Former Canadian Music Centre Executive Director Elisabeth Bihl has stepped in to helm the Canadian Music Publishers’ Association (CMPA) following the departure of Catharine Saxberg, who recently joined SOCAN as the society’s new Head of International Relations.

Bihl has relinquished her seat on the CMPA board to assume the Executive Director’s job on an interim basis.

“Elisabeth has something else on the horizon later in 2014, but she had six months available, so she volunteered to take the post on an interim basis,” explains CMPA President Jodie Ferneyhough.

Ferneyhough says Saxberg’s resignation was a “shock” but with Bihl agreeing to step in temporarily, the CMPA board has elected to strike a transition committee and clearly define its future goals before considering a long-term replacement for Saxberg, who steered the Association for nearly nine years.

“Elisabeth can keep us moving, keep opening doors until we know what the next move should be.” – CMPA President Jodie Ferneyhough

“Catharine was with us for my entire time as President,” says Ferneyhough. “She did an excellent job and we wish her well at SOCAN. We’re not sure at this point whether our next Executive Director should be a seasoned veteran who really understands lobbying or whether it should be someone younger who will bring a different energy and focus to the job.”

Ferneyhough adds that the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA, owned by the CMPA) is also in transition following the departure of longtime President David Basskin and the ascension of his second-in-command, Caroline Rioux, to the top spot there.

With so many changes unfolding at once, Ferneyhough says he and his fellow directors are grateful for the opportunity to “take a breath and find the right person.”

For the time being, Ferneyhough says Bihl “is the perfect candidate because she’s already in the circle, and she’s been an Executive Director and knows how to work with boards. It puts us in a great position to continue the work we’re doing. There’s not a lot of lobbying that needs to happen right now but there’s a ton of other work that demands the attention of an E.D. Elisabeth can keep us moving, keep opening doors until we get to the point where we know exactly what the next move for CMPA should be.”

Late last year Bihl announced she was leaving the Canadian Music Centre after 14 years, during which she modernized the organization, oversaw the digitization of its music library, and lead a fundraising campaign and a major renovation of the Centre’s national headquarters, a heritage property in downtown Toronto.

“It’s called leaving on a high note,” says Bihl with a laugh. “We also did a strategic plan so the Centre is ready for the future. It was time for me to find new sandboxes to play in.”

Bihl has agreed to help shepherd the expansion of the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists, founded by veteran artist manager Ann Summers, but for now her commitment is to the CMPA.

Having decided to become a singer-songwriter, the film producer, scriptwriter and actor Émile Proulx-Cloutier entered the 2011 Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée, Quebec’s premier pop music competition, and came out with a whopping seven prizes. In November 2013, after honing his songs on a number of stages, he released Aimer les monsters (Loving Monsters), an album produced by Philippe Brault (Pierre Lapointe, Random Recipe) that tells the kind of vivid, troubling stories that a creator steeped in the worlds of film and theatre was especially well-equipped to tell.

“Exploring emotional environments other than my own is exciting to me,” Proulx-Cloutier explains. “I love being able to walk in the shoes of someone with a totally different background with whom I can still empathize at some level. Deep down, all humans are related. At the same time, I can express myself by sharing personal experiences that give a feel of authenticity to my fictional characters. There is also the need to put the story first whatever happens – I’ve seen my characters have a change of mind in the middle a song! That happened with ‘Votre cochon se couche,’[‘Your Pig Lies Down’] for instance. My experience as a screenwriter and actor is helpful in setting up the framework for a song,” the highly voluble artist explains.

“I try to plan my life so that I always have a couple of irons in the fire at all times.”

Already well-known in Quebec’s cultural life in his other incarnations, Proulx-Cloutier was well aware that releasing a debut album at the ripe old age of 30 was a calculated risk. The pressure was real.  “I’ve already lived through a number of creative processes in a variety of areas,” he says. “I’ve seen many creators work, struggle or fall flat on their faces. I’ve received industry awards and bad critical reviews. So I’ve got experience, but my own path is unique, and I don’t necessarily feel impervious to criticism. For one thing, this is the first time I’ve come up with a deeply personal project, and this is leaving me wide open. Besides, when you release an album at my age, you can’t expect it to be taken as a youthful mistake if it’s not good enough. It’s a project I’ve been working on and refining for a long time. I felt it was a huge risk to take. Some well-known people have branched out to songwriting with not-so-good results. I didn’t want this recording to be seen as some TV actor’s whim.”

A keen observer of human behaviour, a talented pianist and a clever storyteller, Proulx-Cloutier finds it easy to weave his singer-songwriter activities into the fabric of his varied creative life: “I’m a great admirer of people like Robert Morin and Robert Lepage, who can do everything, small and large projects. The professions I’m working in all have busy and slack periods. Acting work is seasonal. At the creative level, I try to plan my life so that I always have a couple of irons in the fire at all times. Any type of project. I love meeting people from other creative backgrounds. I’ve managed to keep busy that way all my life. I’d be miserable in a one-culture environment. That’s the way I am. It’s in my nature.”

Like everyone else, Proulx-Cloutier is aware of the current troubles of the music business he has recently entered, but without worrying himself to death, he remains convinced that listeners remain as fond of great stories and poetry as ever, and that modern artists must reconnect with them from the stage going forward. “When I think of the number of recordings I’ve sold and what that could have been 20 years ago, I have to laugh! But there always will be a space for live shows and the communal experience they make possible. This is where the future lies. We’ve got to find a direct and interpersonal way to share what we create. On stage, you can create a roller coaster ride of emotions with just a few props. We must remain accessible, relevant and interesting. The audience – of “real people” – is willing to follow us much farther than we think. We can still make sense to them, take them on a ride. We are living at a time when fashions coexist, when old and new live side by side. I don’t value external forms. I value what’s true, fair and courageously made.”

Besides appearing in the new Toute la vérité television series from early March, Proulx-Cloutier is working on documentary, Choisir la terre (Chosing Earth), with his spouse Anaïs BarbeauLavalette, with whom he is also preparing a large stage show that will open in May at the Place des Arts Theatre in Montreal. As for concerts, more than a dozen were scheduled for the spring before the Outremont Theatre April series opened, all of which will be followed with what the artist calls “a real tour.” So, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy Émile Proulx-Cloutier’s special brand of movie-like music. “That’s exactly what I am planning to do!” he promises. “What matters is being able to tell believable stories and put new images in people’s minds. I always see this as some kind of film playing inside the brain. I don’t know if a song can ever produce an effect on the scale of a Michelangelo painting, but that painting is not on your wall for you to enjoy anyway! Songs, on the other hand, are accessible. And French music is magnificent. The language we learned on our mother’s knee resonates in a special place in our hearts. That’s where the beat makes real sense.”

Sally Folk first burst onto the music scene in 2010 with an English-language album variously inspired by The Ronettes, The Supremes, Cher and 1960s retro-chic style that instantly made her a Quebec cousin of Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Here she comes for another run four years later, this time with a self-titled album in French, her first language.

“The move to French was quite natural,” the artist explains. “I already had a few songs in English, and my manager suggested I translate one, just to see. You don’t write the same way in French. The work on metaphors and word sounds is quite different. Words also often have several meanings, which makes for interesting connotations. In English, you can repeat the work baby four times in a row and people don’t mind. Writing in a new language is like switching from physics to chemistry. I’m not saying I’m never going to go back to English, but I certainly added a nice new colour to my palette.”

Sally Folk’s ease with music business matters is a thing of beauty in itself, with her good-time attitude, her uncanny ability to put herself centre stage, her curiosity, and the way she can attract the best professional support. “Earlier in my life, I was a businesswoman,” the former co-owner of Montreal’s Sofa Bar explains. “So I was already used to navigating in the music sphere, in the world of nightclubs.” Then, one day, she decided to sell her shares and take off to a place where she could satisfy her craving for writing, composing and performing songs.

“Male-female relationships are an endless topic. I find real inspiration in uncomfortable love relationships.”

She was able to finance her first album without outside help, but barely. “It cost me a fortune, I spent my last penny… But at some point, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Do I want to make another album or buy a house?’” Then came Entourage, the production company behind the success of Annie Villeneuve, Boom Desjardins, Stéphanie Bédard and Marianna Mazza. “Getting Entourage to look after my career gave me the time I needed to concentrate on my music. When I was managing the whole thing by myself, the only break I was getting was when I could climb on the stage and let it all hang out. I’m glad I went through that because it is helping me understand the chain of support artists need. Besides, I continue to be interested in the production side of the music business, and I’m considering a move in that direction at some point. I would love to help performers blossom. It’s a project I keep on the back burner.”

Looking like a character straight out of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction with her mischievous air, black bangs and red lipstick matching her fingernails, Sally Folk is Sophia D’Aragon’s alter ego. “It’s more than just a fictional character. The stories I tell are mine. The Sally Folk femme fatale aura that I add to it with chic clothes and makeup allows me to express myself. There is a wild side to every woman. Sally is an extension of my own personality.”

Far from being superficial, Sally’s lyrics lead her listeners to troubled waters where people fall out of love, infidelity leads to happiness, women are not afraid of being seductive, and drop-dead gorgeous men patronize strip clubs. Come to the cabaret! “Male-female relationships are an endless topic,” she marvels. “I find real inspiration in uncomfortable love relationships.” She might add that, as inspiration material goes, her own fictional life and that of her girlfriends provide her with an embarrassment of riches.

Musically, her album adds touches of Americana to superb brass and string arrangements by Michel Dagenais (Jean Leloup, Marc Déry, Breastfeeders), who produced her earlier album and is featured on this one both as a producer and performer. “I told him I was looking for new sounds for this one,” she recalls. Having just completed the recording of Daniel Bélanger’s superb new country-lyrical album Chic de ville, Dagenais used similar colours in Sally Folk’s new opus, and Bélanger himself is even featured as a performer on one track (“Les hommes du quartier”). ”That’s very precious,” Sally explains. ”Another thing I learned in my previous life as a businesswoman is that you don’t tamper with a winning formula. Sally Folk is my persona, but she also means the solid partners I can build things with. I feel that this project is taking off, and it’s exciting.”

The chances are that Sally Folk’s French-language songs will open new doors for her in the large summer festivals in Montreal, across Quebec and possibly in Europe as well. “That’s what I’m really hoping for because my music is meant to be shared with as many people as possible. When I’m on the stage, I’m living life 1000 percent. That’s where it all makes sense.”