While the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the careers and work activity of so many of his peers, Joey Moi has never been busier or more successful. The Nashville-based Canadian producer and songwriter explains that, with the lockdown, “we closed our office on Music Row and I moved my studio into my house to work from here. With all the artists off the road, they want to make music.

“That has put our record company [Big Loud Records] and our songwriters into overdrive, and we’ve been trying to get music out from everybody. Rarely are the artists as available as they are right now. Everybody is here, and they all want to cut records! They all get to be more involved in the recording and production process, and that has been fun. I have been kept super-busy.”

Since re-locating from B.C. to Music City a decade ago, the award-winning and platinum-plated Moi quickly transitioned from producing and writing for such hard rock acts as Nickelback, Theory Of A Deadman, Daughtry, Hinder, and My Darkest Days, to producing hits and becoming a music industry entrepreneur on the country side.

Right now, Moi is on a major roll. Back in August, he topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Producers all-genre chart with four production credits to his name. These comprised three hit tracks by rising star  Morgan Wallen, including the record-setting smash, “7 Summers,” which Moi solely produced, plus Hardy’s “One Beer” co-produced with Derek Wells. As a producer, Moi has had 10 No. 1 Hot Country Songs, and in 2013, 2014, and 2016, he was ranked as Billboard’s No. 1 Hot Country Songs Producer of the Year.

After moving to Nashville, Moi quickly struck platinum, producing hit acts Florida Georgia Line and Jake Owen. Florida Georgia Line’s Moi-produced catalog has exceeded more than eight billion digital streams, selling over four million albums.

Moi then branched out on the industry side, helping to establish the Big Loud Records label in 2015. He partnered with Seth England, songwriter Craig Wiseman, and Canadian Kevin “Big Chief” Zaruk in what has become a very successful venture, with a new imprint, Big Loud Rock, now launched.

Moi loves being part of a label team. “This is what I dreamed about as a young producer/entrepreneur,” he says. “It’s the best-case scenario, as we get to sign the artists we fall in love with, then cut the songs and make the records we love. I get to be a part of building a strategy all the way through, and every artist is a passion project for us.

Joey Moi’s SOCAN Awards

  • 2010 – International Song Award – “Gotta Be Somebody” – performed by Nickelback
  • 2011 – No. 1 Song Award – “Life After You” – performed by Daughtry
  • 2011 – No. 1 Song Award – “Gotta Be Somebody” – performed by Nickelback
  • 2011 – No. 1 Song Award – “Something in Your Mouth” – performed by Nickelback
  • 2011 – No. 1 Song Award – “When We Stand Together” – performed by Nickelback
  • 2014 – Pop/Rock Music Award – “When We Stand Together” – performed by Nickelback
  • 2014 – Country Music Award – “Nothing But Summer” – performed by Florida Georgia Line

“If you’re a freelance producer, like I was for the first 15 years of my career, you don’t get to see how the sausage is made!” he laughs. “You don’t necessarily see the amount of work, commitment, and input of the marketing and promotion teams. I have learned so much in the last five years.”

The Big Loud Records roster includes Canadian MacKenzie Porter, while Moi continues his long and fruitful working relationship with Canadian country star Dallas Smith. ”Dallas is a day-one guy for me,” says Moi. “He was the first artist I ever recorded that got played on the radio. Nickelback came after that.”

Moi actually first went to Nashville as songwriter, after landing a publishing deal with Big Loud Shirt Publishing in 2010. “That early investment in songwriting definitely helped me as a producer and in helping an artist A&R their record, identifying great songs, as opposed to OK songs,” he says. “Unfortunately, writing has taken a back seat as my production deadlines have become more intense. I’m good for about one cut a year now.”

Moi remains a man in love with the process of making records and boosting careers. “The most fulfilling and exciting thing for me is making that first record and seeing that artist gain momentum,” he says. “That never gets old. If it does, it’s time to hang it up, go back to my boat in Vancouver and float around,” he adds.

Don’t look for that to happen any time soon.

Famously hailing from Steeltown, Hamilton-honed electronic pop star Jessy Lanza is currently Zooming in from her treehouse recording studio in Redwood City, on the outskirts of Silicon Valley. While that jumble of imagery may seem discordant, it’s also a decent encapsulation of Lanza’s music. Juxtaposing dark lyricism and honeyed vocals with calmly euphoric computer beats and an earthy authenticity, her new album has been a much-needed balm.

“I feel really stressed most of the time, even when I don’t have anything to be stressed about — and that makes me feel really guilty, like, what’s wrong with me that I can’t be appreciative? Now, in a time when I really do have something to cry about, it seems suitable,” says Lanza. “It makes me happy to think that people could listen to the album and feel better.”

“It’s funny, because I thought this year, I would be back on track”

How she wound up surrounded by Ewok forests discussing All the Time, her latest longplayer for U.K. imprint Hyperdub, is (like all stories nowadays) a plague tale. Lanza actually moved South a few years ago —setting up shop in Queens, New York while touring her presciently titled 2016 album Oh No — but was on a pre-release European run when the world fell apart.

“We played a show in Switzerland,” she recalls. “The Alps were separating Italy from St. Gallen, where we were, but they were obviously freaked out. They were making people show IDs at the door to keep people who might be Italian out. That was the first indication that this isn’t normal and is going to get pretty bad.”

They made it back stateside, but having booked a suddenly-cancelled tour from early April in L.A to October in Montréal, Lanza had let her lease expire. With New York collapsing under COVID, Lanza and her partner fled in their van, driving cross-country to take refuge with his parents in northern California. (The van would later be iconically re-purposed for her Boiler Room set.)

All the Time was already “mixed, mastered and ready to go,” so while the rollout went awry, the record was only delayed until late July. If it sounds a little different from past releases, that’s not the pandemic, but because it was the first record Lanza did long-distance, with longtime Hamilton collaborator, Juniors Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan. “It was kind of weird to work [like that] because I’m so used to us being super-close, but it was fun,” she says, adding she still drove back and forth from New York to Hamilton each month.

She was also influenced by the artists she met in New York – “I didn’t feel so cloistered away this time around,” she says – and the creative opportunities that come with being far from home. “I did a lot more on my own,” she adds. “Setting up my studio how I like it, and just experimenting.”

Lanza also got bolder lyrically, dissecting her cynicism and emotional distress, and even putting them in the liner notes, despite how vulnerable that made her feel.

“I felt like such a mess the past few years, and it’s funny, because I thought this year, I would be back on track,” she laughs sardonically. “But it’s a good lesson. You can make all kinds of plans: I’m going to put out this album, and I’m going to tour, and I’m going to like feel normal again. And that couldn’t be further from reality.”

But, she adds, “so much of my music is about feeling rejected and not being good enough. It’s such a loud feeling for a lot of people. [All the Time] is an effort to quiet it for myself — and I hope that it would work for others while they’re listening.”

Le CouleurThey’re the perfect counter-example to Rock et Belles Oreilles’ old hit “I Want to Pogne,” in which the five comedians made fun of Quebecers who sang in English to try and be more popular. With their vaguely tropical nu-disco sound and serious lyrics, Le Couleur’s popularity spills over even the invisible boundaries of the Francophonie.

The band has been doing its own thing for over a decade, far from the folk and pop-rock that still dominate the ADISQ Awards. They have much more in common with Patsy Gallant or Toulouse than with bands like Karkwa or Galaxie.

On the margins of the main trends in Montréal, they’re perfectly in sync with the trends in Pigalle or Brooklyn. The band, fronted by Laurence Giroux-Do, is an international hit and they’ve made their way into a Netflix series soundtrack (Emily in Paris), and even onto the glossy pages of Playboy Mexico. And those are but two of a long list of surprising engagements that confirm the growing interest they generate abroad.

They were planning on reaping the benefits of their Spotify stats outside of Canada before the pandemic clipped their wings and paralyzed the live entertainment industry. “Our record launch was planned for April 18 and when this happened, we weren’t sure how true it was,” says singer-songwriter Giroux-Do. “We were supposed to play South by Southwest on March 8, followed by about 15 dates in the U.S. Everything was cancelled… We work with this incredible booker in South America, and we were also supposed to tour in Brazil, Mexico and Chile…”

In the end, Concorde, the successor to 2017’s P.O.P., which made it on the Polaris long list, was pressed on vinyl and released online this fall.

Released on Sept. 11, a date that will forever be linked to the 2001 terrorist attacks, Concorde seems to take on a slightly morbid twist because of that, and because it is rooted in the crash of its namesake plane in 2000. The words, written and sung by Giroux-Do, are in stark contrast to the cheerful and engaging way Steeven Chouinard keeps the tempo. Their secret recipe was inspired by the greatest electro-pop masters who defined the genre almost half a century ago.

“ABBA – they became gazillionaires, while being quite dark in their formula and lyrics, set to very dance-y music,” says Chouinard, the band’s percussionist, co-writer, and producer. “ABBA’s a huge influence for us, but not consciously. It really is at the unconscious level. But to be honest, when people compare us to them, it’s an amazing compliment.”

Opening with a verbatim transcript of the last words of the plane’s pilot to the control tower, a sinister exchange played by two actors with Parisian accents, the last chorus of the title song feels like an echo from beyond the grave. Indeed, Giroux-Do dug deep into the many documentaries on the Air France tragedy before she started putting pen to paper. “Yet, it kind flies under the radar because the funky groove behind it,” she says.

The three original band members have changed their game plan, while they’re parked on the tarmac, waiting to resume their take-off, alongside their new crew of four musicians. “The U.S. no longer exists for us, until there’s a vaccine,” Giroux-Do explains. “All our bookers have told us to forget about Europe too, at least for 2021, because bigger names and local artists will be favoured.”

Motivated by the promise of a return to normalcy, the Montréalers will focus on developing a market they’ve neglected up to now. “We’ve played New York City, like, four or five times, but we’ve never played in Lac-Saint-Jean, Trois-Rivières, or Gatineau. It’s time to change that,” says Chouinard, laughing.

Their music will travel for them, while they wait to be able to return to those exotic destinations far beyond the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve.