Rêve“It’s surreal,” says Briannah Donolo, with stars in her eyes. On Oct. 20, 2023, the dance-pop singer-songwriter known to the public as Rêve launched her debut album, Saturn Return. The release followed a handful of singles, including the dancefloor bomb “CTRL+ALT+DEL,” which she co-wrote with Montréal duo Banx & Ranx, that went on to win a JUNO in the Dance Recording of the Year category. “I like to joke that this album is like I’ve been pregnant for three years and I’ve finally given birth,” she says, referring to her shiny new project, where she’s rounded out her musical persona.

“The music industry being what it is today – dominated by singles – it’s become difficult to keep the attention of music lovers, who often only get to know only one chapter of the musical history of an artist,” says Rêve. “I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to write a whole book, a full-length album.” The project’s ballads – the intense “Past Life” and “Release Me” – exist not only in stark contrast to beat-heavy tracks like “Disco at the Strip Club,” but also reveal a facet of the artist to which we weren’t privy before.

As she says, Saturn Return was three years in the making, and involved thousands of song ideas recorded on her phone. “If only you could see it, there’s more than 3,000; it’s embarrassing!” she says with a giggle. Three years of participating in song camps, and collaborating with other artists, since the Montréal-born singer first started being noticed – by appearing on our TV screens standing on the Bell Centre ice rink, singing the national anthems when the Montréal Canadiens played home games.

She left Montréal for Toronto, with a suitcase full of dreams of an international career, propelled by her skillful dance, disco, and house songs. That seems like a strange decision, when one considers that Montréal is Canada’s nightlife capital, and provides its soundtrack. “It’s true, and you’re not the first one to point that out,” says Rêve. “The thing is, my management team, as well as the labels I hoped to work with, are all in Toronto, and it’s still a bigger market.

“The funny thing, though, is that my main collaborators are in Montréal,” she says, meaning Banx & Ranx, the production powerhouse duo of Soké (Zacharie Raymond) and KNY Factory (Yannick Rastogi). For the last decade, they’ve been creating hits for the likes of La Zarra, Sean Paul, and Alessia Cara, among other luminaries.

Rêve, Disco at the Strip Club

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Rêve song “Disco at the Strip Club”

It was also in Montréal that Rêve caught the dancefloor bug. “Music has been a part of my life since I was a little one,” she says. “I remember all those shows we would go see on weekends; it was a family outing for us. I do remember the first time I stepped into Club Velvet in Old Montréal. It was quite an eclectic place, and it felt like you were entering a dungeon, because of the stuffed animals, and candle wax dripping down the walls. And what an amazing sound system! I remember that first contact with the music, the DJ, and the bond that’s created between that dance music, the artist who’s playing it, and the people who are dancing. It was transcendent. It stayed with me, and I wanted my music to have that.”

Rêve says that when she got to Toronto, “I felt I needed to be taken seriously as a songwriter, so I wrote intensively, every day. At one point, I was doing two writing sessions a day, six days a week.” Most of her songs are written on the piano, an instrument she studied as a child, “I find the melody, the lyrics, it’s all there. Then I take a step back and try to find a way to make the song cool. Sometimes I’ll sit in the studio with no starting point and I just explore. I’ve always believed that songs are like little truths that are floating around in the atmosphere and that our job as artists is being able to catch them. Each day I devote to writing is like that, and that’s what makes being a songwriter so exciting and satisfying.”

“In my world,” Fefe Dobson explains about her songwriting, “there’s a map to creating something that’s hooky, and turns the ear on constantly, so that there’s no boring parts. Melody is more universal than words, in many ways.”

Dobson’s songs have always seemed very personal and very introspective, even though the emotions and experiences she expresses in them are universal. That became evident almost immediately upon the release of her self-titled debut in 2003. Fefe Dobson entered the Billboard HeatSeekers album chart at No. 1 and spawned four consecutive Top 10 radio hits, including “Bye Bye Boyfriend” and “Take Me Away.” That led to multiple award nominations (including Best New Artist and Pop Album JUNO noms), earned two MuchMusic video awards and, ultimately, landed her a spot opening for Justin Timberlake’s 2004 European tour.

In the 20 years since, there’ve been three more albums, including the newly released Emotion Sickness. Dobson moved from Scarborough to Los Angeles, and now resides in Nashville; got married; had several more hit singles; and sustained a successful part-time acting career. She’s also had songs she co-wrote recorded and released by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Jordin Sparks.

Dobson has garnered a reputation for making tough decisions over the years, including rejecting an early contract offer she thought was inappropriate, and scuppering the release of a completed album with which she didn’t feel comfortable. The single “FCKN in Love,” which survived that rejected album, has been streamed more than 2.4 million times on Spotify since its release in 2022.

Fefe Dobson, Hungover, video

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Fefe Dobson song “Hungover”

While her lyrics – almost all of which are solely written by Dobson on Emotion Sickness – obviously resonate with a large audience, they’re not the driving force behind the music. On the phone from Ottawa, where she performs that night as part of a nine-date Fall 2023 Canadian tour, Dobson says, “For me it’s always been melody first. Lyrics come afterwards. It’s always been like that. I’ve been very fortunate that way. Even from the very beginning.”

Five of Emotion Sickness’ nine tracks were co-written with Bryn McCutcheon, Kirstyn Johnson, and the album’s producer, multi-instrumentalist Sam Arion, all of whom reside in Toronto. Dobson hadn’t really intended to start working on an album, but on creating what would become the opening track – the bombastic, high-energy “Hungover” – it almost became a necessity.

“At first I was kind of shy about it,” Dobson recalls, “because I hadn’t written a punk song like that in years, just, like, balls-to-the-wall. I thought, Oh my God, will my team even like this? I thought I was making a song that was just about what I felt at the moment, not a song that would carry a project. And I got a call from my team, and it was, like, ‘We need to make an album right now!’  The Toronto aspect, the Canadian aspect of it, just happened that way, which was kind of nice. It was like going to my roots.” With the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and a resurgent Avril Lavigne bringing the sound of pop-punk back into popular culture, it’s no wonder Dobson’s team was excited.

While her songs tend to alternate between keyboard- and guitar-driven tracks, they don’t necessarily start out that way. For example, the dynamic, rocking, anthemic, “I Can’t Love Him (And Love You Too)”, started out on acoustic guitar. “We didn’t know if it was an old, doo-wop song,” says Dobson. “We didn’t know what the song would transform into.” When adding lyrics, Dobson says she’ll vocalize sounds, then find words that fit.  “Certain sounds will come out of our mouths, and I want to write words to match that,” she says. She refers to a friend and supporter, producer Jim Jonsin (Grammy-winning producer/songwriter who’s worked with Beyoncé, Usher, Lil Wayne, and Eminem). “He calls it ‘holy ghosting,’ where it comes from a higher power, or someplace,” she says. “It’s like something speaking through you, and I honour that.”

Dobson says another 10-year wait for her next album is unlikely. She admits to being shocked by the great response to her new songs. “The first night [of the tour] in Toronto, which was the album release day,” she says, “we started the show with ‘Ghost,’ which was great, everyone was familiar with it. Then we did [new song] ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me,’ and when that chorus hits, it always blows my mind. Every show, it was the same way, with people jumping up and down. The new stuff is coming off really well. It’s making me happy because I’m, like, ‘OK this is connecting.’”

Writing Royally
Dobson chose a very comfortable, if unusual, environment to write most of what became Emotion Sickness: her favourite corner room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel – a place she considers her second home, when in Toronto. “We just set up mics and we started writing and recording vocals,” says Dobson. “I literally sat, listening on the bed, in my hotel room. We were writing the songs, mapping them out.” Some of the vocals recorded there, including those on “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” made it onto the album. With microphones, guitars, and keyboards all plugged directly into laptops, no one in the neighbouring rooms complained.

From Oct. 11-13, 2023, SOCAN was on-site at the MaMA Festival, a not-to-be-missed music convention in Paris. The event brought the neighbourhoods of Pigalle and Montmartre to life through three days and nights of conferences, professional networking events, and concerts open to the general public.

The 2023 edition put Canada in the spotlight thanks to the “Focus Canada” series, celebrating our country’s diverse music scene, and strengthening ties between Canada, France, and the rest of the world.

SOCAN played a key role in supporting more than 20 Canadian artists, who performed in various showcases. These talented Québécois and Canadian representatives received a warm welcome from the Parisian public, and SOCAN was proud to be there to support them, thousands of miles away from home.

We seized the opportunity to chat with four of our French-speaking members, and give them a platform to discuss their aspirations when it comes to exporting their music to France, and the world.



SOCAN, Interview, Fredz, MaMA, 2023
Select the image to play the YouTube video interview with Fredz

“Fredz is a 21-year-old rapper from Longueuil, a Montréal suburb, who’s rapidly turning a lot of heads, and who makes no bones about his determination to conquer the hip-hop market in France. He discussed his ambitions, challenges, and tips for success, and serves as a source of inspiration condensed into a few minutes.



Mayfly, MaMA, SOCAN, Interview, 2023

Select the image to play the YouTube video interview with Mayfly

We caught up with Charlie and Emma, who form the duo Mayfly, to discuss their creative process, their desire to export their music, and the challenges for a bilingual band looking to develop their audience in Québec.



Mimi O'Bonsawin, Interview, SOCAN, MaMA, 2023

Select the image to play the YouTube video interview with Mimi O’Bonsawin

We also met Mimi O’Bonsawin, an artist from Greater Sudbury, born of a Franco-Ontarian mother and an Abenaki (First Nation) father. She recently released Boréale, her first album in French, after five projects in English. She shared her desire to export her music while preserving her authenticity.



SOCAN, Interview, Ariane Roy, MaMA, 2023

Select the image to play the YouTube video interview with Ariane Roy

We caught up with Ariane Roy backstage at her showcase, and she told us about her ambitions to export to Europe, having already taken a number of steps in her strategy to make a name for herself over there.


The Focus Canada series at MaMA Festival was a unique opportunity to showcase Canadian talent and promote artistic and professional exchanges between Canada, France and the rest of the world. Once more, SOCAN has proved its essential role in supporting the music from Québec and Canada on the international stage.