Based in Québec City, SOCAN members Louis-Étienne Santais and Thomas Casault are Fjord, a duo that’s just released its first official offering, Textures, the music of which is rooted in the late-‘90s chill-out movement, as well as 2016’s electronic music vein.

We spoke with the guys who are likely to dominate playlists in the coming months.

P&M: Tell us a bit about your creative process?
Fjord: We totally work in a collaborative way. We usually start by settling on a viable key progression, and then we build on that quite rapidly; we add percussion, bass, other sounds, according to our inspiration. At that point, even though it’s still a draft, we have a better idea of where we’re headed, and that helps us remain inspired. Then, we spend a lot of time looking for the right melody, and we’ll often improvise and record dozens of melodies on our iPhones for a single song before we settle on the one that’s just right. The words or sentences that come to us spontaneously often remain in the final version of the song, because it’s hard for Thomas to find something to sing that comes more naturally. Then we complete the lyrics, always together. That’s probably the hardest part for us. We spend a lot of time in the studio working on demos and we throw many away. We often need to take a step back. Take “Blue,” for example. We couldn’t find anything that thrilled us, so we put it on the back burner for a while. Months later, we were going over our demos and it gelled; we had enough material to turn it into a great song.

P&M: As a matter of fact, you took off because of “Blue,” which was extremely popular on Spotify, with more than two million streams to this day. How do you approach this success in the light of the heavy criticism directed towards Spotify lately?
Fjord: Spotify has been and remains a very important springboard when it comes to visibility, and the money it’s earned us, thanks to our songs being in rotation. We’ve actually managed to self-finance Fjord. Our band was born right in this paradigm shift from record sales to streams, it’s been a part of our lives and careers from the get-go. We’ve realized that the majority of people who listen to us, do so on Spotify and Apple Music. Our songs end up on their playlists. Those playlists are curated by people who follow the music biz very closely. That has a very positive influence on the reach of our music.”

P&M: Textures was done with the help of various producers. How do you achieve that without compromising the Fjord sound?
Fjord: We always produce much of our own stuff – like, 90 percent. Other producers are incredibly helpful, because they help us decide what’s good to keep and what can go, and we give them plenty of leeway to try stuff, and bring in their own ideas. We always have the last word on artistic decisions, and luckily all of our collaborations have gone smoothly so far, we didn’t have to reject a lot of their ideas. It’s always helpful to have a third pair of ears, and the people we’ve worked with are super-talented. It was easy to trust them and build together, whether it was Claude Bégin (Karim Ouellet, Alaclair Ensemble), Gabriel Gagnon (Milk & Bone, Daniela Andrade), or Dragos Chiriac (Men I Trust, Ghostly Kisses).

P&M: What’s coming up for Fjord?
Fjord: A few great opportunities have come up since we released Textures, but we can’t say much about any of them yet. One thing’s for sure: we’ll be playing shows in 2017. Certain collaborations are underway, some are even finished. Whatever the case may be, we’re entirely focused on creating music, right now. We’re working on new tracks that will be accompanied by new visuals.


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Before taking to the stage at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall to open for Canadian pop singing phenomenon – and fellow SOCAN member – Alessia Cara, as the opening act on her 22-city fall tour, Ruth B did what many a 21-year-old would: she took to Twitter. “Opening for Alessia at Radio City tonight,” she wrote to her more-than-a-million followers. “I’m shaking like a baby puppy.” Five hours later, she was back online: “Radio City just happened. I didn’t faint. I’m now waiting for pizza. Life is amazing.”

Amazing is an understatement. A year ago Ruth B (short for Berhe) was a university student worrying about exams, trying to decide on a major (she was leaning towards political science) and working a part-time job at a department store. “I was folding clothes and working cash,” she laughs. “That life feels like forever ago.”

That was all before her rapid and unanticipated leap onto the international pop music charts with her viral hit “Lost Boy,” the mournful piano ballad which has now achieved more than 33 million views on YouTube, and gone platinum in Canada, the U.S., Sweden and The Netherlands.

“Every time I leave my room, I’m bound to run into a song – from the look on someone’s face, to something someone says to me.”

Ruth BIndeed, for many the Edmonton native is still known as “that Vine girl” because of the role the social media platform – where users share videos no longer than six seconds long – played in her remarkable rise to stardom.

Ruth B, whose parents emigrated to Canada from Ethiopia before she was born, grew up taking piano lessons, and always loved to sing around the house. “There was never a time when I wasn’t obsessed with music,” she explains. “It always came naturally – like breathing.”

After discovering Vine, she played around with posting “silly videos” and clips of herself covering tunes by everyone from The Beatles to Iggy Azalea to Coldplay. But it was a video she posted of herself playing a song by Drake that took her rapidly from 50 followers to nearly 1,000. “And I thought, ‘Oh, maybe this will help me get my voice out there,” she recalls.

In January 2015, inspired after watching an episode of the Canadian-made fairytale TV drama Once Upon a Time, Ruth B sat down at her keyboard and shared two lines from what would ultimately become her first original song: “I am a lost boy from Neverland/Usually hanging out with Peter Pan.”

The six-second clip earned 84,000 ‘likes’ in a single week. Shocked and encouraged, she released more clips in the weeks that followed, eventually posting a video of herself on YouTube playing the finished song. By then the calls from agents and record labels were already rolling in. Putting her academic career on hold, she signed with Columbia Records in July 2015, and a few months later released her four-song EP, The Intro (which includes the song “Lost Boy”) to critical acclaim.

While Ruth B says she’s as surprised as anyone by her sudden success, she admits that she’s always known, at some deeper level, that she was destined to have a life in music. She’s quick to point out, however, that her forays into performing online were never part of any kind of career plan for making it happen because, as she puts it, “that didn’t seem do-able.” Instead, she resolved to let things unfold naturally. “I knew it was going to happen, but in its own time,” she says.

Crediting her family and friends for keeping her grounded as her star rises, Ruth B is now focusing her attention on developing her skill as a songwriter. Describing herself as an avid reader and as a lover of stories, she’s focused on penning tunes that include strong imagery and characters. “I love when that’s incorporated into a song,” she says. “I like when I can picture it, and not just hear it.”

Ruth B points out that she finds her inspiration everywhere. “Every time I leave my room, I’m bound to run into a song – from the look on someone’s face, to something someone says to me. There’s a song in every experience. I don’t limit myself to anything.”

It’s an attitude that has enabled her to write 20 original songs in the past year, some of which will be included on a full-length album, currently in the works (with an anticipated release date of early 2017).

She’s quick to add that she still does all of the writing herself, and considers it a critical piece of who she is as an artist. “Before anything, I feel like I am a songwriter,” she says simply. “When I have grandkids, I want to be able to play my album and say, ‘This is all me.’ That’s important to me.”

While she still has plans to return to university down the road (she’s now leaning towards a degree in English), Ruth B’s enjoying the unexpected ride on which she’s found herself.

“Music brings me joy, whether I’m singing for thousands at Radio City Music Hall, or just singing in the basement for myself. As long as I can do music, I’m happy.”


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At 30, Adam Baldwin could be considered rather a late bloomer as a solo artist. Right now, however, everything’s coming up roses for the Dartmouth-based singer-songwriter. Released in June, his debut full-length album, No Telling When (Precisely Nineteen Eighty-Five), has been earning unanimously positive notices for its combination of free-spirited, guitar-fueled rock ‘n’ roll and perceptive lyrics that often tackle social and political themes.

Produced by Liam O’Neil (The Stills, Metric), the album features Josh Trager (of Sam Roberts Band), Brian Murphy (of Alvvays) and Leah Fay (of July Talk).

Baldwin is bringing the material to vivid life onstage, touring the album as a support act for the likes of The Temperance Movement, Sam Roberts Band and Blue Rodeo, and national dates with July Talk begin in November 2016.

Fine company to keep, and Baldwin is suitably appreciative. Interviewed after a show in Montréal, he says, “I’m lucky to have friends in the right places. These guys don’t have to have me on their bills, as they sold the shows already. I’m sure I’m the envy of a lot of Canadian acts right now.”

The response to No Telling When is similarly gratifying. “It surprises me anytime there’s any praise,” says Baldwin. “I tend to be self-deprecating and maybe I lacked the confidence I should have had over the years, if you’re in a business where you’re judged for your art.”

“I’m not a guy who writes 100 songs and gets three from that. I’d rather just write a song and chip away at it until I feel it’s where I need it to be.”

Baldwin has gained real peer respect over the years, primarily as a guitarist in Matt Mays’ band. But, he says, “I’ve been writing songs a long time. They just weren’t good, and I was focused on playing in other people’s bands. When I was 25 I had a child, and that rather made me realize this is the thing I’m best at, so I really did want to try my hand at [my own] music as a career.

“The only way to do that is to stay busy. It’s great playing with a guy like Matt, who’s frequently busy, but when he’s not busy I’d just be at home, maybe playing in cover bands. I decided it was the right time to put some songs out and test the waters, and it has worked out.”

Adam BaldwinBaldwin’s first solo foray was a self-titled 2013 EP, one that earned him the Male Artist Recording of the Year Award at Nova Scotia Music Week in 2014 (he was also named Musician of the Year). While pleased with the accolade, Baldwin says, “I can’t depend on radio play or awards to validate what I’m doing. I tend to look at the crowd response, and what people who buy my music are saying about it.”

The bulk of the material on No Telling When was written after the EP was released. “I wrote it when I moved into a house that had a piano,” says Baldwin. “I played as a kid and I wrote just about everything on piano, oddly enough.

“I’m not a guy who writes 100 songs and gets three from that. I’d rather just write a song and chip away at it until I feel it’s where I need it to be, and says what I wanted.”

Baldwin cites fellow Nova Scotians Joel Plaskett and Matt Mays as real inspirations, career-wise. “’I’m so lucky to have grown up listening to those guys from high school as I was learning to play guitar,” he says. “They were guys from where I was who were making a go of it.

“They are certainly heroes of mine, and I’m lucky to count them as friends. I can ask them for advice about anything, though I tend not to ask them much about songwriting, as I have my own process. They’re important people to have around in my life.”

Baldwin is candid about his most crucial musical influence. “It’ll be no surprise to anyone that Bruce Springsteen is my high water mark,” he says. “I studied him the way a chemistry student would study at university. I feel I have a degree in Springsteen!’

That’s apparent not just in the rousing and anthemic feel of some Baldwin songs, but in his willingness to address social issues.

“I was always the kid who read the newspaper, from age eight,” he recalls. “I try to make myself aware of things, and the only things I know how to write about are those I know. It so happens that some of the things I know and understand I don’t agree with. I think there’s a place for that in music.”

A striking example on No Telling When is “Rehtaeh,” based on the tragic real-life story of rape victim Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide. “I got in touch with her parents, to tell them my intentions for the song,” Baldwin explains. “They were receptive, as they want her story to be heard, to further things along

“Every cent from that song goes to the Rehtaeh Parsons Society, so they can go out and speak to schools and try to change the antiquated legislation around sexual harassment and rape laws that are currently on the books.”

Looking ahead, Baldwin plans to balance his solo career with continued work in Matt Mays’ band. “I love the guy and I love playing the songs,” he says. “As long as he’ll have me, I’ll be there!”


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