Toronto-based pop singer-songwriter Kayla Diamond acknowledges she was a late bloomer, in terms of songwriting. “I was 22 and at university when I  wrote my first song, ‘Crazy,’”  she says. She hit a home run in that first at-bat, as the song helped her win the lucrative Slaight Music “It’s Your Shot” Contest in 2015.

That prize brought a publishing deal with Slaight Music, and a distribution deal with Pheromone Recordings/Cadence Music Group. It also sparked a major career change for Diamond, who was well on her way to becoming a lawyer – having just finished her first semester at law school (University of Detroit Mercy) when she heard she’d won.

“I hadn’t intended to leave law school to become a musician, but this meant someone had recognized me. To not take advantage of that would have been a disservice to myself,” she says.

One of her professors was especially supportive of Diamond’s decision, pointing out that she could always return. “I gave myself three years to get on the radio, or else I’d go back to school,” she says. “I’m not sure I’d have stuck to that, as I caught the writing bug, but within 18 months ‘Carnival Hearts’ was Top 40.”

Diamond released her debut EP, Beautiful Chaos, in 2017. lts breakout track, the aforementioned “Carnival Hearts,” has now notched more than 2.5 million streams, while another 2017 single, “What You’re Made Of,” was a Top 10 radio hit.

A follow-up seven-song EP, Dirty Laundry, was released in August of 2019, and Diamond acknowledges that, as the title suggests, this is a darker, more introspective collection of original material.

“I look at it now as rather my art piece,” she says. “It was something I needed to get out,  to air my dirty laundry. l ‘m not an angry person by any means, but l had this built-up anger. How do l channel this in a way that’s not going to be self-destructive? It was kind of my therapy.”

A crucial song on the EP is “Lie Lie Lie,” a co-write with Ria Mae and Diamond’s frequent collaborator and producer,  Craig McConnell (Celine Dion). “That song pretty much started the album,” recalls Diamond. “l wrote it literally the day after a breakup. l decided then to stop masking who I’m singing about, and l became public with being gay.”

I gave myself three years to get on the radio, or else Id go back to school.”

Other co-writers on the EP include Joel Stouffer, Justin Gray, Matt Dubois (12AM), Lauren Mandel, and Alexandra Soumalias. Diamond thrives on creative collaboration, welcoming feedback from her co-writers and producers. “When I  work with a producer, I can’t be, like, ‘You need to work for me and make it my style.’ I want the producer’s sound in my sound.

“I never come to a session empty-handed, that’s too much anxiety. I usually have a chord progression in my head, and I usually write what I think could be a chorus, though it often ends up being a pre-chorus.”

Diamond credits one early co-writer, Liz Rodrigues (Celine Dion, Eminem), with “a valuable lesson. At our first session, she said, ‘Write something that you can sing, then write a part where you can put the mic out to the audience and they’ll sing it with you, and that’s the hook.’”

Her style is an eclectic one, drawing from hip-hop and dance music as well as pop, with Diamond citing such diverse inspirations as Metallica, Dire Straits, Lana Del Rey, and Gospel music.

Diamond has also been a featured vocalist on two major international EDM hits, Kiso’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” (with more than 4 million SoundCloud streams) and Anevo’s “Feel Something” (more than 3 million Spotify streams).

A return to law school is not currently in the cards!

To mark the release of their Grouillades EP, Montréal-based combo Clay & Friends played before a sold-out Club Soda on Feb. 6, 2020.

SOCAN was there to witness a moment of pure, unadulterated musical frenzy, shared with many friends on hand to celebrate – both onstage and in the crowd. Their number included Kirouac, Kodakludo, Claudia Bouvette, Franky Fade, FouKi, Vince James, and Will Murphy, to name just a few. This prompted Clay to exclaim, at one point, “It’s a dream come true! We worked so hard to get to this moment, right now. We’ve played so many shows in tiny venues all over rural Québec, so that one day we could play for a SOLD OUT Club Soda!”

To download or stream Grouillades, click here.

To see Clay & Friends’ concert schedule, click here.

Music is a conscious choice that Maude Audet made 10 years ago. Her third album, Tu ne mourras pas, presents itself as a declaration to the trade that she’s chosen and learned. It’s also permeated by the need to re-invent our daily lives after losing something we love. Like Boris Vian in L’évadé, Maude Audet throws a big, solid request out into the universe: “Pourvu qu’ils me laissent le temps” (“I hope they give me enough time”). Time to live, time to not die, and time to re-learn to love oneself differently.

On the song “Nos bras lâches,” she talks about a place that no longer exists, where “we had time.” “My new songs talk about what happens after you fail,” says Audet. “Things didn’t work out, but you’re not dead. That brings us to a renaissance, a place where you didn’t expect you’d end up. I talk about grief, but not just about death: griefs that we have to live through when we realize our relationship with someone won’t be the one for which we were hoping.”

That’s how, ultimately, the title song set the tone and gave a meaning to the project. “Basically, what I’m saying is that when we lose someone, one way of keeping them alive is to remember their laugh, their voice,” says Audet. During the 2018 edition of Coup de cœur francophone, she was given “carte blanche” to build a show with several guests. Among them was her partner, actor and writer Fabien Cloutier, who delivered a moving and humorous text about his father. It was  through this examination of what’s left behind after a departure that Maude Audet gave birth to Tu ne mourras pas: “Et mes rêves deviendront notre escale une trêve aux vides des départs. Je saurai me rappeler la douceur de ta voix qui me dit que pleurer m’apaisera” (“And my dreams will become our port of call, a truce amidst the emptiness of departures/I will remember softness of your voice telling me that crying will appease me. It’s also through a planned yet fortuitous meeting on the stage of the Maison de la culture Maisonneuve that she bonded with Philippe B, who co-wrote and sings “Couteau de poche” with her.

Ten years ago, Audet decided music was going to be her be-all and end-all. Following a career as a stage director, she decided to take a leap of faith and put songwriting first, although she was a latecomer to the trade. “Stage directing is a very hard and precarious line of work,” she says. “I was well recognized by the people around me, yet I still worked at a moderate level. If I had done costumes for Robert Lepage and travelled the world, if things had worked out for me, I might not have made that choice, I might also not be as happy as I am today,” says the artist, who considers herself to now be in the right place at the right time.

“I learned this trade by doing it, and it’s been 10 years now,” says the singer-songwriter. “Ten years ago, I could barely play three or four chords on the guitar. It’s a bit of a crazy decision, when I look back [on it] now.” Whereas a good many artists have mastered their instrument since grade school, and have been writing songs since their first school talent shows, Audet’s musical beginning was a leap of faith that came with the demand for incredibly hard work in its wake. It was, in the end, the decision a woman who chose herself through music. “I took singing lessons, and worked on my guitar playing,” she says. “You can hear my progress on all fronts. Even if I lost both hands tomorrow, I’d still find a way to keep creating. I’m a creator, first and foremost. I managed to accomplish everything, I just had to work harder.”

Writer Erika Soucy once again walks alongside Audet on the emotional paths of her lyrics. For Audet, this represents a consistency that takes her back to the creative modus operandi used during the production of Comme une odeur de déclin (2017). “That hasn’t changed: an independent eye, a different writing style with a great sensibility, that’s not afraid of challenging me,” she says.

Audet’s “desire to move towards orchestral pop” explains why she left her usual grungier side behind. “It’s a framework I’ve always liked, and my producer, Mathieu Charbonneau, is really into it,” she says. Timbales, gongs, flutes, choir, bass, and guitar. Maude prepared all of the arrangements that, for her, come to mind at the same time as the lyrics. “Mathieu wrote all of it down on sheet music for the musicians,” she says, “because it would take me two days just to write one line of it,” she adds with a giggle.

Imperfect love is key to the songs on the album, even in the opener “Laura” – a song that came out “in a single jet.” “It’s older people that allow themselves to dream and act a little crazy,” says Audet. Being open to changing everything, to loving, and to never stop learning; these are just a few of the lessons we can learn from Maude Audet.