Her parents had decided to move the family to the middle of nowhere to make sure that she, her sisters and their brother wouldn’t get into any trouble. But even tucked away in the Southern Manitoba rural town of Aubigny, marijosée (without a capital M) lost none of the impetuousness she displayed as a five-year-old. Every now and then, she would plan to run away from home, surreptitiously fill her backpack with food and head for path leading to the main road. “I inevitably turned back before reaching the road because it was so far away,” recalls the musician, whose first full-length album, Pas tout cuit dans l’bec was recently released.

Music came into marijosée’s life around that same time. Her Franco-Manitoban parents used to drag the kids to mass every Sunday. “My dad sang in the choir,” says mariejosée. “He had such a loud voice you couldn’t hear the other singers. It was embarrassing! He eventually signed me up for the choir too, because he and my mom wanted us to be able to sing in French. During long car rides, they used to make us translate our favourite English songs into French. That’s how Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’ became ‘Penche-toi sur moi’,” she recalls, laughing at the literal translation. Obviously, it worked. Although perceptible in person, the singer’s English accent is almost impossible to detect on record, as if she had assimilated the peculiar musicality of the French language through osmosis.

“Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,”

Then came the traditional piano lessons. Before each session, the teenager used to stick her used gum under the piano because her teacher didn’t allow chewing. After accumulating an impressive collection of multi-coloured flattened bubblegum balls, she switched to voice lessons, but her own way: “Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,” she says. “This provided me with new ideas and techniques to choose from as I was trying to discover my own voice. In the end, I think that jazz was my greatest influence. I’m extremely attracted to that music style because of the freedom it allows in terms of improvisation and sudden rhythm changes. Let’s say it agrees with my borderline personality disorder,” she giggles.

Departing from the electro style of her 2011 first EP Rebondir (Bouncing Back), marijosée’s new album explores jazz influences, coloured by sometimes unpredictable, sometimes warm vocal effects and replete with standup bass lines and jumpy percussion.

“Jazz has been the other great discovery of my career,” marijosée explains. “When I switched from singing lessons to percussion lessons, my voice and my phrasing changed. I started singing more rhythmically, separating words more clearly and experimenting with sound.” She now writes her own vocal melodies from rhythms she drums on any surface she can reach. “I wrote the album’s title track from a beat that turned me on. That song tells the story of how my family encouraged me to go for food instead of for a music career.”

“Pas tout cuit dans l’bec,” is not the only selection addressing marijosée’s career as a singer-songwriter. “Promesse de la fontaine” (“Fountain’s Promise”) contains the answer to those who encouraged her to move to Quebec for the sake of her career. “It’s not that I refuse to leave Manitoba because, in a way, we don’t have all the tools we need here,” she says. “Grants are fine, but I don’t have a record or management company at my disposal. At the same time, I don’t want to move just to try my luck in Quebec. If I were to receive a concrete offer, I might change my mind, but re-locating to Montreal to keep my fingers crossed and stand on a street corner with my hat and my guitar… That’s not my bag.”

And if most of the other tracks of her album deal with the complex relationships that exist between marijosée and men, the reason simply is that she thinks that all the men she’s met since breaking up with her former husband were “stupid idiots.” But that’s another story. “Stay tuned, and when you listen to my upcoming second album, you’ll find out if I’ve finally met the right guy,” she jokes. At press time, marijosée was scheduled to perform across Canada with dates in France and Switzerland in the summer months.

Long-distance relationships. As anyone with experience of these in a romantic sense can attest, they pose many emotional and logistic challenges. Making them work is a very difficult proposition.

That also applies to long-distance creative collaborations. Several prominent SOCAN members (and a few of their international comrades) are currently in such writing and recording relationships, so how do they keep the flame burning? Comparatively new technologies like file-sharing and Skype have been eagerly adopted by some songwriters as valuable tools of their trade, while others still insist on the direct, in-person approach.

Given his rural Ontario base, you might expect acclaimed singer-songwriter and in-demand producer Hawksley Workman to staunchly advocate for online creative collaboration. Not so. Now making a real impact in indie rock “supergroup” Mounties alongside Vancouverites Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat) and Ryan Dahle  (Limblifter, Age of Electric), Workman stresses that in-person communication is crucial. 

“I think songs can definitely be written over the internet, but the music we were all inspired by was a collective human experience.” — Hawksley Workman of Mounties

“We’re very much a ‘performance’ band,” he says. “As the drummer, my part of the creation process is to inject live excitement, something that doesn’t translate to file sharing. I think songs can definitely be written over the internet, but the music we were all inspired by was a collective human experience. It’s about people in the same room smelling each other’s sweat.”

Workman rarely uses online communication in his production work (prominent clients have included Serena Ryder, Tegan and Sara, and Great Big Sea). “I e-mail mixes whenever my ridiculous rural internet will allow,” he explains, “but I’ll likely never be an ‘online’ guy.”

Rising country singer-songwriter Tim Hicks is more open to online collaboration. A recent SOCAN No. 1 Song Award winner for his first hit, “Get By,” a song he co-wrote with Casey Marshall, Neil Sanderson (Three Days Grace), and Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (both of Florida Georgia Line), Hicks regularly co-writes remotely with Sanderson and Marshall. “I’m on the road all the time,” he says, “or I have the kids during the day as my wife works. If we can get a quick remote session in to keep those creative juices flowing, that makes all the difference.”

One attempt to all meet for a session in the Sound Lounge writing room at SOCAN’s Toronto office ran into a roadblock, Hicks recalls. “Neil was going to drive from north of Toronto, and I was coming from St. Catharine’s, but there was a terrible snowstorm that day,” he recalls. “We couldn’t drive in, but poor Casey didn’t get the memo in time and he went to SOCAN. I went onto Skype with Neil, who then ‘FaceTimed’ Casey on his iPhone or iPad. We were stretching technology to the max to get this session done, but we did get a song finished!”

Hicks explains that, “I write via Skype or FaceTime with other guys in Vancouver and Nashville all the time. It can be difficult sometimes ‘cause there is that delay, but that’ll get better in time.” He has also enjoyed more conventional in-person writing room sessions in Nashville. “They’re soaked in tradition there, and that approach has worked for so many years,” he says.

Fearing & White is definitely a long-distance collaboration, from Canada to Australia. Halifax-based roots-music veteran Stephen Fearing now balances a prolific solo recording career with membership in Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and, since 2008, his duo with fellow singer-songwriter Andy White. The Irish-born White now calls Australia home, creating obvious challenges. But the duo has overcome these to release two albums, their self-titled 2011 debut and 2014’s Tea and Confidences. Two joint compositions have also surfaced on BARK albums.

Have you ever searched for song lyrics online? So have millions of other people, but only one company – with the sheer determination of its founder – figured out a way to get money into the hands of the writers of those lyrics.

It was a hard road pushing LyricFind up the mountain of legitimacy, but now, in its 10th year of business, the Toronto-based licensing service finds itself king of the hill at last. The turning point came last year when LyricFind acquired the lyric business of its principal rival, Gracenotes. Since then growth has skyrocketed, and LyricFind is now the undisputed global leader in online lyric licensing – boasting agreements with more than 3,000 music publishers.

“We’re paying out three times as much now as we were a year-and-a-half ago,” says LyricFind co-founder Darryl Ballantyne.

“We monetized an industry that was entirely illegal,” he adds proudly. “The only people making any money were lyric websites that were selling a ton of ads and not paying any royalties at all. That made it a little easier to get the initial deals done, because it was found money for the music publishers.” Online lyric display also drives music discovery and sales, which makes additional money for artist-songwriters.

It may be based in Toronto, but LyricFind has been tilting towards the U.S. almost from the beginning. Its North American royalties are distributed through the Harry Fox Agency, and one of its biggest champions has been the National Music Publishers’ Association, which sued lyrics site LiveUniverse in 2012, winning a major $6.6 million settlement.

LyricFind now has deals with reproduction rights and performance rights societies in 30 territories around the world.

“As we’re expanding globally, we’re doing more and more deals with societies,” says Ballantyne. “To us it doesn’t really matter whether the society is mechanical or performance, what matters is the connection to the publishers and the society’s ability to get us the correct ownership/split data.”

LyricFind licenses a wide range of lyric users – websites, digital music download services, mobile phone makers, etc. The company negotiates individual royalty rates depending on the revenue model of the user’s business, be it a percentage of ad revenue or a per-unit fee for device sales.

“Lyric websites were selling a ton of ads and not paying any royalties at all.”

“We pool all of that across the various different revenue models and we end up with an average we’re paying the publishers of around one-tenth of a cent per display,” explains Ballantyne. These small micro-payments add up.

“It’s very much a hits-driven business,” explains Ballantyne, “so the majors see a significant amount of money from us every quarter.”

Ballantyne founded LyricFind in 2004 with partners Mohamed Moutadayne and Chris Brock who met as students at the University of Waterloo. “It’s a lot of fun now, but early on it was very much a slog,” remembers Ballantyne. “We freeloaded off parents and ex-girlfriends… It was a lot of long hours and no real money. But we always believed there was a market there and eventually it proved right.”