Up until three years ago, Vancouver-based artist Boslen imagined a very different future for himself. He was at the University of Victoria on a rugby scholarship and playing on Canada’s national rugby team when he tore his ACL, an injury that ended his dreams of becoming a professional rugby player. While he was stuck in his dorm during the long recovery, he started seriously thinking about what he was going to do with his life.
“Music really aided my mental health. It helped me from not caving in or imploding,” says Boslen. “[That time] really pushed me, and gave me the inspiration to shift my focus towards music.”
Boslen’s transition into rap and R&B wasn’t entirely unexpected. At 13 years old in his hometown of Chilliwack, B.C., he started writing his first songs – rapping about average kid stuff, like getting grounded or doing the dishes. “It was the cringiest,” he laughs. “Now, I have life experience and can say things that really resonate with people, and hopefully make them feel inspired.”
Boslen has pursued music with the same determination and prowess that he did rugby. Since releasing his his debut EP Motionless in 2018, he’s performed alongside Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Rocky, and Young Thug, and opened for Cypress Hill in Vancouver, to a crowd of more than 100,000. Now, he’s ready to release his debut full length and “put on for Vancouver.”
To be released this summer via Capitol Records/Universal Music Canada, DUSK to DAWN solidifies Boslen as a genre-less artist whose sonic environments range from hard-hitting rap and soulful R&B to emotional pop. Lyrically, he digs into the personal, exploring themes like vulnerability and self-empowerment, toxic relationships, and feeling like the underdog.
“Being a young Black, and Indigenous man, and growing up with a single mother, I felt like I had to be the man of the house, always had to be strong and not show my emotional side, because I felt like it was looked upon as weak,” says Boslen. “But I think with this album, expressing myself through my weaknesses is the strongest thing I can do. My main goal is for other people to feel empowered.”
Photo by Sébastien Beaupré
Musicor Disques’ Development and Publishing Director Xavier Debreuille
Story by Philippe Renaud | June 1, 2021
Originally from France, former equestrian sports journalist Xavier Debreuille is now Development and Publishing Director of Musicor Disques, as well as a Board member of The Professional Music Publishers’ Association (APEM). He recently shared his professional experience with us, and volunteered to provide some advice to would-be publishers and songwriters looking for the perfect publishing partnership.
“The music publishing profession is misunderstood, quite often by the musicians themselves,” says Debreuille, who learned the complexities of the business in the sports television world he worked in before changing lanes. Time was, he noted, that singer-songwriters naturally turned to their publishers, but nowadays, they “often believe that they can do the job themselves, because they hear that all a publisher does is take money, that getting a publisher is a waste of time, and that joining SOCAN is probably all you’ll ever need.”
“Such perceptions may be fed by confusion between what a record company does and what a publishing house does,” says Debreuille, who should know, now that he’s active at both ends of that spectrum. “Obviously,” he saays, “the life of a piece of music becomes much easier once it’s been published. So, when the recording is produced by the label, and the label goes on to promote and market it, the confusion definitely stems from the fact that the job is being performed by the record label instead of by the publisher.”
The publishers themselves must stress the importance of a publisher’s job – among other venues, through the professional training programs being offered by groups such as APEM (The Professional Music Publishers’ Association), a major organization “on which the music publishing profession should be relying even more than it does now,” says Debreuille. “APEM’s training program is superb, but its success depends on the willingness of industry participants to learn more. The next step, I believe, is to provide training at the post-secondary [Cégep] education level, and as part of more music festivals. We must reach out to artists.”
All of this in order to support and train future musicians. “A good publisher is above all a good manager,” says Debreuille. “He or she is someone who’s extremely strict and painstaking, because a large part of the job deals with the administrative work that complements the artistic side of the equation. It’s administrative – but also human – management: you’re working with artists who are all unique, with their own egos, you’re dealing with songwriters who may sometimes find it frustrating to be living in the shadow of performers.”
“You should always be willing to try something new, to look beyond”
Debreuille has two pieces of advice for would-be publishers. The first one is, “Level with songwriters from the word go. Don’t wait for success, or the lack of it – failure is often easier to manage than success is, by the way – for the publisher and the author to see eye-to-eye, at long last. The publisher must have a conversation with the artist before they go into the studio, and it’s essential that the publishers of two different artists [working together] should also talk to one another before the studio stage, in order to set out the rules of the game properly. What I’m saying here has nothing to do with art, but it is important.”
“The other piece of advice I’d like to give publishers is this: facilitate collaborations between songwriters. I believe publishers need to broaden their horizons creatively. Of course, when you realize that the chemistry is working, let’s say, between a composer of music and a lyricist, encouraging such collaborations can be tempting – but you should always be willing to try something new, to look beyond.”
To that end, Musicor Disques regularly invites songwriters to take part in writing camps in preparation for the recording of a performer’s album – as has been the case with Alexe Gaudreault (best new artist from La Voix in 2013), and also with Geneviève Jodoin (winner of La Voix’s 7th season). “That’s how you avoid running around in circles.
“It all comes down to human relations,” says Debreuille. “There should be a sense of trust between the songwriter and his or her publisher. Personally, when that trust exists, I try to be as realistic as I possibly can with the singer-songwriters who approach me. I show them how I work. I don’t tell them that everything’s going to be easy. Nothing is for sure.”
Photo by Julianna Damer
Post Script: Playing All Cards
Story by Élise Jetté | May 25, 2021
Amour fatal, released April 14, 2021, is their first exclusively French EP since the three songs they released in 2013. Since they started, they’ve released a bilingual album in 2015, French singles, and then an English EP in 2019. The Franco-Albertan duo Post Script crafts melodies that are at ease in any language. Instead of wallowing in their “isolation,” Paul Cournoyer and Steph Blais embrace what makes them unique, and they’re willing to play all the cards as long as the music is in the deck.
Being part of the cultural scene in Alberta is akin to being the member of a small family. “I grew up in a Francophone family,” says Blais. “Every year, my aunt would give a show for the Francophones in the area. That’s how I got into music. Schools are very involved in music programs, too. It’s nice to see that, even though there aren’t many of us, there’s a core group that produces new material and wants it to last.”
“There are people who’ve inspired us,” adds Cournoyer. “We’ve also had [the] examples [of musicians] that showed us we can sing in both languages. For our show requests, it’s more appropriate sometimes to play in English, but we have everything we need to play both cards.”
Building a network is where the going gets tough. “There’s an interesting summer festival scene in Alberta, but we don’t have a network of venues like ROSEQ in Québec,” says Cournoyer. “It’s impressive to see what opportunities artists have there.” With a smaller population, even if they’re performing in English, the venues are fewer and further between. “We don’t really have medium-sized venues,” adds Blais. “We either play for 50 people, or in a stadium. Except in Edmonton and Calgary, there’s no music industry to speak of, no record labels, except for Anglophone country music.” “It could be worse, but it’s far from perfect,” concludes Cournoyer.
Even though they’ve been making music for many years, Cournoyer and Blais are still happy to embody the emerging music of the West, aware that the opportunities are less tangible there. “On ‘Avec toi,’ by the way, we talk about when there were four of us in a hotel room touring. Being [an] emerging [artist] isn’t always easy,” says Cournoyer with a chuckle.
The words and the music are born at the same time for the duo, regardless of the language in which they write. “We’re really the type to focus on the melody. It’s a collaborative process. We often complement each other’s ideas,” says Cournoyer. It was then a creative choice to go to Moncton to record the EP with Benoit Morier. “He’s from Winnipeg and truly a passionate guy,” says Cournoyer. “We wanted to re-invent our arrangements and take our indie-rock and surf-rock to the next level. Maxime Gosselin, who also plays with Lisa LeBlanc, worked with us. We really gained a lot of cohesiveness by working with those guys.”
Whereas Louis-Jean Cormier, Jimmy Hunt, Chocolat, and Peter Peter are among Cournoyer’s inspirations, it’s the voices of Coeur de pirate, Safia Nolin, and Les sœurs Boulay that influence Blais more. No matter the case, their Francophone musical inspiration is rooted in Eastern Canada. The duo elected to wait out the pandemic before releasing the songs they already had in their back pockets. “We felt like releasing something in French, since we’d already released an all-English EP,” Cournoyer explains. “Releasing something entirely in French or English simplifies things on the human resources side of things. Promoting a bilingual album isn’t easy.”
Life on the road, long-distance love, and opposing schedules are among the topics that inspired the couple for this EP. Although written before the pandemic, “Échos” shackles us to our hopes for better days, with phrases that fit beautifully into the times: “Je m’étouffe sous le poids de mes attentes” (“I’m smothered by the weight of my expectations”), “Est-ce une fin que je vois à l’horizon?” (“Is that an end I see on the horizon?”). “Si j’te disais” is a glance at the voices of a couple separated by distance, of a love that’s on hold, and holding on, despite that distance.
They miss touring, but the duo have rehearsed, and they’re ready for what’s to come. “Luckily, we’re a couple, so we were able to play together,” chuckles Blais. “We’re on a creative kick, both in French and English, and we really think that regaining a sense of community, after the pandemic, is just going to grow our desire to make music for people, in front of people.”