.”

“Country music needs change, and I want to be that change”

Before the song’s global success, the journey to 25 million streams started in Las Vegas in the fall of 2015. Marks joined Kevin Churko at the eight-time JUNO nominee’s studio, The Hideout. The pair wrote the bones for “Outlaws and Outsiders” in less than a day. Churko then used his influence to land some heavy-hitter guests: veteran country music icon Travis Tritt, Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, and Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe.

With or without the support of Canadian country radio, Marks will stay true to the outlaws and outsiders who inspired him: from Hank Williams to Buck Owens, Willie to Waylon, and Steve Earle to Sturgill Simpson. Growing up in North Bay, the artist was an aspiring hockey player, and picked up the drums as his first instrument. His dad turned him on to these country legends, and he simultaneously discovered hard rock, becoming a fan of bands like Rush, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, and Deep Purple.

“It’s unfortunate for artists like myself, with more of a rock edge, that we don’t often get the respect from the country establishment,” he says. “Country music needs change, and I want to be that change.”

Sno Babies Synch
As if the streaming success of “Outlaws & Outsiders” wasn’t enough, Marks also landed a synch with the song in Sno Babies (2020) – an independent film that looks at the dark realities of addiction. Better Noise Music, Marks’ label, produced the film, and the soundtrack, and felt his song fit well with the theme. “To watch the movie unfold, and have your song come on, that was such a cool moment,” he says. “As an artist, you dream of having a hit on the radio, but getting one of your creations featured in a film is also an incredible honor.” Come 2021, Marks’ song “Blame It on the Double” is set to appear in another Better Noise Films feature, The Retaliators.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Comment Debord. Founded in 2016, the band took its own sweet time. The time they needed to choose the right notes and lyrics that represented them; the time they needed to learn to appreciate and choose one another. The seven band members have now integrated the Audiogram team as well, and – following the learning experience of the 2018 Les Francouvertes competition – chosen the Fall of 2020 for the release of their first, self-titled, album. All seven of them tackling the same project at the same time.

Comment DebordListening to this album over and over in transit, or quietly at home, one immediately gets the feeling of having been invited to their party. Rémi Gauvin, the band’s frontman and main songwriter, shares moments of life with us while playing his favourite instrument: the metaphor. Simple or layered, his allegories are both poetic and humorous, without ever being disrespectful. He allows us to enter a familiar and welcoming universe, where everything we’re being told is phrased in such a way that it seems we’re hearing it for the first time.

“I’m not afraid to be colourful,” says Gauvin, “but ours isn’t a comedy band. I enjoy being engaged by what I hear, so I do my best to engage other people, too. That’s the main thing, actually. And the range of means you can use to engage people is pretty wide. Laughter is one of them.”

Electric guitar player Karolane Carbonneau (also a member of NOBRO) is part of the grooving base that the band members are developing together. “Rémi brings in the basic compositions,” says Carbonneau. “Sometimes we break into smaller units, but the drummer and bass player [Olivier Cousineau and Étienne Dextraze-Monast] always help us come up with an overall groove.” “Those two are very fastidious,”  Gauvin laughs. “We never quite understand what they’re talking about, we often feel they’re splitting hairs, but we never doubt that they’re giving110 percent.” The other band members are Willis Pride (keyboards), Alex Guimond (voice), and Lisandre Bourdages (percussion).

While other musicians might shiver at the prospect of keeping the peace in a seven-member band, this bunch has never even come close to a disagreement. “It comes from the fact that we weren’t friends to start with,” says Gauvin. “We all are somewhat different despite, being Montréalers, aged between 25 and 32, and living between Pie-IX Boulevard and Saint-Laurent! We picked up people here and there. The affinities came later. In rehearsal, some of us trade love stories, and others share stories about rock climbing.”

“I’m tired of hearing about climbing,” Carbonneau interjects. “I can’t climb because I have eczema, and with a guitar, that’s a no-no,” she laughs. “But, more seriously, all of the songwriting comes from Rémi, and, later on, we give the same importance to all band members, as well as equal opportunities to shine in each song. It’s totally egalitarian.”

Often described as a new-wave Beau Dommage, Comment Debord is deeply rooted in an old-school ‘70s vibe, and loves to construct stories that Québecers can identify with. “Our songs can resonate with 20-year-olds and old Parti Québécois members,” Gauvin laughs. “This is the only band I belong to that my aunt likes,” says Carbonneau.

The album was produced by Warren Spicer (Plants and Animals) – “our eighth member,” she says. He is the musical artist who mixed “Je me trouve laide,” which came out on their 2018 EP, and, this time the band was keen on using his “magical indie touch” again. “He likes organic wine too, so we all loved him right away,” Gauvin jokes. “We really wanted to feel the band spirit, even on the recording. We wanted people to feel that they’re with us in the room when they are listening to it,” says Carbonneau.

“Chasseurs de tournades” (“Storm Chasers”) has been her favorite song ever, since she heard it played for the first time at Le Divan Orange. “I had started swirling to create ‘tournades’ in the concert hall, and started a movement,” she laughs.

“It isn’t as if that song had brought us any luck in competitions,” Gauvin argues. “People didn’t necessarily understand that the mis-spelling of the word ‘tornadoes’ into ‘tournadoes’ had been voluntary, and was meant to reflect the fact that this was how we pronounced that word when we were kids. My former roommate is studying for a doctorate degree in meteorology. He’s not chasing storms, but he’s still chasing weather phenomena. That’s how I got the idea, and I wanted to treat myself and write my favorite kind of song: a ballad. It says that it’s OK to have an argument in a relationship, and that there are ups and downs, but that you have to try harder. Sometimes you’re the worst, and step into a ‘tournado’ with both feet. Chasing storms in Arkansas is exciting, but it’s also not the brightest idea!”

After evolving over time, as musicians and human beings, the band felt ready to sing with a single voice. Their first album is like a mild late summer breeze on a September golden sunset. And how would they want this gift to be enjoyed? “In a car during a long road trip, or wasted on legal weed,” they say.

Either way, but not at the same time.

With a rawer and more modern sound, Move Away, Bobby Bazini’s fourth album, is his most daring and personal one. No frills or production this time, and, most importantly, a body of songs that perfectly express his moods. The compositions have become deeper, the sound has grown richer, and, in short, there’s a fresh wind of renewal without any sampling, or other “canned” sounds. The album’s 13 songs form a compact, unstoppable suite of well-crafted arrangements.

“I need to travel before writing an album,” says Bazini. “That’s an essential source of inspiration for me. Much thought was given to the past 10 years in preparation for the writing of these songs. My life had been an unending race. That was an important journey, because expectations have always been high.”

Early in Bazini’s career, the French magazine Paris Match published an article on him, headlining that “the next Céline Dion is a man.” That’s where it all began, Bazini says today. And there was also comedian Louis-José Houde’s joke as he hosted the ADISQ Awards a few years ago: “Break out, Bobby, break out!” Bazini adds with a laugh.

“As I was not to work with any producer this time, the person responsible for the project was me,” Bazini explains. “I worked with other artists in the early stages to get the songwriting off the ground. We had a stock of some 60 songs. On the demos, I also played drums, bass and keyboards. At the end of the day, all the co-writers of these 13 songs also are the album’s de facto co-producers.”

In London,  celebrated British producer Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga), and the Brazilian musician Pedro Vito (who worked on four of Bazini’s songs), were his creative partners. “I also wanted to use strings, so we called on Davide Rossi (Coldplay, Alicia Keys), and the whole thing has been really stimulating.”

Move Away is replete with ballads that hark back to classic soul music — one immediately thinks of Al Green, and there’s a little something that betrays the year of manufacture… A display of references that are too visible, maybe? Not in the least! Bazini avoided slipping on the banana peel of that stereotypical, “oh-so-’60s”  sound.

Bazini’s whisky voice rules, moving from one song to the next without ever becoming intoxicating. There are also organ and choir passages, and the interplay of these varied voices breathes air into the music while containing the atmosphere.

“I’ve been going to London since 2015, and I’ve always been interested in the old-school sound of white British singers [the likes of James Hunter, for one],” he says. “The drum tracks of these British producers are very much ‘front and centre,’ like on Adele’s recordings, and I like that production approach very much. The title song, ‘Move Away,’ was written with Vito in mind: following his dreams to Europe. Personally, I would have written it in 4/4, but he did it in 6/8, so it’s much more rhythmic, and you can hear it on the recording.”

“Then I moved to Berlin to be able to continue my collaboration with him, because he lives there, and I like the quality of his writing,” Bazini continues. “We recorded Some & Others in Berlin. From the studio where I was, I could see how grey that city was. The studio was cold and old, and the heating was provided by a tiny radiator. And there was a 5:00 p.m. curfew, so we couldn’t waste any time!”

Obviously, working in this open-pit mine of super-catchy tunes hasn’t been a breeze, but on this album, Bazini hitting the nail on the head, piece after piece, without ever easing up.

To complete the picture, Bazini travelled to the Los Angeles, where he’d worked at the start of his career, in order to polish his recordings. This time, however, the producers weren’t the same. Studio time was booked at the request of Universal, his record company. These sessions have a more pop sound, and “Choose You,” the album’s second track, is the perfect illustration: “I wanted to try new things, to move out of my comfort zone,” Bazini explains.

While Bazini no longer had the wind in his sails following management changes, this new album is a first step toward his true identity. Who cares if the world has changed around him? Here’s the elegant Bazini in top shape.