Halifax-born singer-songwriter and composer Marc Robillard wasn’t always on the path of music. He started out playing semi-pro hockey for teams across Canada before a college injury changed his course. He then dove fully into playing music, interning at recording studios in Toronto and honing his craft, while writing and producing.

Soon he found himself writing songs for commercials, networks like MTV, ABC, VH1 and The History Channel, and hit shows like Skins and Jersey Shore. Now based in L.A. and signed to MTV’s HYPE Music Project, Robillard has launched his debut album Left London.

“ It’s been a gradual, organic thing for me, and I think it’s given my writing and musical tastes time to mature,” he says. “I love music, and writing songs, and I intend to do it for a long time – even if I break my shoulder again!”


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Back in 2006, when international classical crossover superstar Josh Groban was looking for new material for his album Awake, Canadian writer Thomas “Tawgs” Salter was up to the task.
But landing the song “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” in Groban’s lap wasn’t a slam-dunk, as Dave Quilico, vice-president, Creative, of Salter’s publisher, Sony/ATV Music Canada, recalls.

“The pitch was very unique,” Quilico remembers. “They were looking for something that was Peter Gabriel-esque, and Tawgs had this song that was that exactly. [Warner] A&R loved it, played it for Josh Groban, and came back to me and said, ‘He loves it, but it needs to be rewritten in order to fit Groban’s sound.’

“I’m so proud of Tawgs because he went back and rewrote that song, I’d say, at least 10 times, to keep its integrity but still fit what Josh loved. He wrote the song 100% himself, kept the original magic and re-submitted it. Not only did that end up being Groban’s first single, but Tawgs ended up producing it as well.”

“That’s one of the great things about the publishing side: everybody’s up for a collaboration.” – Shawn Marino

“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” became a Top 10 U.S. AC hit on an album that sold 7 million copies worldwide. Perhaps more importantly, Salter has established a lasting creative relationship with Groban, contributing the co-write “Higher Window” to the singer’s multi-platinum 2010 album Illuminations and collaborating on his as-yet untitled sixth album, at press time due in early 2013.
“‘You Are Loved’ was the introduction,” says Quilico, “Then it was, ‘Wow, I want to know what else this person does.’ Then Tawgs sent other songs, and it became a natural progression to, ‘Do you have some time to sit together in a room?’ Which is exactly what he’s done.”

Such is the power of music publishing. If you’re a songwriter and you’ve ever wanted to work with a writer or artist of a stature much higher than yours, a music publisher can hold the key.
But how do they do it?

“It’s just through our connections,” says Shawn Marino, vice-president, Universal Music Publishing Group Canada, who hooked up Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard with multiple-Grammy-Award-winning songwriter Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds for “Stormy,” a hit ballad on the band’s current Storms album.

“We have a great creative staff that touch many different artists, writers, managers and producers through our network. I’m able to phone a point person in Santa Monica and say look, Jake’s coming down for some writing trips, here are some people we’d like… They come back with some suggestions and we put together a schedule.

“We just reach out. We make contacts. We pitch our artists. We try to get them in the same room. That’s one of the great things about the publishing side: everybody’s up for a collaboration.”
Marino admits that with Babyface, who’s penned more than 26 chart-topping hits for Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton and others, it took some convincing. “Babyface didn’t really know Hedley, but we got them in the room, turned out a great song, and he wants to write with Jake again because ‘Stormy’ was successful.”

Quilico says he’s constantly pitching songs by his writers to A&R, producers and management for project contention, whether it’s for recordings, film or TV.

“We have a list that tells us every month who’s looking [for songs],” Quilico reveals. “We’ll do co-writing trips and send an artist to collaborate with different people, because certain centres will have those talents based there – whether it’s the U.K., Nashville, or L.A. We constantly do that.”
For independent publishers, however, it’s a slightly tougher road, especially when it comes to reaching major pop artists.

“It’s very difficult to do these days,” says Mark Jowett, vice-president International A&R/Publishing of Vancouver-based independent Nettwerk Music Group, home of Nettwerk One Music. “There are a lot of vested interests in publishing because it’s so valuable now, that a major often… wants their affiliated writers and publishers to be first in the door.

“Sometimes the A&R person could have their own publishing company and those writers will be at the door first. So it’s a very challenging task for smaller publishers.”

Jowett says they’ve gotten around the issue by involving their writers in a production capacity; by focusing on genres other than pop, like electronic dance music; and by concentrating on hubs like Nashville.

“That’s one world, as an independent publisher and an independent writer, that if you work hard,you can still find doors will open and you can get in with good artists and good writers.”


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Unlike most bands, Delhi 2 Dublin didn’t hunker down in a basement to thrash around ideas before emerging with something they liked. The Vancouver crew fell into their high-octane, genre-bending sound that embraces Indian bhangra, Celtic sounds, and dance rhythms quite by accident.

D2D’s Tarun Nayar says Dugg Simpson, the Vancouver Folk Festival’s former artistic director, invited Nayar’s DJ crew, Beats Without Borders, to play “a Celtic club night” as part of the Vancouver Celtic Festival in 2006.

Nayar says they were hesitant to take the gig “since there wasn’t a whole lot of good Celtic club music,” but Simpson knew Nayar was well-versed in Indian music, and suggested he fuse the two sounds.

“We really wanted to write great songs that would stand the test of time.”- Tarun Nayar

“I took the challenge and got together with another BWB member, a couple of great fiddle players, and [bhangra singer] Sanjay Seran,” says Nayar. “It was all very last-minute, but it worked and the crowd went nuts! We stumbled onto a crowd-pleasing combo of beats, bhangra and Irish reels.”
That rollicking mix is evidenced in D2D’s latest album, Turn Up The Stereo, though Nayar says there’s one major difference this time.

“We really wanted to write great songs that would stand the test of time,” he says. “In the past, we’ve written mostly dance grooves, but this time we tried to express ourselves in song form. It meant a lot of learning, because none of us really come from that background.”

Collaborating with other songwriters helped. “Working with people like Dave Genn, Tino Zolfo, Jeff Dawson and Jaron Freeman-Fox was a radical experience,” says Nayar, who handles tabla and electronics for D2D.

Their contributions revolutionized the group’s songwriting approach. While their process often begins with a bassline and drumbeat, or with jamming, Nayar says they focused on building the chorus first for the new tunes.

“The vocal melody and lyrics usually come second, and sometimes that takes weeks, sometimes minutes,” he says. “I’ll often ask Sanjay to sing out ideas just to get the ball rolling, even if 90 per cent it isn’t useable. Then, we focus on building from the good stuff.”

Nayar says the group experienced an epiphany while on a writing retreat in Bali, when they sang all the songs accompanied only by an acoustic guitar.

“It was an amazing exercise!” he says. “The songs couldn’t hide behind the fancy production, and we really saw which ones needed more work and which had a life of their own.”

Track Record
• D2D has released six albums in the last six years. Besides Nayar and Seran, the other members are Sara Fitzpatrick (fiddle), Andrew Kim (guitar, electric sitar), and Ravi Binning (dhol).
• Nayar co-produced the album with New York-based producer Dave Sharma.
• One of D2D’s early big breaks was playing Parliament Hill on Canada Day – before they even had an album out.


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