As an actor, Noah Reid (Schitt’s Creek) plays a part; with each new role, he adopts a character and follows a script. As a songwriter, the 33-year-old creates songs from his heart. No acting. No script. Honesty and life experiences drive these narratives, though many reflect his acting experiences. Summing up his common approach to both acting and songwriting, he asks, “If I’m the character, how do I explore that world?” It’s a rhetorical question, posed from his Toronto home, just two weeks after his wedding, attended only by close family, socially distanced, on a beach overlooking Lake Huron.

Reid grew up in Toronto, but these days the dual citizen splits his time between T.O. and L.A., depending on where his work takes him. From a young age, he took piano lessons, and recalls enrolling in the annual Kiwanis songwriting competitions, always making up songs at the keyboard. Acting overtook his life, then became his chosen artistic path, but his love of creating and playing music never waned.

“For a long time, I was writing songs and not doing anything with them”

In 2015, Reid met JUNO nominee, industry veteran and fellow singer-songwriter Matthew Barber at an event in Stratford, Ontario; the pair clicked. While Reid jokes that he was just a “hobbyist” at that point, Barber convinced him to make a record. The pair spent two days in the studio together, resulting in the Songs from a Broken Chair album (2016).

“I was like, ‘Wow’ I want to do more of this,” says Reid. “For a long time, I was writing songs and not doing anything with them. They were just places to put my thoughts and feelings.”

The success of the award-winning TV comedy Schitt’s Creek’s – on which Reid plays David’s boyfriend Patrick – left little time to put out another record. But with the show coming to an end in 2019, Reid called up Barber and returned to the studio. On May 29, his sophomore record Gemini was released. The dozen songs on it are arresting, piano-driven compositions that show the other side of Reid’s talent. Unsurprisingly, the balance between his two passions, and other dualities,  is something the songwriter thinks about more, now that he’s in his 30s.

“The Best” Cover Ever
One of the most poignant moments on Schitt’s Creek came in Season 4, when Reid, playing Patrick, serenaded David (played by Dan Levy) with an acoustic version of Tina Turner’s “The Best.” A digital single of the performance reached No. 3 on the iTunes Canada Top 10 singles chart. What’s more important to Reid is the lasting legacy of that made-for-TV moment. “I never expected it to be so impactful for so many people,” says Reid. “I knew we had an opportunity with the audience that watches that show, and knowing moments like that are few and far between in the LGBTQ community… It was incredibly rewarding to be part of that moment for a community that doesn’t feel represented much on TV.”

“I’m not as concerned anymore with being cool, and all the ‘social stuff,’ as I was in my 20s,” he says. “Balance is something I’m striving for now, as the dualities in my life are being made known. There’s a sweet spot between letting it happen and making it happen… a lot of the songs find equilibrium between two things, and show that two things can exist at the same time, and that’s OK.”

For Reid, the songs and songwriters he’s drawn to are those that show a human side: a rawness and “realness” often lacking in some of today’s auto-tuned pop. Touchstones include singer-songwriters of the 1970s like Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Carole King, and Paul Simon.

 One of Gemini’s most earnest songs is “Underwater.” It’s one of Reid’s favorite compositions, and received an early rave review from a certain Schitt’s Creek co-star.

“The recording feels super-dynamic,” he says. “When I wrote that song, it was a step up for me in terms of songwriting… I hadn’t heard that sound coming out of me before. It just felt so honest. The world of the song expands as it goes along. I remember playing an early mix to Catherine O’Hara at an airport somewhere. She took her headphones off and said, ‘Noah, that is amazing! The lyrics are very sad, but the arrangement is so hopeful.’”

When Queer Eye for the Straight Guy came into our lives in 2003, it came with a fab theme song called All Things (Just Keep Getting Better). The dance pop track was written by Canadians Ian Nieman and Rachid Wehbi, who also record under the name WIDELIFE, and featured vocals by Toronto’s Simone Denny.

As the TV makeover show became a smash hit, so did All Things – scoring club and dance radio plays around the world and a JUNO Award for Dance Recording of the Year in 2005. It even got lampooned on South Park. In 2018, Netflix re-booted Queer Eye, giving Nieman and Wehbi’s track a second life.

We’ll just start at the beginning. What led the producers of Queer Eye to ask you to submit a theme song?
Ian: In 2002, Rachid and I produced a song called “I Don’t Want U,” which got picked up by Nervous Records in New York. That song went Number 1 on the Billboard club charts in the US. One of the people working at Scout Productions was a fan of our song and contacted us wanting to know if we’d be interested in submitting for this brand new show.

This person was a music supervisor?
Ian: He was actually a graphic artist at the company. My understanding is that he just took it upon himself to seek us out. We beat out more than 10 other submissions to get the gig.

How much direction did you get?
Rachid: They just told us the name and the theme of the show. Neither of us had done a TV show before. I remember clearly sitting down with Ian and discussing how we could put in our best shot. I know we wanted to write something with lyrics. We just thought about the idea of the show and came up with, “When you are around, all things, keep getting better.” Originally, we only wrote what people call the TV version, just the first verse and a chorus.

How did it become a radio single?
Rachid: There’s a radio station called KTU in New York, and I think what KTU and other stations around the country were doing is they were playing our 58-second show open – playing it twice back-to-back. Like, to create a two-minute pop song. Because people would call in, ‘We love that show. Can we hear that song?’ And I think that’s what made the record companies take notice and ask for a full single.
Ian: The single got picked up by Capitol Records in LA, and then from that they made a soundtrack and then we made a music video. They shut down the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and Rachid and I are in the video having a great old time. That’s when it became more than just a TV show theme. We’d had success before but this was another level.

The song got a second life in 2018, when the Queer Eye show was resurrected by Netflix. How did the new version with Australian singer Betty Who come about?
Ian: I found out about that the day I watched it on Netflix.

That’s another part of the business, isn’t it?
Ian: Unfortunately, yes. If I could go back in time to 2003 with my knowledge now, hopefully I’d be able to do things a little bit differently. SOCAN has been excellent from the beginning to help us out, and I do want to thank them for that.
Rachid: We still own 100% of the writers’ share. But the publishing share went to the TV production company.
Ian: Which is fine. Sometimes you have to go for an opportunity rather than keep 100% of everything.

Why do you think the message “things keep getting better” still resonates?
Ian:  ‘Cause it’s hopeful. We need that positivity, whether you’re gay, straight, married, single. I think it’s a tribute to us that Netflix decided to go with the original theme song [for the reboot] because our message still rang true in 2018.

Two months ago, the family of Isaiah Faber (aka Powfu) moved from Mission, B.C., to a new house in Chilliwack. The place is going to need a trophy room to display all the platinum plaques the 21-year-old singer-songwriter/producer is amassing for the international success of his blockbuster hit track “death bed (coffee for your head).”

“The first one [for certified U.S. platinum sales] arrived a week ago,” says Powfu. “It’s pretty crazy to look at that.” More are coming, as the single has officially gone double-platinum in Canada and Ireland, and platinum in Australia, Sweden, Mexico, New Zealand, Italy, and Norway.

“It was getting a lot of views on YouTube, and TikTok took it the rest of the way”

Originally released in 2019, the breakthrough track made the Top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has been streamed more than a billion times, and counting. Its success story helps illustrate the ways that such platforms as YouTube, SoundCloud, and TikTok can break a song.

Powfu recalls that “death bed” got started when it was uploaded on YouTube. “It was getting a lot of views [currently at 178M] and then TikTok found it and took it the rest of the way,” he says. More than a million Tik Toks have been made with the song, and that phenomenon was followed by mass streaming on Spotify, and other outlets. A recent remix of “death bed” by U.S. pop-punk heavyweights Blink-182 has continued its momentum.

The poignant lyrics of “death bed” have resonated deeply. “The thing to me that stood out about it was the story, talking about death,” says Powfu. “I’ve never heard a song with that kind of story. People like the melody and the rap, too, so I guess it all came together.”

It’s a Family Affair
Powfu’s father, David Faber, found national success with his rock band, Faber Drive, and now acts as his son’s manager. “Isaiah and I co-write all the time, since he was about the age of seven,” says the elder. “He co-wrote a recent acoustic song that Faber Drive released called ‘Payday.’” In turn, Powfu incorporated a Faber Drive song, “More Than Perfect,” into his song “Letters in December,” featuring Rxseboy. “In my opinion, he made the lyrics better,” says dad David. Powfu says, “Growing up, I looked up to my dad on everything. He taught me the basics of songwriting and playing instruments… He was doing pretty good, so all my friends knew about him, and they rather expected me to follow in his footsteps. I felt a little pressure to be as good as, or better than, him.” Powfu’s younger sister, Patience Faber (aka, also contributes vocals to Poems Of The Past, and is releasing her own music, too.

Powfu initially came across the song’s beat, by Otterpop, on SoundCloud, and then used a sample from English artist Beabadoobee (taken from her song “Coffee”), though the song’s lyrical subject matter is his creation. “That was, and many of my songs are, written from [standing in] the shoes of another person,” he says. “My life is pretty boring compared to many people, so I like reading, and watching movies, about other people’s lives. “

The impact of “death bed” helped Powfu land a deal with Columbia Records, and his recent EP Poems Of The Past is the first fruit of that union. As with earlier Powfu indie releases, it showcases an eclectic style featuring hip-hop, punk, and pop elements. “I have different styles of songs, so that each of my fans will have a different favourite track, depending on the style they like,” he says. “I call my sound ‘lo-fi hip-hop punk.’”

Powfu’s do-it-yourself material is, literally, “bedroom pop.” “I have a desk in the corner of my bedroom and the computer set up there,” he says. “I’ve tried the big studios out, but recording in my room just feels more comfortable to me.”

He describes his songwriting approach this way: “First I’ll find  a beat I like the sound of, then I’ll freestyle flows or melodies on top of it. If I come up with a melody that I think sounds cool, then I’ll try to write lyrics for it.”

It’s heartening to know that success can be just that simple.