Rosie Valland

Photo by Philippe Sanfacon

Two EPs, an album, countless concerts, the semi-finals of Francouvertes 2015, opening for Ariane Moffatt, a few songs placed in the TV series Nouvelle adresse, a finalist spot in the Prix de la chanson SOCAN 2016: needless to say, Rosie Valland has just experienced two eventful years. Ever since releasing her first EP in April 2014, she’s been learning the business. “I’m learning to lead a project,” she says. “These are formative and creative times.”

Many discovered her with last year’s Partir avant, an album inspired by a breakup that was plainly difficult. But her latest, launched in the spring, takes the listener on a different trip: “Both albums came out in rapid succession, almost back to back, “ she says, “but one of them brewed for two years while the other one’s more spontaneous and reflects much more where I’m at now. Nord-Est is a beacon. It’s not necessarily happy, but it’s definitely more nostalgia than pain.”

Her work is reminiscent of the œuvres of Salomé Leclerc and Cat Power, but her slight pop tinge and soft voice are closer to that of Feist, especially on a song like “Nos guerres” (“Our Wars”). “Singing is my main instrument,” says Valland. “I let my voice take the lead and Feist is a great influence in that regard. Over the past year, I listened to Justin Bieber as much as I did Suuns. All influences converge in my music; I consciously try not to limit myself to a single direction.”

Valland, now 24, started singing in the choir of Saint-Césaire, a small village in the Montérégie region of Québec, about 45 minutes east of Montréal. There was a piano in her house, and she tamed the beast on her own. “I grew up with Star Académie and Mixmania [two popular singing contest TV shows in Québec in the 2000s],” she says. “In my mind, being a singer meant singing other people’s songs.” In her late teens, while living in Granby, the young artist became acquainted with the trade of songwriting when she saw many of her peers signing up to the École nationale de la chanson. “I started writing the second it dawned on me that I could write my own songs,” she says. “The next year, I too signed up to the École, and from that point on, everything went super fast.”

“Women still instinctively seek the approval of others on their musical ideas.”

During those formative years, Valland left the piano behind in favour of the six-string. “I judge myself very harshly when I play the piano, it’s less intuitive,” she says. “The guitar came into my life naturally in 2012, and the transition from one instrument to the other was very smooth. When I play guitar, I’m mostly following my instinct.”

Her apprenticeship on the instrument kicked into high gear when she met a talented and inspiring musician named Jesse Mac Cormack. They met at the Festival international de la chanson de Granby, and Jesse immediately became one of Rosie’s main musical partners in crime. “That was a crucial meeting for my career,” says Valland. “Jesse is very demanding and will only accept the best I can give. Working with him is the best, most intene school there is.”

Valland is increasingly assuming her role as the leader of a solo project. “Whether I’m in a duo, a trio or on my own, I’m learning to assume that the project will bear my name,” she says, “and that, no matter who I play with, its value doesn’t decrease. I don’t depend on anyone but myself, and I’ve discovered that this freedom is a strength.”


A few weeks ago, the young artist was nominated as one of the finalists in the Prix de la chanson SOCAN thanks to her song “Olympe,” a subtle homage to literary woman and feminist pioneer Olympe de Gouges, who was guillotined in Paris in 1793. “People often compliment me for my singing and then turn to Jesse to congratulate him on the music,” she says. “But they’re my songs! Women still instinctively seek the approval of others on their musical ideas; I think that’s partly why there are so few female producers. We have to boldly forge on, make a place for ourselves, become the woman who inspires us, and who we want to be. There are details left to fine-tune, but we’re on the right path.”

Just two years into his career as a country singer-songwriter, Edmonton-based Dan Davidson is making a definite mark in Canadian country music.

In late June of 2016, Davidson’s latest single, “Found,” was No. 16 on the charts and climbing – the highest-charting indie song on Canadian country radio – and had been added to CMT in heavy rotation.

While Davidson is relatively new to country fans, he’s not new to music, having cut his teeth during more than a decade as lead singer of rock band Tupelo Honey. It was with the group that he first became associated with Red Brick Songs, entering into an administration deal with the Toronto-based publisher in the late 2000s.

Jennifer Mitchell

Jennifer Mitchell of Red Brick Songs

“We didn’t know much about the publishing world at the time,” Davidson says. “We were the kind of band that put our heads down, got in the van and did all the shows we could.”

Working with Red Brick led to multiple song placements, and a major synchronization deal in the U.S. Davidson continued to work with the company as a solo artist after Tupelo Honey drifted apart in 2013, and signed a publishing deal with them in 2015.

When Davidson approached Red Brick owner and president Jennifer Mitchell, she thought it was a no-brainer. “We already had a good working relationship,” she says. “I believe in him and his work ethic. It just fit.

“I think ‘Found’ is a special song,” adds Mitchell. “It’s definitely been embraced by radio. When we first heard the demo, it was obvious to us right away; we all loved it.”

Davidson credits Red Brick as key to helping him launch his solo career as a country singer-songwriter. “Country music really seems to be something that will give me a bit more opportunity and longevity as a musician and a songwriter,” he says.

Moving from rock to country isn’t exactly a stretch for the 32-year-old artist. “Born in Alberta,” Davidson says, by way of explanation, adding that though his father was a big rock fan, he introduced his son to artists like Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash and Blue Rodeo. For Davidson, “Country music’s always been there. I just hadn’t gone in that direction.”

“I’m loving the vibe of the country music scene. The demographic is, like, 12 to 85, and they’re fans for life, so it’s more of a long game.”

Before deciding to dedicate his efforts to country, Davidson had a heart-to-heart talk with Dallas Smith, whose career path in the industry – first as lead singer of alt-rock band Default, and later as a successful country artist in his own right – was similar to his own.

“I saw Dallas open for Florida Georgia Line,” says Davidson. “Afterwards we were chatting and he said, ‘You’ve got the right voice for this, you’ve got the personality for the scene, and I think you’d love how supportive the country industry is.’”

During a subsequent conversation with veteran producer Jeff Dalziel (Autumn Hill, Brett Kissel) – who Davidson calls an important musical mentor – “Jeff and I decided that, creatively, we were in this together… and I’m loving the vibe of the country music scene. There’s something special about country. The demographic is, like, 12 to 85, and they’re fans for life, so it’s more of a long game, and I like that.”

‘Found’ is co-written by another singer-songwriter who also migrated from rock to country, Clayton Bellamy of The Road Hammers. Although the two had crossed paths, they’d never hung out or worked together. In December of 2015, with a chorus idea in mind, Davidson called Bellamy out of the blue and suggested they finally hang together, and write some music to boot. Over a couple of days at Bellamy’s home, they “banged out a couple of songs,” including “Found.”

Between working with Bellamy and Dalziel, “I think we’ve nailed my sound and the creative direction I want [to take],” says Davidson. While he’s a fan of a variety of country artists, his focus in developing his own sound is remaining true to himself. “I want to do what’s right for me… I’m doing my best to stay true to my voice.”

Jean Anfossi is the little music publisher who could. Against all odds, he’s succeeded in building an impressive Canadian stock music library amid a landscape of rapidly, disruptively changing technology, shrinking royalties and bruising competition.

Anfossi recently re-branded his 11-year-old company, MFP (Music for Productions), and has taken on new staff in Toronto and Montréal in an effort to re-focus on the Québec market, and push harder into the music for film and TV business.

Anfossi started his career with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Canada. When the company’s administrative services moved south to the U.S., he went to work for, and was mentored by, Mark Altman at Morning Music. It was there that Anfossi got his first taste of production music libraries, as he worked with Altman to build Morning Music’s first collections.

Anfossi knew the digital wave was unstoppable, so when he founded MFP in 2005, he built one of the first one-stop, online music licensing portals in Canada, where clients could sample, stream and buy digital tracks.

The landscape has been shifting ever since. Much bigger publishers like ole started acquiring major music libraries and ramping up their technology.

MFP was a small fish in an increasingly hostile pond, but scrappy Anfossi stayed in the game by mastering search engine optimization (SEO) and leveraging Google Adwords to his advantage. But even those tactics are seeing diminishing returns as the digital world morphs and evolves.

“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties.”

Jean Anfossi

Photo by Jacqueline Grossman

The stock music business has also seen a raft of new players enter the marketplace with new licensing methods. Royalty-free image giants like Getty and Shutterstock have expanded their service offering to include royalty-free music, an advent that Anfossi says is hurting traditional music publishers.

“Royalty-free is driving down the value of music by eliminating synch royalties,” he says. “The publishers are satisfied with a small up-front payment and back-end performance royalties from performing rights organizations like SOCAN. But composers and publishers who relied on synch earnings to help them make a living are finding it harder and harder to survive in this climate.”

For a long time, MFP’s bread was buttered by advertising and corporate video clients, but as competition has increased and rates have fallen, Anfossi was forced to pivot.

“Recently, I’ve focused on the Québec market,” he says. “I hired Pascal Brunet as the Business Manager in our Montréal office. He worked with Virgin-EMI Music for 15 years and he has lots of contacts. His experience and musical knowledge will be an asset to our company, in order to serve such a creative marketplace as the province of Québec, in terms of local and international production.”

MFP’s catalogue has grown substantially, thanks to its recent partnership with BMG/USA whose stock libraries of 50,000-plus tracks have pushed MFP’s published or sub-published offering to more than 160,000 tracks.

“We’re now in a position to offer the TV, film, advertising, corporate and multi-media industries an amazing selection of quality music,” says Anfossi.

BMG/USA’s Darrel Shirk, Director of Operations, says, “The synergy with MFP is undeniable. With their track record for distribution and our extensive music offering, we know the possibilities are endless.”

Anfossi constantly advocates with his clients for composer and publisher rights.

“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties,” he says. “Too many composers are giving their music away because they’re struggling to survive. I don’t accept composers on my site who are also in royalty-free libraries. In a few cases I’ve allowed those composers in under pseudonyms.”

Anfossi has another arrow in his quiver, a newer venture called,  specializing in indie/alternative music for film and TV; ReelSongs is the repository for BMG’s Fieldhouse Music, among other catalogues.

“I love what I do,” says Anfossi. “I’m not in a hurry to sell my business. I’m going to keep building my library with more Canadian content. I just got 15 tracks from a composer in Québec who’s doing Québec folklore. It’s a unique offering, because nobody can write or play music like that unless they’re from Québec. I think deals like that make my library more valuable, because I have exclusive material that’s hard to find in other libraries.”