Cold Specks seemed to come out of nowhere. Cutting a mysterious figure as her first darkly soulful tracks began capturing listeners’ attention, Cold Specks was soon revealed as the recording moniker of Al Spx, a Canadian-born singer-songwriter now living in London, England.

Her self proclaimed “doom soul” soon began to make waves in the U.K., with her first single “Holland” earning high praise from press such as The Guardian, The Times and NME. A debut 7” record was released to critical acclaim last December on Arts & Crafts, and in 2012 she was signed to U.K. label Mute Records.

“In the early stages, I was uncomfortable with having my name associated with the songs,” says Spx. “I made a decision to remove myself from the music. I think that separation and mystery allows a writer to be as devastatingly honest as he or she wants to be.”

Her debut full-length, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, released early in 2012, was short-listed for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.


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Translations prior to Fall 2013 are currently unavailable. 

Depuis longtemps, elle sème, ratisse, bichonne. Aujourd’hui, Natalie Byrns récolte. Ce qui donne Carnets d’insomnie, deuxième opus très réussi de l’auteure-compositrice-interprète de 36 ans, aux accents folk-pop. Un album planant et atmosphérique, qui réunit comme dans un bouquet tous les talents de cette femme-orchestre : l’écriture, la composition, le chant, le théâtre et, dans la foulée, le spectacle. « Ce qui caractérise mon parcours, c’est ma passion vibrante pour la scène, avoue-t-elle. J’adore raconter des histoires, aussi bien dans une chanson de trois minutes que dans un show à grand déploiement. C’est ça qui m’anime. »

Formée au Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec, la native de Thetford Mines prend rapidement la tangente de la musique. « Mon père écoutait Patsy Cline et Connie Francis. Ma mère, Ferland, Charlebois, Vigneault. J’ai appris le piano, tout en trippant sur les grands des années 70… La chanson a toujours été en moi. Mais j’avais envie de toucher à tout – théâtre, clown, travail du corps, analyse de textes. Mes meilleurs souvenirs du Conservatoire, ce sont les cours de poésie. Dire un poème devant un public, c’est très proche du travail de chanteur soliste. »

La voix chaude de Natalie la lance d’abord sur une trajectoire de chanteuse. On l’entend dans la trame sonore d’un film de Disney. Elle obtient le Prix de la presse au Festival international de la chanson de Granby de même que la palme d’interprète, le coup de cœur du public et le Prix du Roseq au Tremplin de Dégelis. La troupe Québec Issime lui confie bientôt le rôle de la mère Noël dans la superproduction Décembre, qu’elle reprend d’ailleurs depuis.

D’autres spectacles musicaux apparaîtront plus tard sur sa feuille de route, comme Showtime et Un violon sur le toit. Et pourtant… « Je rêvais d’être auteure- compositrice-interprète. J’ai toujours écrit des poèmes. Au Conservatoire, j’ai créé des chansons, mais qui allaient dans tous les sens. J’ai pris des détours avant de revenir à l’écriture. » Le déclic se fait pendant un séjour en Asie, comme soliste d’un band. « Là-bas, un des musiciens m’a offert une composition. J’ai alors compris que je devais me laisser inspirer par la musique. Cette mélodie a donné “Filer sur le vent”, une chanson du premier album, paru en 2007. » L’idée de ce disque lui vient d’une photo d’elle, prise à Macao à la tombée du jour. « Tout de suite, c’est le titre qui m’est venu en tête : Le Soleil sur l’épaule. De là j’ai imaginé un recueil de voyage, qui parlait aussi du vent, de la mer, des volcans. » Réalisé par Francis Covan, l’album privilégie les instruments acoustiques.

Carnets d’insomnie, lancé en mai sous le label Iguane Records, a lui aussi mûri à partir du titre. Natalie en signe tous les textes, assonants et consonants, et la moitié des musiques, en plus de jouer du piano. « J’ai observé mes insomnies et celles des autres. Même si le ton est intime, le “je” est tour à tour personnel et personnage. » Avec ses complices Christian Bernard à la composition et Bruno Labrie aux arrangements et à la réalisation, elle invente un univers nocturne enveloppant, lucide ou onirique, qui évoque l’inspiration créatrice, l’alcool et la drague, le mal d’amour ou le vertige de la maternité (juste avant l’arrivée du petit Raphinou). Avec, ici et là, des pointes de dance (« Coca Loca », premier single), de R & B (« Sous le lit ») et même une parenté avec Sheryl Crow (« Falling In Lust », seule pièce anglaise). « Je voulais m’éloigner du folk pur, aller vers un style plus pop, mais avec des loops organiques, réalisés avec des grains de café, des pinceaux, des chaînes… »

Fan d’Andrew Belle, de Patrick Watson, Martin Léon et Luc De Larochellière, Natalie rêve de composer des musiques de films, veut offrir ses chansons à d’autres et continuer de créer pour elle. « Écrire, chanter, c’est viscéral. Parce que chaque fois que je monte sur scène, il y a une rencontre… Pour mon prochain album, je veux continuer à jouer avec les personnages et me servir de tous les outils que j’ai acquis comme interprète. »

L’espace francophone est aussi dans sa mire. Encore là, l’artiste cultive la patience dans l’esquisse de son plan de match. « Je ne crois pas au hasard. J’ai fait tout un parcours pour arriver jusqu’ici. Si je n’avais pas produit mon premier album, Nicky Estor ne m’aurait pas entendu chanter au P’tit Bar ni proposé de faire partie de sa maison de disques. Je me vois comme une late bloomer. Pour chaque fruit que je cueille, j’ai mis beaucoup d’heures dans mon jardin. »


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It was the Tweet that shook Carly Rae Jepsen’s world.

When teen superstar and social media phenomenon Justin Bieber first heard the Mission, B.C., native’s catchy dance-pop number “Call Me Maybe” last year and tweeted an endorsement to his 15 million (at the time) followers, Jepsen’s life changed forever.

“It ended up really igniting right away: I was No. 11 on iTunes at the time, and he tweeted and we were No. 1 within the day,” remembers Jepsen, a 2007 finalist on Canadian Idol. “Not only in Canada, but in countries I had never visited, like Germany and Australia and New Zealand – they were kind of getting wind of it, and I was getting Twitter followers by the thousands. I was amazed what one little tweet could do.”

It didn’t stop there. A small cadre of Bieber’s pals – his girlfriend Selena Gomez, actress Ashley Tisdale and members of the band Big Time Rush – joined him to film a video of the song that exploded virally. This set off a new trend of celebrity versions and adaptations – ranging from Katy Perry and Sesame Street‘s Cookie Monster to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell – providing their own renditions of “Call Me Maybe.”

“I was getting Twitter followers by the thousands. I was amazed what one little tweet could do.”- Carly Rae Jepsen

But it was immediately after the Bieber and friends video – clocking in at more than 45 million views as of press time – that Jepsen received the call that would turn her life cyclonic: an invitation to join the Stratford, Ont., native and his manager Scooter Braun’s new label, School Boy Records, distributed worldwide by Interscope. (Jepsen remains on 604 Records in Canada.)

“Scooter said, ‘Justin really wants to do this. I really want to do this. Come to L.A. and let’s begin.’ My tour wrapped up and I flew down there.  Two nights before I left, I went on Facebook and saw the viral video and went, ‘Holy shit, this is crazy!’”

Since then, Jepsen has been criss-crossing the planet, appearing in Australia and the U.K., where the song has topped the charts.  She also spent five consecutive weeks at the peak of the Billboard Hot 100, and by the time you read this, sales will have probably passed the six million mark in North America alone.

And she’s been busily creating the full-length follow up to her Curiosity EP (released earlier this year), writing and recording with a cast of characters that includes LMFAO’s Redfoo, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Owl City and the fellow Canadians with which she’s built a creative core: her longtime guitarist Tavish Crowe, Marianas Trench singer-songwriter and frontman Josh Ramsay, and producer Ryan Stewart. To further complicate her life, she’s working on the album while doing TV promotional appearances for the single, appearing on numerous TV award shows, touring incessantly and opening for Bieber on his Believe tour, including a free show in Mexico City that reportedly drew 300,000 fans. “It has been a whirlwind, but a very enjoyable one,” Jepsen reports after an early morning arrival in L.A., following a gig in Ohio.

So how did she come to write her flirty anthem of instant attraction that has taken the world by storm?

“The first line of the song, the phrase line, ‘Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad,’ was something I was just humming to myself while I was hanging out at my uncle’s house in Mission,” Jepsen explains. “It was written for a guy I’m seeing today, my boyfriend – the idea that I knew that something was missing and it was him.”

Jepsen further fleshed out the idea with Crowe. “It was kind of an acoustic song that my Tavish and I were jamming on when we were on the road together,” says Jepsen.

Jepsen had already met Ramsay while opening shows for a Marianas Trench tour, and recruited him for vocals on “Sour Candy,” a track from her 2008 Tug Of War album. “When I showed up at Josh’s for my second writing session ever, he asked me to play any ideas that I had. I played him the beginning of ‘Call Me Maybe,’ and, at that time, the chorus was a pre-chorus. Tavish and me had a whole different chorus in there, and when Josh heard it, he said, ‘No, let’s cut that out and let’s repeat that pre-chorus because that’s definitely the hook.’

“Josh has an amazing sensibility of knowing how to ‘pop-ify’ a song. He’s very genius when it comes to that kind of stuff. Tavish and I didn’t think twice – we just listened to him and followed his lead. The lyric, the rest of the song, we ended up stripping away the verse that was there, and Josh and I re-worked that.”

Jepsen evolved the song further with Ramsay over a few days, increasingly excited by its potential. “I remember I was pretty excited because I came in the second day and had new verse lyrics, too,” she recalls. “I liked the idea of it being a little ‘fantasy-ish’ for a pop song. I sang it to Josh and he was stoked about it.

“Every day another one of us would bring in another idea, and the cool thing was, no one ever said, ‘No, I don’t like that.’ It was always fully embraced.”

One more important piece of the puzzle remained, and that was the mix from Dave “Rave” Ogilvie, the veteran producer and remixer who’s worked with Nine Inch Nails, Tool, David Bowie, Skinny Puppy and others, and who gave “Call Me Maybe” its edgier dance-pop sound.

“Every step of the way was crucial,” says Jepsen. “Josh’s involvement changed the song completely. Dave Ogilvie’s involvement changed the song completely. It was just kind of cool to see the different stages and colours of it.” The whole process took approximately five days. “It was kind of easy,” she says.

“Call Me Maybe” was just one of approximately 55 songs Jepsen had written while prepping initially for an album to be produced by Stewart. But even she was surprised at the dance-pop turn her music took, revealing that she was expected to create a different kind of album altogether.

“I just remember going into the studio with Ryan Stewart and with every determination that I was going to do this folk-ish record, because that’s what I had been signed to 604 to do,” recalls Jepsen, who’d been listening to albums by Robyn and La Roux at the time. “But I would go in there and I always be inclined to ‘dance-ify’ it, and these melodies were happening that weren’t totally folk.

“And Ryan – God love him, he’s been with me from day one of this adventure – was kind of doing the same thing, so we just went where we were feeling attracted, and that was definitely towards more of a pop world.”

Jepsen’s sudden success may be a surprise to the mainstream world, but ex-Canadian Idol judge Zack Werner always felt she’d be “massive.”

“The things that were very clear about her from the beginning were that she had this little-girly quality that was incredibly appealing right off the bat, and you knew that as soon as she was on the radio that people would recognize her,” says Werner. “Coming up with the right songs is another story, but certainly the charisma and tonality was there, and the coquettish cuteness of it was there immediately.”

Werner also praises her upbeat attitude: “She was always positive, always humble, really grateful and really open from the beginning, so I’m not surprised she had the right attitude and the right sense of self to work with people in the right way to succeed.”

Even as she rides her ever-expanding waves of popularity, Jepsen continues to write as prolifically as she did before her career took off. “I didn’t know if I was going to seize up in this, or go through one of these writing sprees that sometimes can happen, and it’s very definitely the latter,” she says. “I’ve gone through this writing spree that really hasn’t let up.”

Although the next few years of her life will be occupied supporting the upcoming album, Jepsen continues to think long-term as she reaches the stars.

“As much as I’m enjoying this ride, and I don’t want to get off anytime soon, my goal has always been five years from now to get to enjoy the luxuries of having a toned-back life with a family, and kids, maybe,” she reveals.

“Maybe I’ll just write for other people or be involved in lyrics. It doesn’t hurt to have a library of unused material just in case, you know?”


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