“Interfacing” is a series of articles about the innovative companies we’re working with here at SOCAN.  Ryan Maule oversees this work, focused on finding those companies and integrating them with our services, ensuring that SOCAN members can access the best tools the music tech industry has to offer.

Robin Leboe

Robin Leboe

Sessionwire is a great company based out of Vancouver, that aims to connect your studio remotely to other studios around the world. Sound like the holy grail? Well, for many music-makers, it’s long been the dream to create and record live with others over the internet, regardless of their geographic location. The obvious benefits of this approach are reduced costs, eliminated travel time, and the immediacy of feedback during a recording session.

This was definitely something that kept musician, producer, SOCAN member, and Sessionwire founder Robin Leboe up at night. While living in the town of Gibsons, B.C. (a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver), finding the right collaborators was a difficult task. Not only for himself, but for his family members – who are also musicians and songwriters. After coming up empty-handed searching the web for something that would allow live, studio-quality audio connections with other music creators, Robin finally decided to build something from scratch… and Sessionwire was born.

It took time, investors, and a couple of founding partners to bring the vision to life. Robin sought out longtime friend and Nimbus School of Recording co-founder Kevin Williams, and pro-audio engineering veteran Rick Beaton, to round out the team.

There have been other attempts at this in the past, but Sessionwire takes a new approach to online musical collaboration by providing a live, studio-like, remote production experience for its users. It combines web-based tools and a native macOS app to provide live video and audio connections between their users and their DAWs (digital audio workstations), regardless of the type of recording software they use. The website provides registered users with a profile, and the ability to network and connect with other Sessionwire users anywhere in the world. Once registered, users can associate their account with their SOCAN membership, and show off a SOCAN badge right on their profile.

We’re working with Sessionwire to highlight SOCAN members because we believe that our members are professionals who bring experience and talent to the music-making process.  Eventually you’ll even be able to register songs that are produced in Sessionwire with SOCAN, as part of the process.


Sessionwire On-Screen

So, what sets Sessionwire apart from incorporating existing products like Skype and Dropbox into the studio workflow?  Says Leboe, “We’re the first to offer a truly live collaboration tool that provides an easy-to-use, studio-style experience that’s combined with a social networking platform for connecting with other music producers around the world. We built Sessionwire to break down barriers between music creators, and to provide them with tools that let them save time, travel, money, and connect with one another in a truly human way.”

The tools that Robin mentions include being able to stream studio-quality audio alongside video chat, and connect and record into any macOS Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with drag-and-drop file transfer between Sessionwire users. This is pretty ground-breaking, and we’re not the only ones who think it’s exciting.


Sessionwire Schematic

Columnist Dani Deahl, of the popular tech website The Verge, recently wrote, “From Anaheim, California, I video-chatted with a musician in Vancouver using Sessionwire, and recorded some of his vocals right into the computer I was using, running Pro Tools. This was amazing. Instead of sending recorded files back and forth, I could record a musician live from anywhere in the world, and see them as it happened.”

“Sessionwire looks like a dream becoming real for ‘caveman’ musicians like me.” – Randy Bachman

And then there are industry veterans like Randy Bachman, who says, “Sessionwire will connect the musicians of the world like nothing else before. Sessionwire looks like a dream becoming real for ‘caveman’ musicians like me, who need simplicity to connect on the recording format they’re using – to finally be able to instantly connect and share music files on the internet. I’d love to eliminate sending MP3s via e-mail to other musicians to put into their DAW and have the file changed. Only then, to get their performance sent back to me as an MP3 and have to drop it into my DAW [which is GarageBand]. The fact that you keep Sessionwire live is an amazing approach.”

As most musicians know, working live not only speeds up the creative process because of the invaluable live feedback, it also restores the creative energy and spark that’s lacking in a non-live creative process, like using e-mail and Dropbox. Those who remember the “happy accidents” while working together in a rehearsal space, or traditional recording studio, will relate.

At SOCAN, we’re excited about Sessionwire, and we think this could be a valuable tool in your arsenal.  We’d love your feedback, and comments about it, and are looking to ensure that SOCAN’s core services are even more integrated with it in the future.  It’s early days, but if this is the future of music production, it sure is bright.

For more information about Sessionwire, visit www.Sessionwire.com and visit the SOCAN Partner page in the secure portal to find out more about the other opportunities we have cooking.  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact Ryan Maule at ryan.maule@socan.com.

It’s a cold October evening in Lac-Mégantic’s Musi-Café, and this writer surprises himself jumping to his feet when the trio onstage – a singer/guitarist who looks like Slash, a percussionist seated on a cajon, and a sax player who looks either like a dandy or a homeless person, depending on your perspective – starts playing the Cowboys Fringants’ “Awikatchikaen,” a song from the 2000 album Motel Capri.

The writer surprises himself further when he realizes he remembers every single word of the song, no matter how opaque and absurd. And although this writer hasn’t listened to the song since the last century, it’s still is among those he’s listened to the most in his whole life, as a teen, when the band’s following album – Break syndical (2002) – established them as the band of an entire generation. That generation was elated that there finally was a band from Québec that wasn’t making music only for their parents.

There would be another surprise, later in the evening, when the trio onstage sang “Marine marchande,” a much more recent tune from the Cowboys’ repertoire (from their album Octobre, 2015), that the entire bar sang along with the band. So, not only have the early songs of their repertoire penetrated the repertoire of popular covers in bars – nearly 25 years after the band was born – but some of their more recent productions have also achieved near-universal popularity.

We speak on the phone with Jean-François Pauzé, the writer of these classics, and he giggles when we tell him that anecdote. “We even have a tribute band!” he says in reference to La Grand-Messe, “the ultimate Cowboys Fringants cover act.” “I actually think they play more than we do! I sometimes get tagged in their Facebook videos, and it’s quite surreal to see kids who are 18 or 19 singing ‘Impala Blues,’ ‘Banlieue,’ and others that even I would be incapable of singing.”

To be honest, a few of the unifying choruses on the Fringants’s new album, Les antipodes, might very well end up in the same position. If I had to bet an old two-dollar bill on which ones, I’d pick the alcohol-fuelled historical hymn to whiskey, “La traversée (de l’Atlantique en 1774)”. In the meantime, here’s the highlights of a very long interview with the band’s main songwriter, on the release of their 10th album.

I always find it amusing when people describe the Cowboys as a bunch of dreamers, when a lot of your more politically charged songs – “Le gars d’la compagnie,” “En berne,” “La manifestation” – are quite a cynical. The first single from Antipodes, “L’Amérique pleure,” is also quite resigned. Are you a cynical person, or do you use cynicism as a tool to shake us up?
“There is a cynical side to the Cowboys. I can be quite cynical, my girlfriend often tells me I am. But what we strive for is to describe our society as objectively as possible, and the world we live in isn’t always pretty. Sure, we do have heavier, accusatory, and pamphleteering lyrics, but that’s balanced by our sense of humour, and our environmental commitment [through their Fondation Cowboys Fringants]. We’ve planted a million trees since 2006, and we still believe things can be changed and fixed.”

Yet, I’m still surprised every time I hear people singing “La manifestation” [“The Protest”]… when they’re actually protesting. It seems like not everyone has listened to the whole song!
[laughs] “That’s genius! But at the same time, it’s OK to take it on the first degree, and to ignore the sarcastic side.”

At the recent 2019 ADISQ Gala, Bleu Jeans Bleu won the Award for Band of the Year. What Bleu Jeans Bleu has in common with you is that they began, like the Cowboys, as a parody of a country band. Les Trois Accords also have songs in that vein in their early repertoire. Why is it, do you think, that each generation has its own parody of a country band?
“I think everyone in Québec loves country but won’t admit it. It might be overly simplistic, but I do think we all have that running through our veins in Québec, so when we can’t admit it, we do it through humour. It’s still true today: our music is still influenced by folk and country, and “L’Amérique pleure” is a good example. Except we fully assume it, now.”

Ever since your previous album, we can definitely feel an increasing influence of Celtic folk-punk bands, like The Pogues.
“We do belong to the larger folk family, but obviously, if we want to renew ourselves, we need to explore other folklore. The Celtic, Breton, and Irish thing is something we’ve been getting into more lately, moving away from the Québec folklore and foot-tapping [music] that we’ve exploited extensively in the past. The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, those bands get played a lot in our tour bus.”

Do you agree with me when I say Karl Tremblay’s talent as a singer is greatly underestimated?
“Karl is an amazing artist, someone immensely sensitive. He always succeeds in inhabiting his characters, and hits the right note in how he sings something. And he’s constantly improving. Let’s be honest, he sang way too nasally back in 1999! He’s put in a lot of work and lost his teenage voice. Now, he has the voice of a mature man, a reassuring voice. That’s what the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conductor said when we played with the orchestra: Karl has a very peculiar timbre of voice, it’s very warm. And he’s such a crowd-pleaser, a great leader of crowds. One or two beers and Karl is on. He knows what to do with his crowd.”

Back in 2004, “Plus rien” came across as an alarmist and ridiculously catastrophic song. Now the scientific consensus on the impact of climate change makes it seem like it was spot-on about our future.
“The funny thing is, I wrote that quite fast. We needed one more song for our album La Grand-Messe. I started tinkering with a rudimentary beat on a beat box, but I had no idea that was the beat that we’d keep, and no idea what the song would be about. Then, I went to a Hubert Reeves conference in Sainte-Thérèse with Jérôme Dupras [the band’s bassist] and Reeves was saying the next extinction of a species might very well be our own, and that it would be the first man-made extinction as opposed to one due to a natural catastrophe. I believe there’s still hope. The problem hasn’t become tangible yet, but as it becomes increasingly tangible, people will wake up and politicians will step in with concrete measures.”

Even Hubert Reeves says there’s still hope…
“Far be it from me to compare Jérôme Dupras to Hubert Reeves, but he too believes we still have time, and that we can reverse this trend. [Jérôme Dupras is also a professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at Université du Québec en Outaouais, and a researcher at the Institute of Temperate Deciduous Forest Sciences.] When you have a guy like him in your band, and he says that to you, it helps you to keep hope alive.”

“It’s cool to make a big album or receive awards, but I’ve always seen staying power as the most inaccessible thing.”

I was surprised, the last few times I saw you guys live, at how you still play songs from your entire repertoire. How do you build your set lists?
“When we start a tour, we play as many new songs as we can, and after about 10 shows, things get pared down organically, when we spot songs that don’t resonate with the crowd as much. We have a pool of 15 to 25 must-play songs and every night we pick seven or eight of them. This allows us to not play the same show twice. Plus, with a repertoire of 130 songs, we can also pick more obscure ones. And when someone goes through the trouble of making a big sign with drawings and all that, we always play their special request. It might make only seven or eight people happy in the crowd, but it also makes us happy. Thankfully, we have Karl, the human jukebox, who remembers the lyrics of every single one of our songs, at least partially. To be honest, he fumbles the lyrics of our new songs more than he does the old ones.”

Isn’t it a bit weird that you were never nominated in the Author or Composer category at the ADISQ Gala?
“It’s cool to make a big album or receive awards, but I’ve always seen staying power as the most inaccessible thing. What makes me really proud is that we weren’t a flash in the pan. It still motivates me. I’d love to still be around after 35 or 40 years, like Michel Rivard. But beyond that, I know what I’m worth. I know that when I write a song, I work on it tirelessly, it’s super-fine-tuned, the meter is unimpeachable, and the rhymes are rich. I know how hard I work.”

To me, “Sur mon épaule” is a kind of sequel to “Étoiles filantes.” Even though you wrote that “nothing makes sense, in the end,” I get the impression that what you’re saying in that song is that the only thing that makes sense is the bonds that unite us all.
“There’s no doubt that my rock is my family, and the people around me. That’s my salvation.”

Do you hear a lot of “chansonniers” covering your songs?
“Not as much lately, mainly because we don’t go out in bars after our shows like we used to. But I think I have a special power that makes a Cowboys song play as soon as I enter a store. I swear I hear one of our songs every time I go in a store, yet the person at the counter has no idea I’m in the band that’s playing, even though I’m grinning!”

Dave Sampson is enjoying a cup of coffee at home in Halifax, taking a break after several weeks promoting his new six-song EP, the countrified All Types of Ways. On the wall across from where he sits hangs a framed Gold record, marking domestic sales in excess of 50,000, for his 2016 song, “No Pressure, No Diamonds,” which Classified recorded and released as a single with Snoop Dogg. Last February, Sampson inked deals with Sonic Publishing and the Paquin Artist Agency, and in the spring Tourism Nova Scotia used one of Sampson’s songs (“Gets Me Through the Night”), a co-write with Dylan Guthro (of Port Cities) and Sam Ellis, for an international ad campaign. Sampson also just placed a song on Nurses, a new Canadian drama set to air on the Global TV network this fall.

At times, it all feels surreal. The reality? these successes are no fluke. The 29-year-old songwriter has been building his career for years now by learning the craft, and the business, from industry veterans like fellow East Coaster Gordie Sampson (no relation).

The real turning point came a decade ago when he met Gordie. The Grammy-winning songwriter invited him to his Gordie Sampson Songcamp. Since then, the pair have become best friends. These annual retreats also introduced Dave to the Nashville co-writing method he now uses to craft new songs, and also to many other Nova Scotia-based singer-songwriters, like Mo Kenney, Carleton Stone (also of Port Cities), and Guthro.

Born in Sydney, Cape Breton, the songwriter moved to Halifax eight years ago. During his first few years in the city, Sampson played to half-empty barrooms; sometimes, the staff were his sole audience. Following the release of his new EP in early October, Sampson sold out his favorite local venue, The Marquee Ballroom.

When it came time to pick a producer for this EP, his good friend Gordie Sampson was the logical choice, and Music City, where Gordie’s now based, was the right locale.

“I use collaboration as an excuse to get together with people, drink some coffee, and write great songs.”

Before learning about these sessions, you need to hear the back-story. It was 2017. Dave Sampson had no money, but he had songs ready to record. To finance these sessions, the songwriter sold his 1966 Martin acoustic guitar, and booked time with a producer at Toronto’s Phase One Studios; members of the Arkells were his backing band.

“All the stars were aligned,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, these sessions never came out to what I needed them, or wanted them, to be – so I ended up sweeping those songs under a rug!

What The Critics Say

  • “Heartfelt, energized and emotional, Dave Sampson has obvious natural talent as a Maritime singer-songwriter.” – Grant Lawrence, CBC Music
  • “Dave Sampson writes a great, heartfelt pop song and has a warm, inviting, laid-back style that will no doubt appeal to a wide cross-section of people.” – The Scope, St. John’s, NL
  • “Is Dave Sampson pop, folk or indie? Who cares if the songs are good!” – Stephan Cooke, The Halifax Chronicle Herald

Sampson returned to Halifax with no guitar, no record, and no money. While figuring out what to do next, fate intervened. Some funding from FACTOR came through. He was back in the game with a new vision, and ready to take another shot at recording some songs, this time around with his pal Gordie. The Sampsons convened in Nashville at The Sound Emporium, the legendary studio where records such as Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler and soundtracks for movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line were born.

When he’s not in the studio, or on the road, most of Sampson’s time these days is spent at home doing administrative work, so scheduling songwriting time is essential.

“Sometimes I’ll sit at home at the piano or on the couch with my guitar, cooking up ideas, but songwriting for me works best when it’s a job,” he says. “I love collaboration, because I get to work with other people, open my mind, and use my brain to develop these relationships. That’s important for me mentally. I’m such a people person; I need humans around me all the time, and as a solo artist I picked a job where you’re alone a lot. I use collaboration as an excuse to get together with people, drink some coffee, and write great songs. I leave smiling every time!”