After establishing herself as a popular member of the Toronto singer-songwriter community, Emma-Lee packed up her pen and guitar and re-located to Nashville in February of 2017 to pursue her songwriting career.

She has no regrets about the move. “The city has exceeded my expectations,” she says. “I’ve definitely written more songs this year than any other year, as the city feeds that hunger.”

Living in Music City has actually opened up more opportunities for work with other Canadian artists and songwriters. “In Toronto, I would write with country artists but it’d just be a select few going there to write for their record,” she says. “Pretty much all the Canadian country music scene comes to Nashville, though, so I get to write with more of them, and that’s awesome.”

“I’m still a self-published writer,” says Emma-Lee, “but working with a publisher is something I’d like to do in the future. I do think the more you can do on your own, before that happens, puts you in a better position.”

She’s amassed an impressive discography of co-written songs recorded and performed by Canadian artists, with that list including Madeline Merlo, Michelle Treacy, Kira Isabella, Nice Pony, Victoria Duffield, Alee, Leah Daniels, SATE, Tia Brazda, and more. She’s excited that a song she co-wrote with longtime collaborator Karen Kosowski and Phil Barton will be on Brett Kissel’s new album, with other recent co-writes placed with Sam Drysdale and Stacey Kay.

“Seeing my name mentioned in Rolling Stone by Tom Petty was one of the coolest things ever!”

Along the songwriting road, Emma-Lee has had the opportunity to co-write with some of Canada’s premier songwriters, including Ron Sexsmith, Todd Clark, Donovan Woods and Gavin Slate. She has eagerly learned from all these experiences, and cites a session this year in Los Angeles with Brian West (Nelly Furtado, Maroon 5) as inspirational.

She’s a pro photographer as well
As well as her thriving musical career, Emma-Lee has been a professional photographer for the past decade, specializing in musicians and actors. “I was shooting all the time in Toronto, but I’m starting from the beginning again here in Nashville,” she explains. “Because I take pictures of musicians, the fact that I’m working with songwriters and artists all the time here is helping get the word out. I’m doing a shoot with [top Canadian songwriter] Tebey [Ottoh] here next week. What I love about doing my photography here is that I’m open to a whole new world of photo locations. I live in East Nashville, and there’s an old-time vibe on the streets that I love. That has reignited that spark of inspiration.”

“I left it thinking about things a little differently in how I approach writing,” she says. “You just never know when that will happen. A great thing about living in Nashville is constantly meeting someone new, and watching how they work. Gleaning from that, and bringing it to your own music, strengthens you as a writer.”

Emma-Lee first made a mark as a solo artist, earning critical acclaim for her earlier albums, Never Just a Dream (2009) and Backseat Heroine (2012).  A 2014 single she recorded in honour of a musical hero brought her a career highlight.

The song “What Would Tom Petty Do?” actually came to Petty’s attention, and he responded in Rolling Stone that “I don’t know what he would do. But thanks for asking.” To Emma-Lee, “seeing my name mentioned in there by Tom Petty was one of the coolest things ever!”

Her new record, Fantasies, is being released as two five-song EPs. Fantasies Vol.1 came out in October 2017, with Vol. 2 set for release in late January 2018. “Releasing smaller bodies of work will do you favours in the long run,” she says. “It gives people a chance to digest a small amount of what you are trying to say. I’m a music creator, and even I can barely listen to an entire album by somebody. If I admit that to myself then I have to be honest in the way I put out music.”

Featuring songs written in Toronto, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Fantasies is produced by Kosowski, who also co-wrote most of the material. Todd Clark co-wrote “Not Giving Up On You” with the pair, and a dance remix of that cut is faring well. “It has a half million plays on Spotify, so I guess people really love to dance,” says Emma-Lee. A co-write with Kosowski and Ron Sexsmith, “No Photographs,” will be on the second EP.

Emma-Lee is eclectic in her tastes as a singer and songwriter, but she calls Fantasies a pure pop record. “I’d say that this one is the most cohesive album I’ve put out,” she says. “Karen and I were definitely digging some ‘80s and ‘90s pop production at the time, and wanted to take a crack at some of that.

“Writing songs with and for other people, I realized I could indulge some of my stylistic tendencies there. I love working in different styles of music, but when you try to do that as an artist, it can be confusing for people to understand who you are.”

She began writing all her material alone, but Emma-Lee is now firmly wedded to the co-writing approach. “In my experience, bringing an idea to someone else I trust, and who I think has incredible ideas, then, without fail, every time that idea has gotten better,” she says. “Plus, I also just really like working with other people. It’s not as much fun to do it alone, to be completely honest.”


“Having integrity, following instinct, expressing what we feel. The goal: creating good music that gives us extreme emotions.”  Such is the answer of Montréalers Emma Beko and Gab Godon, a.k.a. Hearstreets, when asked to describe the direction of their musical project – one that’s been attracting a lot of attention, lately.

Extreme emotions are what Heartstreets served to the audience during their surprise performance in the parking lot of Rouyn-Noranda’s Paramount, last September during the Festival de Musique Émergente. It was love at first sight, between the duo’s contagious enthusiasm and the small crowd’s thirst for discovery. What they discovered is a rap, R&B and soul-tinged electro-pop offering. To wit, the reaction of the crowd seconds after the duo’s short performance:

Even though Heartstreets first appeared on YouTube five years ago, things started getting serious in 2015. After a string of singles, EPs and shows, they made a big impression at Osheaga, last summer – enough that the festival is presenting their current headlining tour dates, in Toronto, Montréal and Québec City, with Ryan Playground opening.

But what’s been attracting the most attention lately is their new single “Blind,” produced by 2016 Polaris Prize winner and 2015 SOCAN Award winner Kaytranada. The single that was presented exclusively by famed music magazine The Fader, which praised the song’s qualities.

“We work with different producers on practically every song,” says Gab. “It’s important to us because it allows us to explore the various aspects of our style, and it stimulates our creative process by constantly introducing new sounds. Our collaboration with Kaytranada came about very organically. We worked together in a studio, and then worked on the song separately, and we all love the final result! We don’t follow a recipe when we’re working on a new track, it’s constantly evolving!”

What’s unchanging is the steep upward trajectory of their popularity, as Heartstreets witness their fanbase increasing both steadily and rapidly. Something tells us that’s not about to slow down…

“Ta bouche sur la mienne et ton corps au mien” (“Your mouth on mine and your body on mine”) are the first words heard on Cassiopée, Mara Tremblay’s seventh solo album. The opener, “Ton corps au mien” is typical of the singer-songwriter’s favourite themes: love’s ardour and tenderness, friendship and intimacy.

Mara Tremblay

Photo: Isabelle Viviers

On this album, Tremblay returns to the essence of her beginnings, her own kind of rock, her untamed nature and, above all, the people. Some say work and family don’t mix well, but for Mara, the closer one is to their loved ones, the freer one is. And to her, that ideology also applies to work. “My kids are growing up and they play music,” she says, as if it’s self-evident. “It’s a dream come true, because they were too small to be in the band before.”

Cassiopée rapidly evolved into a family affair, where Tremblay bares herself even more than on the cover of 2009’s Tu m’intimides. The result is a warm, inspired cocoon that owes everything to this this kind of proximity. “My son Victor (Tremblay-Desrosiers) was there from the beginning,” she says. “It was obvious I wanted to work with him. No drummer understands me like he does. The first beat he ever heard was my own heart,” she continues, full of emotion. “We get along super-well. He doesn’t live at home anymore, so every time we get together to play, it’s a celebration. He’s incredibly open-minded and talented. He can play anything: jazz, rock, punk, rap.” Her other son, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, plays guitar, and co-wrote two songs on the album, while her ex, Sunny Duval, is all over the place as a player and lyricist.

“I contemplate nature, the stars, love, and friendship, and that’s all I need to create, now.”

Happiness, whether personal or familial, can be felt throughout the album.  “The basic tracks for all the songs were recorded live,” says Tremblay. “It captures the energy that surrounds us, and in that energy, there’s a lot of love. I wanted this album to be like bathing in intense and positive emotions. I wanted to do something that was healing.”

Tremblay has always co-produced her albums, but on this one, she took a leap of faith and did it all on her own. “I was always involved in the artwork, the videos,” she says. “I always had a lot of freedom. I wouldn’t have been happy otherwise. I always did that, hand in hand with Olivier Langevin. He was just 18 when we recorded Le chihuahua (1999). That’s what I’ve always wanted, because I wanted to be able to say it is my music.” This time around, however, she admits to having somewhat lost touch with Olivier, possibly because on he was super-busy. “I said to myself, look, I’m gonna do it!” she says. “I used the same methods, and we’ve worked together for so long that I could hear him in my mind when I was working.”

Mara Tremblay

Photo: Isabelle Viviers

Having re-acquainted with her rock ‘n’ roll self, Mara even takes us on a little punk rock journey on “Carabine.” And her rich singer-songwriter journey has allowed her to perceive beauty and finesse. “When I listen to Papillons (2001), I realize I’m still the same person, only less tormented. My kids have grown, but I’ve remained the same. In my mind, now, we’re all the same age!”

Even the slimmest idea now allows her to write a lot, since she’s gained access to a new-found serenity. “I threw away what broke me,” she says. “I contemplate nature, the stars, love and friendship, and that’s all I need to create, now.” She hopes her stories will become part of our lives when we listen to them. And that’s the message she took with her onstage during her album launch, earlier this month: “This song is about that moment when you no longer know whether you are friends, or something else. It’s happened to all of us,” she said before playing “Le fleuve et la mer,” during the release party for Cassiopée.

Beyond Mara’s rock sensibility lies a long and enduring body of work, that finds her constantly re-inventing herself. On this offering, it stretches for miles, and and quite naturally becomes an embrace, thanks to its underlying maternal pride.