Backed by a solid team, the winner of the 2017 edition of La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice TV singing competition) has landed exactly where we expected him to, with a second album as pulsating as the neon at the top of the poster.

On 2, Ludovick Bourgeois proves he can stand on his own two feet, and run toward the irresistible affection of the masses. With the help of producer Fred St-Gelais, Bourgeois, now 27, co-wrote nine of the 11 songs on the project. The pop singer was propelled to centre stage, but you’d be remiss to think that he’d turn his back on his fans by becoming a songwriter.

“This album is doubly important for me, and I’ve no intention of leaving my heritage behind [he’s the son of the late Patrick Bourgeois of Les BB fame], or to deny that I was launched by a TV show, but I want people to know I make music for the right reasons,” says Bourgeois. “The music comes first. The first song I ever wrote [among the three that appeared on his 2017 eponymous album] is a hymn to freedom titled ‘Desert Song.’ It was a pretty big hit. That boosts your confidence.” But to him, the real proof of success is when crowds sing along to every word. “We can play the first riff, and stop playing right away, and people just carry on; it’s incredible.”

To avoid such daily distractions as the dog barking, or the phone ringing, Bourgeois and St-Gelais decided to hit the road and head West, between the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park, to create a closed environment for their songwriting.

“We started from scratch, with just our guitars and Fred’s laptop, and a tiny MIDI keyboard,” says Bourgeois. “Right there in our hotel rooms, we created demos that were good enough to play on the radio, quality-wise! Fred is one hard-working guy. He was up at 8:00 every morning. I’m sloppier, I get up around noon… He made sure our work schedule was just as tight as our leisure schedule. Fred trusted my ideas when it came to melodies that touch people. Within that framework, I could just go and have fun.”

“Grief is the beginning of a lot of things”

The return of Nelson Minville (“Bonsoir Solitude,” “Sans Repos”) and Ingrid St-Pierre – on “Le saut de l’ange,” a song about grief that serves as a follow-up to “Sur ton épaule,” on the first album – and their respective talents as lyricists, was clearly beneficial.

“Ingrid doesn’t really know me, yet she managed to put the best words on the situation with this line: Ton départ/ Le saut de l’ange/ Je brille plus fort/ Par ton absence (Your departure / The leap of an angel / I shine brighter / Because of your absence). It’s like Patrick leaving us made everyone shine brighter,” says Bourgeois. “Her phrasing and melodies, when she sends me a piano-voice demo, are just perfect. She is unbelievably soft-spoken, and I’m the complete opposite. Ours is an improbable meeting that works out.”

The contribution of Steve Marin (2Frères), who wrote “L’Écho,” also comes to life in this unifying universe. “We invited him to the studio to listen to our songs, and he liked that one,” says Bourgeois. “Steve is a storyteller, and he’s spot-on when he says that ‘every day is a new life.’ Grief is the beginning of a lot of things.”

The album hosts more than one potential hit, chiefl among them (thanks to an irresistible melody) “Je le ferai,” a message of hope co-written with Marc Dupré and St-Gelais. “We sang it as a duet,” says Bourgeois, “because I really liked the song so much, and it shows how generous he is to appear on the album of an emerging artist, and this song will touch everyone! I always try to bring a silver lining to a sad story, and it’s even more fun because Marc and I aren’t from the same generation.”

One of Bourgeois’ favourites on 2 is “Figé dans le temps,” which was written by Jeffrey Piton and Québécois duo Kingdom Street. “It’s often when you didn’t write a song that you like it most,” says Bourgeois. “The lyrics are powerful. It’s incredibly good!” As for “Que sera ma vie,” the video of which was launched in September 2019, it was written in an hour, says the artist.

Bourgeois does high-level pop with killer choruses – just like his dad before him. What about that BB medley he plays on stage? “I’ve inherited those hits, in a way,” he says. “I have to make them live on. I’m not saying no one else can play them, but it’s only logical that I play them.”

William HennesseyAfter being recruited by the rap label Joy Ride Records, William Hennessey (formerly known as Maldito) offers us an album that’s as fascinating as it is impossible to pigeonhole: De pire en pire. We spoke with this truly free spirit, who seems at one with nature.

William Hennessey doesn’t do anything like everyone else. When he composes, in a room at the Université Laval, he simply “entrenches” himself, even he risks getting kicked out. Here rejects the rules, whatever they may be. “I flunked my music classes in high schoo,” says Hennessey. “It was all theory, and I don’t read music… I compare it to swimming lengths in a lane in an indoor pool, compared to swimming in a lake. I much prefer swimming in a lake.”

He’s marked by a somewhat scandalous reputation, of which certain traces still persist to this day. Hennessey abandoned his Maldito name to start anew, and make a new name for himself. He sand-papered his image and found a new balance, he explains with stars in his eyes, like a carriage horse wearing blinders. The animal is featured on the cover of his still hot-from-the-press album. “It completely changed me,” he says. “I used to have real vices that disappeared. It happened progressively, and they’re almost totally gone now, thanks to this presence and energy that brings out the best in me… Ever since I got that horse, I get the impression that it’s me, but in another form. It’s like we’re one and the same.”

Empowered by those DYI zoo-therapy sessions, the singer-songwriter was ready when Joy Ride Records came knocking, but he played hard-to-get for a little while. He wasn’t initially convinced he would accept Carlos Munoz’s offer of a “carte blanche” that would allow him to fully express his “dual personality” and sonic eclecticism. “I’d just been screwed and used by my old label, so I was a little hesitant,” says Hennessey. “When he approached me, I thought it would be the same scenario all over again. He told me the same stuff… In the end, I asked all the right questions, Carlos answered them clearly, and I said OK. He’s got cash, so that’s reassuring.”

“I don’t like the image of the eternally poor artist.”

Backed by a solid team that propelled Loud to Cloud 9, as well as radio trackers and other professionals devoted to the promotion of his songs, the Québec City-based musician is currently busy courting radio pundits. His calling card? “Fous,” a breakup song punctuated by cheerful handclaps and staggered images, in which an older woman is his fictional girlfriend.

“The label people asked me to do a song for the radio,” he says. “I understand the game, I get that they need to capitalize, one way or another. They have good deals with radio stations, and I get royalties… I can do radio hits, so I did it. It’s not like I’m going to lose my identity because of this. I want to be true to myself, and that’s the concept of the video… It generates revenues. I mean, we have to earn a living, too. I don’t like the image of the eternally poor artist.”

And although he’s bet on the international market so far – his Maldito-era videos raking views in the six digits – he’s lately realized that “Glaciers,” “Ovnis,” and “Zodiac” also reach followers who don’t understand a single word of French. Could his music have a universal appeal after all? His YouTube channel sees kudos thrown his way from as far as Kyrgyzstan.

“Goes to show just the sound touches people,” he says. “Lyrics are important, but there’s more to life than that. Seriously, from a musical standpoint, I get nothing but positive feedback, most of the time. That’s the only truth I will allow myself. I’ve never had negative feedback saying that I’m not good, or I copy someone else.”

As confident as he ever was, Hennessey is only at the beginning of his collaboration with Joy Ride Records. An English-language album is next, as well as a documentary/bio on his rise to fame. “It should come out this spring or summer,” he says. “Cameras have been following me for a year now. People will find out everything about me and my life. It’s hot.”

Record launch: February 20, 8:00 p.m., at Lion d’Or in Montréal

If you asked Canadian composers to tell you about the first film they ever scored, few could start their story with, “it takes place in North Korea.” Andrew Yong Hoon Lee can. The Korean-Canadian composer has created the music for Closing the Gap: Hockey in North Korea, a new documentary offering a rare window into North Korean society, as it follows a team of hockey players competing in an international tournament in New Zealand.

“They play hockey in North Korea?” That was Lee’s reaction when he was first asked by the film’s director Nigel Edwards to score the project. “Like most Canadians, my concepts of North Korea are predicated on, essentially, propaganda,” he says, on the phone from New York State, where he’s completing his Master of Fine Arts at Bard College. “Before I committed to the project, I wanted to make sure that this film wasn’t going to be salacious or fear-mongering. But when I watched Nigel’s early footage, I got the sense that he was respectful of the North Korean people, and wanted to bring to the forefront their human stories.”

Lee grew up in Vancouver, where his father conducted a church choir, and played classical music and opera in the family home. He started his first (Nirvana-inspired) rock band in Grade Five, went on to study classical music and visual art, and had an epiphany when he first heard the experimental electronic music of Montreal’s Tim Hecker. “Growing up, I had a distrust of machines making music, as opposed to, you know, playing it live,” he says. “Tim Hecker was kind of my gateway. He made it OK for me to seriously consider musicians who were using computers as their primary instrument.”

The music in Closing the Gap is minimal and atmospheric. The quiet yet expressive score is not unlike the electronic music Lee has previously released under the name Holy Hum, or composed for various audio-visual and sound installation projects exhibited across North America and Europe. For his first score for a narrative feature, he was tasked with a new challenge: a cast of characters that lacked, shall we say, character. Like many raised under the North Korean regime, the hockey players featured in the documentary downplayed their individuality as they competed for the glory of their leader, Kim Jong Un. As a result, Lee and Edwards used music to try to draw out the personalities on screen.

“I had two objectives for the score,” says Lee. “I wanted the music to have a psychological register, you could say. To work on a subconscious level, revealing possibly psychological aspects of the characters. And I wanted it to sound how North Korea looks. When you see the architecture, it has aspirations of the future, but somehow still looks dated. So I wanted the score to sound futuristic, but having a patina of something retro.”

As if creating music for on a film shot in North Korea wasn’t a unique enough assignment, Lee also experienced a rather rare working relationship with the director. He and Edwards spent close to a year on the project, including 10 days together in Lee’s studio in New York. “A lot of the editing choices were actually dictated by this score, which I don’t think is that common,” Lee explains. “Nigel was actually sitting behind me editing the film and I was working on the score. I might suggest extending a certain shot so that it would allow a certain note to be extended, and he was able to make those edits. It’s not the most cost-effective way to work, but we allowed ourselves to experiment.”

 Closing the Gap premiered at the Whistler Film Festival in December of 2019. Lee plans to release the full score this spring across digital platforms, and on vinyl through his independent label, Heavy Lark.