Her name is Kay, real name Kristin Boutilier. For a spell, she went by “My Name Is Kay,” just to drive home the point. The 25-year-old Cape Breton native, signed to Interscope and Universal Music Canada, released her 2012 debut EP under that name, which featured the eponymous single.

“With ‘My Name is Kay,’ it was supposed to be a fun little interlude on the album,” says Kay. “A three-minute ‘This is who I am. This is what I like. Let me say my name 40 times.’ And people still forget.”
Today, it’s a different story. After closing in on half-million YouTube views for the “My Name Is Kay” video; earning two Top 20 CHR hits in Canada with “My Name Is Kay” and “Strangers”; touring with LMFAO and Hedley; and appearing on tracks by Far East Movement, Cobra Starship, Steve Aoki, Tiesto and Diplo, it’s safe to say people know her name. So she’s back to using just “Kay.

Her still-untitled debut album – an eclectic mix of pop, hip-hop, dance and ballads – will drop in January 2013. While the songs were co-written with various songwriters, Kay’s main foil was OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who also produced the album.

: “When an opportunity comes up to work with anybody, I always say yes.”- Kay

“Working with Ryan has been amazing,” says Kay. “He’s a genius. He’s so smart that his ideas and his brilliance kind of rubs off on you. It’s in the air when you’re in the studio with him… Every other song he writes is a hit, so I feel like I’m in good hands.”

She also worked with Atlanta’s Organized Noize (TLC, OutKast, Ludacris). In addition to the album, in the U.S. Kay is releasing an EP every two months for the next nine months or so, each featuring three to five songs she worked on with a different producer. The first, entitled Say What You Want, was produced by Doctor Rosen Rosen (sic) and came out Nov. 13.

“It feels like I’ve been working two years on my music, and now it’s all gonna start coming out,” says Kay.

That includes the songs recorded by Tiesto, Diplo and Aoki to which she’s contributed. “When I was writing for the album,” says Kay, “I was pretty much strictly writing for the album, and everyone I worked with knew that. But now that that’s done, other people are putting out their albums, and they hit me up.

“I’ve always been the type of person that when an opportunity comes up to work with anybody, I always say yes.”

Track Record
• In 2007, Kay lived in London, England, where she hired a coach to teach her to rap.
• She later lived in Vancouver, where she tried to get a drum ‘n’ bass duo with DJ B off the ground.
• She worked with Ryan Tedder after she met his A&R representative at a house party in L.A.


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The voice is as clear as at 20. The words are true, as always. The passion remains as one day one. “It feels like it all started 30 minutes ago,” confides Pierre Létourneau, now 74, stunned by the speed at which the years went by. “I was so privileged to earn a living doing what fulfills me.”

“I was so privileged to earn a living doing what fulfills me.”


Fifty-four years after his first stage appearance, the slightly romantic singer-songwriter of old is back with a new album of original material, his 16th, titled Foutue société (loosely: Damned Society). It’s a coherent patchwork of songs whose themes range from the vacuity of our time to a sensual declaration of love while musically ranging from ethereal bossa to energetic pop-rock. “People constantly try to pigeonhole us. Me, I’m all over the map, I write what I feel. I hope people will say: ‘He was a good one, we liked him.’ Those words are very noble. In the end, they simply mean that we connected with people.”

Popularity is something Pierre Létourneau was acquainted with more often than not. The first time around was during the glorious days of the “boîtes à chansons”. (NdT: nightclubs where the tradition of French “chanson” was perpetuated in Québec in the 50s and 60s mainly) “It was an extraordinary artistic phenomenon. We had just disavowed the clergy. Yet, those venues were as quiet as churches. Artists were telling things like they were, naming things, streets, cities, feelings. The songs were ours and they were also the people’s.” In 1963, “La chanson des pissenlits” and “Les colombes” catapulted the “singing author that sometimes also composes” to the top of the sales charts.

After his first trip to Paris in 1970, a trip during which “instead of plugging myself into the French culture, I spent the whole year just entertaining visitors such as Charlebois, Renée Claude and Stéphane Venne!”, Létourneau came back home to Québec. Which meant coming back to stardom. “I missed Québec so much when I was in France that I wrote an homage to Maurice Richard. I recorded it over there with a choir and 35 musicians!” Obviously, the audience here fell in love with this now mythical song. “When I came back, I felt like I needed a new direction, a more straightforward language. I also wanted to work with composers.” What resulted of this new orientation were songs such as “Tous les jours de la semaine”, sang to a Germain Gauthier melody, as well as several songs for Nicole Martin, most notably “Laisse-moi partir”, co-written with Angelo Finaldi.

From record to stages to tours to television – Pulsion, on Radio-Canada — to visiting primary schools to teach the art of the lyricist, Pierre Létourneau reunited, in 2009, with his old brothers in arms – Pierre Calvé, Claude Gauthier and the late Jean-Guy Moreau in a musical review directed by Robert Charlebois entitled Il était une fois… la boîte à chansons. New success, new beginnings, renewed need to sing and tell.

Today, the topics on Foutue société are wide-ranging – from life as a musician (“Souvenirs de tournée”), to the decline of a generation (“Les Bébé-Boomers”), to passionate love (“Tout de toi”), to a world without bearings (Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait pour en arriver là?”) – and the words are as impressionist as ever, yet straightforward and rooted in daily life. Long-time companions and newfound collaborators alike worked on this album “created for the most part in the studio but with tremendous freedom”: Robert Léger and Michel Pagliaro wrote the music, as did also Michel Robidoux and Gérald Da Sylva, in addition to arranging and producing them, Claire Pelletier and Priscilla sang the back vocals, not to mention the team behind Edgar Bori’s new imprint, Vu de la lune. “Making music still gives me great, great joy. But I want to feel useful, first and foremost. Useful to others, so they don’t feel alone so much. Useful to society, in the hope I can contribute to making it less ‘damned’. Imagine a world without music. There would surely be more violence, more aggression.”

 

Inducted to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, he also had the privilege of seeing two of his songs become SOCAN Classics. He casts a lucid gaze upon our mutating industry. “Making music nowadays is dangerous. Success can pounce on you at any moment and be gone the next. One must protect oneself. As far as copyrights go, the laws need to change. We, as artists, must make our voices heard. Luckily, we have organizations such as SOCAN, SODRAC and SPACQ who understand us and fight for us.”

Since his travels are not over yet, Pierre Létourneau has lent his writing skills to Luc Cousineau for an upcoming album and he his himself working on a tour of small, intimate venues that should happen sometime in 2013. “It’s going to be just me and Michel Robidoux on guitar, and I’m going to tell a long, true story and talk about events I’d like to see happen.” Naturally. Like fifty-four springs ago. When it all began.

 

 


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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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