Story by Amal Yassir | Thursday February 25th, 2016
What if there was a space online where musicians across Canada could easily congregate, simultaneously sharing their talent with others, selling and promoting their music, and booking gigs? While Canadian artists today rely largely on social media to network and promote themselves, Canadianmusicians.com allows our home and native musicians a single, dedicated online location where they can connect to, and collaborate with, their colleagues in music-making, and in the Canadian music industry.
Active for more than a decade, Canadianmusicians.com was conceived by founder & Community President John Eita, who, after many years of working as a sound engineer and producer saw an open door to do more for Canadian artists like himself.
“I want our members to know the strength that SOCAN has, and what it offers musicians.” – John Eita of Canadianmusicians.com
The member-based website originated as a simple directory of musicians. Over time it evolved, serving local and national businesses looking to hire, showcase and work with musical talent from across Canada. Before Eita knew it, the site grew to fulfill a real need in the Canadian music industry, offering both musicians, and those interested in working with them, a home online. “We’re specifically for Canadian markets,” says Eita. “We work with musicians, and venues that are hiring. I connect one-on-one with my members, who want to promote themselves, and I talk directly with venues. We’re the only Canadian service of this type.”
With the advent of social networking in the 2000s, Canadianmusicians.com really found its footing, adapting quickly to the fast-moving networking phenomenon that has transpired over the last decade or so. Because the idea originated through the same concept – connect people with the same interests using an online platform – Eita, an experienced programmer, single-handedly designed and published a re-branded website with new offerings.
“[Eventually] it developed [from a directory] into everything else,” says Eita. “Now our members include a collection of venues, sound engineers, song producers, lighting professionals, and so on. It’s a social website, mainly to get people to make money, find venues and gigs, and [find other] businesses that are hiring musicians.”
Music hosting is another service Eita’s team offers its online members. Artists can upload 15 songs free of charge, and incur only a minimal fee for additional hosting.
“We’re proud of where we are at right now,” says Eita. “We offer a lot in terms of giving members a great website to connect with other artists and businesses.”
With its members’ music on rotation, Canadianmusicians.com is Licensed To Play with SOCAN. Says Eita: “SOCAN is one of the associations we want to work with. It has a great reputation and people just love being part of it. That we are part of that, I think that’s amazing.
“I want them [members] to know the strength that SOCAN has, and what it offers musicians as well. That is something I really wanted to promote and tell the website’s members about.”
Reuben Bullock of Reuben and the Dark
Story by Meredith Dault | Tuesday March 1st, 2016
Reuben Bullock never aspired to be a musician. As a child, in fact, he was fairly certain he couldn’t even sing. “I decided I didn’t have a voice when I was young,” he admits. “I didn’t sing along with the radio, I couldn’t sing around a campfire.”
But Bullock, who now fronts the critically acclaimed alt-rock band Reuben and the Dark, never struggled with finding a voice in his writing. He first began fervently scribbling poetry as a teenager, driven to get things down on paper – and yet still largely unwilling to share his work with audiences.
“I’d be working these brutal jobs and would go and take bathroom breaks and go sit with my notebook, scrambling to get all this stuff out,” he recalls. “And I always had this feeling of, ‘Why am I doing it? Am I supposed to share this?’ It was confusing.”
At 21, his older brother gave him an acoustic guitar and Bullock taught himself to play during a stint teaching English in Thailand. He learned two chords and promptly wrote 20 songs. “This is it,” he remembers thinking. “This is where all those words go.”
“A lot of life goes into these songs… a lot of pent-up things, from being young.”
That’s also when Bullock realized he would need to figure out how to sing if he wanted to do those words justice. While he describes his first attempts as “airy and soft”, he also remembers a breakthrough moment when he finally belted out a tune at full volume. “It freed me,” he says simply.
It’s about as close as Bullock, who grew up the son of a preacher, gets to delving into his past, or to the source of his suppressed voice – a childhood in which he moved from town to town across North America, ultimately leading to a rebellion against religion – though he eludes to it as a source of inspiration for his writing.
“A lot of life goes into these songs… a lot of pent-up things, from being young,” he says. “There have definitely been some troubling times.”
In a sense, singing also became a way of rebelling against his earlier self, much in the way that skateboarding, in which he competed at a semi-professional level, had been for him before he found music. Driven to overcome his own fears about singing or playing in front of people, Bullock spent two years performing at open mic sessions nearly five days a week at venues around Calgary, the town he calls home. “I did it over and over and over again until it started feeling right,” he says. “But it was a huge source of anxiety for me.”
When Bullock first put a band together to back him when he recorded his debut solo album, Pulling Up Arrows, in 2009, he admits it was for two reasons: the first, because he found it easier to perform if he was sharing the stage with other people; but secondly, because he realized that musically, he wanted to make something that was bigger than himself, “not just one guy playing a song he wrote.”
In 2012, he released his second solo album, Man Made Lakes, backed by the band (his brother, Distance Bullock on percussion and cello, multi-instrumentalist Shea Alain, and bassist Scott Munro) that would ultimately begin performing with him as Reuben and the Dark (though the band has since gone through a number of incarnations).
It was that album that first caught the attention of Mairead Nash, manager of the U.K. indie rock band Florence and the Machine. Nash was in Mexico, and happened into a coffee shop where one of Bullock’s friends was working. “He was playing my CD at the time,” Bullock explains, “and she liked the song she heard so she asked about it.”
Through that chance encounter, Bullock ended up connecting with Chris Hayden, Florence and the Machine’s drummer. The pair played a number of “really funny club shows” in Mexico as duo and forged a strong bond. Not long after, Bullock travelled to London, where he and Hayden began working on songs that would eventually end up on Funeral Sky, which Hayden produced with contributions from professional songwriter Stephen Kozmeniuk (Madonna, Nicki Minaj) and Jim Abiss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele). The album, the first under the moniker Reuben and the Dark, was released in May 2014 on the Arts & Crafts label.
And while it has been a rapid trajectory, Bullock is clear that he’s not taking anything for granted. “I try to be grateful all the time,” he says of the journey so far. Now 30, he admits that he still finds it a little surreal to play shows where the audience sings his own lyrics back to him. “Every time it happens, I have a hard time getting through the song without cracking a smile, especially if I make eye contact with someone singing in the audience,” he laughs. “Part of me just wants to go out there and give them a hug.”
“The songs have to move you, so they can move someone else.”
Bullock, whose music appeared in a 2015 Travel Alberta commercial, as well as in an episode of the Netflix series Between, says he also makes a point of meeting his fans after performances. “It’s what really keeps me going,” he says. “Being a touring musician is a tiring existence, especially if you don’t have those rewards. So I feel super lucky to have the kind of feedback we get.”
But as challenging of life on the road can be, it is certainly eased by the fact that Bullock’s wife, Kaelen Ohm, is also a member of his band, playing guitar, keyboards, and singing. Indeed, he credits Ohm with helping him mentally prepare for performing in front of larger and larger audiences, like the crowd he encountered recently at Toronto’s Massey Hall while supporting Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy on his North American tour.
“I have adopted a new philosophy that my wife shared with me, which is to assume that people love you before you’ve been given a reason to think otherwise,” says Bullock. “You assume an audience wants to listen to you. I used to step out and assume that I have to prove myself with my songs. Now I walk out onto the stage and think people want to listen and I want to sing.”
It’s an approach that seems to be working. While his latest single, “Heart in Two.” released for his most recent tour, will surely net him even more fans (Funeral Sky was listed on now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign playlist), Bullock, who recently relocated temporarily to Toronto to expand his network, remains focused on being present for his audiences, and focused on honing his craft as a writer.
“I’m really trying to figure out how to write the songs that I’m supposed to write,” Bullock says thoughtfully, as he prepares for a last-minute trip to Mexico in search of a well-deserved rest. “Because I know what I really want to do – it’s the one thing I have figured out. It’s right in front of me. It’s a guitar in my hand.”
No matter what comes next, Bullock says he’ll continue writing songs that feel personally meaningful and that also resonate with other people. “The songs have to move you, so they can move someone else,” he says simply. “My goal right now is to really commit to this and see it through. The whole thing has been such a gift.”
Photo by Michel Gagné
SOCAN Classics: “Les Bombes” (1987)
Story by Philippe Rezzonico | Tuesday February 23rd, 2016
Written by Michel Pagliaro and Jimmy James
Published by Earth Born Music inc.
Every career has its ups and downs, key creative periods and songs that stand apart. Michel Pagliaro has recorded more hit songs – whether in French or English – than most artists of his generation. “Les Bombes” came out in 1987 and is among his career-defining songs.
This heavy hitter marked Pagliaro’s return to recording after a six-year hiatus, and it became the calling card for the following year’s release of the album Sous peine d’amour. “Les Bombes” was Pag’s sparkling return to form.
It’s a glacial February morning in a Montréal café; Michel Pagliaro is going back in time to discuss the writing of his hit song, which actually occurred in two countries. It all started in France, where he lived for five years.
“I created that song in Paris. I’d say sometime in 1984 or 1985. At least the first draft of it,” says Pagliaro, whose gaze is as piercing as ever… when, rarely, he takes off his ever-present shades.
“As weird as it can seem, even though the song is almost 30 years old, it’s basically the same people in the same broth. Nothing’s really changed. It’s the same old stuff.”
“Writing is a big word in this case,” he continues. “I wrote all of it in one night. I had many, many verses. Unbelievably many… a whole cassette tape full! I still have it. I keep all my ‘sketches.’ There’s no shortage of things to say about such a topic. Even today, you could keep on writing on this topic and there would always be more to write about.”
Some songs don’t age well. Sometimes it’s the lyrics that become outdated. Sometimes it’s the production style. But not only did the lyrics of “Les Bombes” – sadly – remain relevant, but they barely need touch-ups to actually be squarely about current events.
“Once I had the lyrics, I started making demos. I had pieced together a small recording machine to make demos, I lacked certain cords, using alligator clips, for some reason. The apartment I was staying in had been… (laughs) ‘ransacked’ by a kid who played harmonica for (Jacques) Higelin. He’d punched a hole in the wall using a hammer. It was weird… I didn’t finish the song there.”
“Les Bombes” would see the light of day in Québec after Pag’s return home. Guitarist Jimmy James was among the musicians who participated in the recording sessions.
“I’d worked with Michel before his European hiatus,” James remembers. “When he came back he was looking for collaborators, and we got back in touch. Mike’s always spur of the moment. Sometimes he’ll come up with a riff and say: ‘What can we do with this?’ That’s how it happened.”
So the musicians worked from the original demo for the verses, but it was a completely different ballgame when came time to ork on the chorus and bridge.
“I felt we needed to take it somewhere else,” says James. “My contribution was mainly in the bridge and solo. We decided to move away from the basic riff, because otherwise the song would remain on the same tempo through and through. After that we re-worked the lyrics.”
“The lyrics on the final demo are not exactly the ones that I wrote in France,” continues Pagliaro. “There were some touch-ups. There were verses with country names like Madagascar, Haiti, Vietnam, the whole nine yards…”
One would be forgiven for thinking the song was about the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid 80s, but such is not the case, it seems.
“There have to be motivations, sometimes, how should I put it, let’s call them ‘cerebral motivations’ to do something,” Pagliaro explains. “Except in my case, it’s purely organic, from the gut. What I mean by that is that there is a will to create, to develop an idea that’s in your mind for a beat or something.
“Then you come up with a sentence that gives you an idea. It’s music, you know, not just thoughts. It has to become physical. Concrete. You have to play that music. You can’t just think about it. Or rather, you can think about it, but at some point, you’ll need to hear it.”
Pagliario’s reputation as a studio perfectionist precedes him. When the 7-inch single for “Les Bombes”/”Dangereux” came out, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with it.
“I did not like that record. I did not like how it sounded,” says Pag, serious as can be. “Except it had to come out at some point.”
“Les Bombes” did not remain exclusively a 7-inch for very long. Both songs – “Les Bombes” and ”Dangereux” – quickly found themselves on a compilation titled Pag Avant. And although they weren’t included on the first pressing of Sous peine d’amour, they were on its second pressing.
“We took two English songs out [“It’s Love” and “Rock Somebody”] to make room for ‘Les Bombes’ and ‘Dangereux.’ But those are record executives’ decisions,” Pag adds with a smirk.
Thus, “Les Bombes” had three distinct releases (7-inch, compilation, and original album) and fueled Pagliaro’s grand return with Sous peine d’amour. And since? Basically not much, as far as original material is concerned. Only “Tonnes de flashes,” included on the similarly titled box set, released in 2011.
Anything new on the radar, then? Everyone know it’s useless to ask Pag that question, but let’s just note that this interview was conducted in a café located beneath a recording studio where he went back to work as soon as we were done. It seems there might be hope. But it’s a ‘time race’…