She’s created a new business and creative model, and paved the way for all those bloggers and influencers who dream of getting up onstage in the real world. Candid and uber-lucid, the musician takes stock before moving on to her second chapter.

Roxane Bruneau stands alone in her field. The blonde singer with distinctive black earlobe stretchers and eyeglass frames became the Big Brother of her own reality TV, thanks to YouTube videos, before adding music to her repertoire. Suddenly, her army of fans discovered a new aspect of her personality, but one that was as authentic and real as the rest of her. Only this time, her moods and chronicles of daily life can be listened to in your car with the windows down. Her voice can now accompany us off-screen. People live through her.

Seemingly coming out of nowhere for some, yet at the height of her celebrity in Québec for hundreds of thousands of others, the Monteregian surprised everyone last fall by winning the Song of the Year Félix Award for “Des p’tits bouts de toi,” a song that was released in 2017, along with the rest of her album, Dysphorie. The song is an incredibly catchy and sincere guitar-voice ditty that’s been streamed more than 1.5 million times on Spotify alone, and the video of which has earned more than 6 million plays on YouTube. Which goes to show how much she touches people.

Yet in the beginning, the singer-songwriter/YouTuber wasn’t convinced, herself. “I thought I’d sell a few dozen CDs to my subscribers on Facebook and YouTube, and then it would peter out,” she admits.

“In a nine-to-five job, you only have one boss. I have 100,000 bosses.”

But being recognized by the industry and the masses, in a way she didn’t even hope for, comes with its own set of apprehensions – namely, the fear of fading away as fast as she became famous. During our interview, Bruneau turns out to be brutally honest and straightforward. It’s no wonder, then, that she’s the same when she writes.

“That fear of losing my audience is going to be omni-present on my next album,” she says. “It really is a subject that hovers over the album. I’m aware that I’m somewhat of a slave for other people’s love. If people don’t like us, we cease existing in this trade. That’s it. Venues stop being sold out, you sell fewer and fewer albums… It’s crazy when you think about it. In a 9 to 5 job, you only have one boss. I have 100,000 bosses.”

Propelled by the song “J’pas stressée” (“I’m Not Stressed”), the artist was, ironically, too anxious to start writing again. “I was submerged by the pressure of writing hits, songs that get played on the radio,” she says. “That froze me completely, I couldn’t write at all. I had no idea what a good song was, before, I didn’t know what a radio hit is… I wrote for the sake of writing, and that’s what people loved. Once I realized that, I said to myself, ‘Ffuck radio hits,’ and I started writing again.”

Freed from her own expectations, the artist is about to manage, once again, all aspects of the artistic direction of her next album, due to be released in the Spring. “I don’t know how things work for others, but I think I’m the most spoiled rotten artist, because of the fact that my producers 100% trust me,” she says. “They don’t ask to hear what I’m working on, or to change this or that… They understand that the product people like is that girl, Roxane Bruneau. They don’t want to change my clothes, my face, what I have to say, my content, my container.”

Fully in charge and totally independent, Roxane Bruneau will probably never let anyone step on her toes. She directs and edits her videos, and she’s never hired a stylist. She makes all her own decisions. “I meet more and more artists who tell me about their gigs and their environment,” she says. “And I’m, like, ‘Oh! you mean you didn’t pick the shoes you’re wearing tonight? Is this a joke?’ It does go that far, y’know?”

Appearing seemingly out of nowhere on Nov. 1, 2019, the debut album by quintet Bon Enfant made quite a splash in an already-rich album release season. Featuring the core singer-songwriter duo of Daphné Brissette, of Canailles fame, and Guillaume Chiasson, of Ponctuation, the Bon Enfant album made its way to our ears with shimmering soft-rock, replete with catchy choruses. Daphné Brisette spoke to us about their unexpected critical success.

“Guillaume and I have been friends for a very long time,” says the musician, who remembers meeting on tour when she sang with Canailles. “Guillaume was ‘our friend from Québec City,’ if you will. We have the same taste in music’ and we get along super-well. We had this plan of working on a project together, we thought it would have great potential, except it’s a bit complicated to make a band work when the members live in Montréal and Québec City – I don’t know if anyone has made that work before.”

Sure, the guys of Alaclair Ensemble, for one, have made it work, but that’s beside the point, since the distance issue was resolved when Guillaume Chiasson moved to the metropolis to be a full-time member of Jesuslesfilles. “So, we said to ourselves, let’s try it and see!” says Brisette. “As a matter of fact, we decided to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps by applying for a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.”

Thus, Bon Enfant started as a two-heads, four-hands duo, voiced by Brisette and guitar-strummed by Chiasson. Three songs were initially recorded – “L’Hiver à l’année,” “Ménage du printemps.” and “Magie,” but with a different music – in Chiasson’s studio at Le Pantoum, in Québec City. “When we listened to our demos, it was obvious that we already had a musical signature. So we said, let’s go all-in!”

The duo had songs, and a drive to see where those songs would take them, but they didn’t quite have a clear sound yet. One thing for sure, “We didn’t plan on making pop music,” says Brisette. “We were thinking of doing something like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, that kind of ‘spaghetti western,’ that fits with my voice and Guillaume’s guitar style. And as the project progressed, more and more musicians started gravitating around it,” and Bon Enfant’s sonic identity was taking shape, “with a wider palette of sound colours that included synths and a decidedly pop tip… Decisions we’re glad to have made.”

“It’s really a lot of fun to write a resolutely Québécois text on a music that is akin to American pop.” Daphné Brissette, Bon Enfant

Also from the Canailles project, drummer Étienne Côté and keyboardist and backing vocalist Mélissa Fortin joined the pair. Alexandre Beauregard (aka Alex Burger) rounded out the quintet on bass. A producer in his own right, Chiasson nonetheless let Tonio Morin-Vargas man the board in the studio, and the result is an album resplendent with ‘70s pop-rock flavours. “Any reference to Fleetwood Mac is purely accidental,” Brisette insists. “They weren’t even an inspiration! A friend of mine drew our attention to it when he heard our songs. It wasn’t long before that label was slapped on us, but we’re really happy about it!”

One influence they’re quick to recognize, however, are the early ’80s Robert Charlebois productions. “We’d listen to that song ‘Elle avait mis ses talons hauts…’ [“Les Talons hauts,” 1983]. And we realized that’s what he was doing too, writing songs with American pop music to support his lyrics, which is kind of what we were doing, too. It’s really a lot of fun to write a resolutely Québécois text on a music that’s akin to American pop.”

The Brisette-Chiasson duo wrote the songs, which were then orchestrated alongside the three other members. “We start with a guitar-voice base,” says Brisette. “We want that base to be solid, to have a melody, to feel like it works, I don’t know… We focus on the melody. We work on an idea for the lyrics, and then, since I’m the one singing, I have to try and appropriate it. We threw out a lot of lyrics snippets, not because they were bad, but because I couldn’t make them mine. When we write, Guillaume and I, we have to be on the same wavelength.”

Chiasson contributes more to the music than the lyrics, but melodic ideas are shared equally. “We really work together, not separately, and then we pool our ideas. Everything is done progressively, together,” and, additionally for Brisette, in her head and on her cellphone. “I have a ton of melodies recorded in my phone,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll be on the metro and I have to record myself singing, otherwise I’ll forget that melody. Then I go to Guillaume to play it back to him, and we find the right key; it can sometimes be humiliating, but it works!” laughs the musician.

Bon Enfant is already busy writing the songs for their next project, while touring an increasing number of dates over the next year. “We’ll play all the festivals!” Brissette promises.

The touchstones of our lives often present themselves when we least expect them. These messages from the universe remind us that the journey we’re on is the right path. Songwriter Carly Paradis recently received one such sign. The object: a letter featuring a stamp of Elton John’s classic 1973 double-LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This brought back early childhood memories of discovering the gems in her parents’ record collection, and those first feelings of a raging fire in her soul to write, and to create, that never went away.

“When I was really little I would listen to my parents’ vinyl,” Paradis recalls. “As a child, that Elton John record blew my mind; ‘Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding’ was such an epic, genre-bending tune. I decided right then that one day I would make epic music like this.”

Catching up with the songwriter via Skype, just before the Christmas holidays, finds Paradis in a contemplative mood at the London, England, studio she designed in an old warehouse building.  We chat about the human condition (the central conceit of her new solo instrumental record Nothing is Something), the creative process, and her journey from Ontario indie rocker to award-winning film and TV composer, now based in London, England.

Born in Hamilton, Paradis grew up in nearby Stoney Creek. At nine, she started writing tunes. Later, she studied classical piano, but admits she always felt more like a rock ‘n’ roll player. After completing a music and multi-media degree at McMaster University, Paradis honed her skills playing in bands and learning about production. This led to a desire to get tracks synched. On a whim, in 2006, she reached out via MySpace to Clint Mansell (who scored Darren Aranofsky’s Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan), one of her favorite composers. “I told him how his music made me feel,” Paradis recalls. “I did not expect a reply.”

Mansell was moved by Paradis’ message and did reply. This correspondence led first to a longer coffee conversation in Los Angeles, and then into a lasting friendship. The songwriter joined Mansell’s band, arranged and played the piano parts for the composer’s songs, and toured with him around the world. Through his mentorship, Paradis also started to place songs in films and TV programs. Some of these successful synchs include the end credits theme from the successful Netflix original series The Innocents; writing the score for every season of the No.1 BBC drama Line of Duty; and compositions in trailers for True Detective, Homeland, and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve connected deep down with things I didn’t understand, through music.”

Nothing is Something is the songwriter’s third solo record. The orchestral, brooding collection of original compositions and collaborations features a diverse range of global musicians – from Norwegian composer EERA, to Jonas Bjerre (the lead singer of Danish rock band Mew), to U.K. spoken-word artist PolarBear. In scope and complexity, it’s as grand as those seminal songs first heard in her youth. “This album draws back to those early musical experiences,” she says.

Seven years in the making, some parts of the album were recorded at her London studio, but most was captured at Hamilton’s legendary Grant Avenue Studio, where she played her favorite piano: a vintage Yamaha, circa 1979. With song titles like “The Crushing Weight of History,” inspired by a visit to La Rocca Cefalu in Cefalù, Sicily; “Heaven Ain’t a Place”; and “One Light in the Sky,” the record explores the state of being human, and the range of sensations we all face.

“It’s been quite an emotional journey,” Paradis explains. “The concept of the title Nothing is Something is this: if you think you have nothing, see nothing, it is really something. Just look into outer space. There is so much stuff we can’t see. If you’re feeling hopelessness and loneliness, that is something… to feel that emotion is part of the human condition. We all feel these things. You can find comfort in knowing we are connected by these negative emotions, and you’re not alone. When you go through that journey, you realize it’s OK.”

For Paradis, music expresses emotions, thoughts, and feelings you can’t – or don’t want to – vocalize with words. “Ever since I was little, I’ve connected deep down with things I didn’t understand, through music, and I’ve written and created sounds that match those feelings,” she says. “This album is a diary of the last eight years of my life. It feels like a big book. A chapter is closing. It’s that moment before you open the next one.”