Since Kris Dirksen and his U.S.-based writing partner Dane Short teamed up in 2008, the duo – collectively known as Methodic Doubt – have composed music for a huge variety of sci-fi, action and superhero film trailers. Growing up, however, Dirksen was more likely to mess around with a four-track tape recorder than pore over the latest adventures of any costumed superhero. “I played guitar and piano and made tapes for myself,” he says, “but being a composer seemed far out of reach growing up in the Vancouver suburbs.”

Instead, Dirksen went on to study law at UBC, but soon landed a licensing gig at Battleaxe Music. While there, when opportunities to compose and produce music for advertising came up that other artists weren’t interested in, Dirksen took them on himself. He learnt the trade by staying up late into the night writing – virtually every night – for two years.

“You just trust have to trust your musical judgment as an artist, take everyone’s opinions into consideration, and hope they like it.” – Kris Dirksen

Although trailers for film, television and video games remain a large part of Methodic Doubt’s business, they’ve recently branched out, scoring full soundtracks for the HBO hit Banshee, and now their first feature film Necessary Evil: The Villains of DC Comics, a documentary for Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Their process is highly collaborative. “For trailers, Dane or I will start something and [we’ll] send it back and forth,” Dirksen says. “Sometimes a trailer house will take something and just cut it in. Sometimes we’ll write a song from scratch.” A major contributor to their success, he adds, is a willingness to push musical boundaries, an ethic informed by influences including trip-hop, heavy guitar-based music, and contemporary composers such as Clint Mansell, John Murphy and Tyler Bates. “With trailers, there are few limitations,” says Dirksen. “They want them to sound as big as possible. For Banshee there’s more subtlety involved, more interplay with the dialogue to serve the scene and the vision of the director.”

For Banshee they’re called upon to compose up to 45 minutes of music per episode each week, which requires Dirksen to travel to L.A. more often than trailer work does. It’s hectic, but so is composing for advertisements – a process that often finds the duo responding to contradictory opinions and decidedly non-musical descriptions.
“There’s a lot of interpretation,” says Dirksen, “but you just trust have to trust your musical judgment as an artist, take everyone’s opinions into consideration, and hope they like it.”

Track Record
• Methodic Doubt’s music has been featured in advertising campaigns for Nike, Vans, Red Bull and Mastercraft.
• Their compositions have been featured in films such as The Taking of Pelham 123, Happily N’ever After, and TV shows including Road Rules and Burn Notice
• The duo were tapped for the Banshee soundtrack by Executive Producer Greg Yaitanes (Lost, House)

Standing still? Not Étienne Drapeau. His fourth album, Le Monde est beau sees him broadening his writing skills, but it also sees him refining his interpretation skills, and through it all, he still found time to write a book. Meet an artist who thrives on challenges.

Étienne Drapeau has a lot to say. The interview, which was slated to last about 20 minutes, lasted close to an hour… It’s true that over the course of about 10 years, his career has bloomed quite impressively. Drapeau was one of the first losers in the second season of reality show Star Académie, in 2004, but that didn’t deter him one bit. His motivation? The naysayers. “When I came out of Star Académie, I wanted to play my demo to the management team, but they didn’t really want to. […] I also remember pitching my first song – “Je l’ai jamais dit à personne” – to the record label, and they told me “what you do ain’t bad, Étienne, but you definitely don’t have a hit.” That really was like a double-whammy…”

From that point on, Étienne decided to get involved in all aspects of his career, being all at once writer, composer, singer, agent and producer, and the result of his hard work was Je l’ai jamais dit à personne, which was released in 2006. He then criss-crossed Québec, stopping in every mall he could to promote his album with free mini-concerts. He thus managed to sell upward of 20 000 units, officially launching his post hockey career.

Beyond Love Songs
Whether he likes it or not, it really does seem like Étienne Drapeau thrives on adversity. His most recent album, titled Le Monde est beau is another good example of this. He’s elected to move away from love songs, his trademark, to sing about Africa, Islam, social networks and even calling out Rivard, Vigneault, Piché, Lévesque and Leclerc about Québec’s sovereignty. “I’ve had four or five adult contemporary number ones with loves songs.  I like it, but after four albums, it also became obvious to me that I would not do just that my whole life. I needed to show people that I can do other stuff.”

By moving into delicate social and political territory, Drapeau was confronted with the filters imposed by radio stations, who clearly preferred his usual repertoire. Therein lies one of his pet peeves: the amount of power radios have on the musical style of Québec artists. “They want a specific type of music and if you don’t fit the mold, they simply won’t play you. […] They tell you that what’s hot are people like Jason Mraz, John Mayer or James Blunt, but that’s not our reality… I get the feeling that there is a disinterest for local music, much like in the 80s.”

Even though Étienne Drapeau’s new creations did not get as much airplay as his previous material, it doesn’t mean they had less impact: many school principals have told him his humanist songs were being played in their establishments and “Tous ensemble (Inch’Allah)” took him to Morocco where he played for the opening ceremony of the Planèt’Ère Forum, in the spring of 2013.

Outside of One’s Comfort Zone
After eight years of working by the book, releasing an album every other year, Étienne Drapeau felt the need to go outside of his comfort zone. Thus, he joined the cast of Don Juan, fulfilling an old dream of his by playing in his favourite musical. That is where, however, he realized that being a performer is not as easy as it might seem: “It was a shock, because as a songwriter, I’m used to telling my own stories. I never had to ask myself how I was going to sing something so that it sounds sincere…” Drapeau got acquainted to the basics of theater play and learned how to make his emotions more intense by doing a healthy dose of introspection.

And through it all, the 35 year old man has also found time to write more than rhymes: he’s writing a book. Neither a fiction nor a traditional autobiography, but rather a tome that will explain his personal philosophy. He has no idea when that work will be completed, but admits to thoroughly enjoying the process. As for the singer-songwriter, he’ll be back at work in the fall, a perfect opportunity to meet with his fans once more, singing his newer material as well as his more romantic repertoire. “I don’t know how big a risk I took [with Le Monde est beau], but a human being cannot be defined solely in terms of sales or popularity, it must also define itself through art, words and music.”

In 2012, Lindi Ortega was nominated for a JUNO Award for New Artist of the Year. Despite that tag, this country-rooted singer-songwriter is no novice. Her debut album The Taste of Forbidden Fruit came out in 2001, and Ortega has patiently honed her craft on the Toronto scene.

Career ups and downs along the way include a short-lived stint on Interscope imprint Cherrytree, prior to signing with Toronto label Last Gang. 2011’s JUNO-nominated Little Red Boots and its equally-acclaimed follow-up Cigarettes & Truckstops have announced Ortega’s arrival as a powerful vocalist and poetic songwriter, and international audiences are now embracing her original yet retro-tinged sound and vision.“I love the fact it has been a long struggle for me to get to where I am,” says Ortega. “It makes me really appreciative of things like sold-out shows at [Toronto club] The Rivoli. It took me ten years to do that. When it happened, I felt genuinely sentimental.”

Now selling out venues double that size, her profile has been boosted by appearing in, and having her music played on, the hit TV series Nashville. That’s fitting, given Ortega’s relocation there in December 2011. “Music City is just a very productive town,” she says. “It kicks your ass into gear. Returning to Toronto after a tour, I’d go ‘OK, I’m just going to sit and watch Netflix and pig out on Doritos and hang out in my pajamas.’ Here, you realize everyone around you is constantly creating.”

: “I’ve started to really concentrate on coming up with meaningful lyrics, thinking about the story you want to tell in a song.”- Lindi Ortega

Ortega is now co-writing with such Nashville songsmiths as Bruce Wallace and Matt Nolan. Her current goal is to write a song a day, and she’s aiming to release another record by year’s end.
Ortega credits Nashville with changing her outlook on songwriting. “I’m much more appreciative of the art of song now,” she says. “Early on, I’d just strum some chords and words would come out. It was haphazard, but I could create a song. There is a beauty to that, but I’ve started to really concentrate on coming up with meaningful lyrics, thinking about the story you want to tell in a song.”

Helping fuel that process is her own increased musical knowledge. “Through my exploration of country music I’ve come to love blues, and all kinds of folky and rootsy music,” she says. “It’s important for me to really learn and evolve as a songwriter, and listening to people like Townes van Zandt, old blues singers or Hank Williams can really teach me.”

Track Record
• Ortega won the Best Music Video Award at the 2012 iPhone Film Festival for her self-directed clip for “Cigarettes & Truckstops.”
• She has opened for acts as diverse as Keane, Social Distortion, and k.d. lang
• Colin Linden, who produced Cigarettes & Truckstops, is credited with boosting her love of blues.