Welcome to the new year of 2016! And welcome to SOCAN’s Group of Six – six of the many SOCAN-member artists that we, and especially our A&R Department, believe will be among the ones to watch as they strongly emerge, or even break through, this year. In alphabetical order…

Charlotte CardinIt’s incredibly rare to find all the right ingredients in a single artist. Yet that’s the case with Charlotte Cardin, a musician who clearly has the talent, the voice, the charm and the bona fide potential for an international career. Emerging front and centre in a big way, via her very popular stint on talent show La Voix (Québec’s version of The Voice), Cardin has since taken time to carefully develop her songs, her sound and her marketing strategy in order to maximize her impact when the time came. If what’s to come is true to what she’s offered us so far – “Big Boy,” “Les Échardes” – this year will definitely be the one where she makes it big, and shares her distinctive songs with the whole world. Cardin’s pop sensibility has that rare quality of being simultaneously intimate and grandiose, and sung with stunning maturity despite her young age. Charlotte has been added to Spotify Canada’s list of artists to watch in 2016 and will release a few more singles in both English and French until the launch of her first full-length album in the Fall of 2016 on the Cult Nation imprint (Iris, Dear Frederic). But we’re already convinced…

– Toronto-bred singer-songwriter/producer Jahkoy Palmer has coined a label to describe his way of switching musical styles – from mellow R&B to fluent rap to energetic dance grooves – as the “Bipolar” sound, now also the name of his new collective. Whether it’s the bold lyric and warm sound of “Still in Love” (which has reached more than 450,000 Soundcloud plays) or the dancefloor-filling beats of “Hold Your Hand” (almost 400,000 plays), he’s clearly got a knack for creating songs that captivate listeners. Jahkoy gained a wide range of musical experience in various projects (he started rapping at the age of 11 under the name of Raheem), then moved to L.A. a few years ago, where he managed to collaborate with siblings Willow and Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s children) as part of their 1234 Creations crew. He was recently granted the opportunity to work in a Grammy Songwriting Camp put together by 1916 Management – who also manage hot Toronto-based songwriter/producers Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans – and he’s working on a possible publishing deal with the company. Jahkoy is now also supported by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Apple star DJ Zane Lowe, as he prepares his debut album for 2016.

– Bowmanville, Ontario’s Meghan Patrick has been steadily rising on the Canadian country music scene for the past few years. In 2013, she won Durham, Ontario radio station KX96’s Super Star Search, landing a recording session with Canadian Country Music Association Award-winning producer Mike Francis, and feature airplay on the station. In 2015, she opened for international star Wyclef Jean at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square as part of the Panamania arts and culture festival during the Pan Am games. In between, she’s played songwriter circles, hosted open stages, headed West to record songs, showcased at Canadian Music Week, and made regular songwriting trips to Nashville. The daughter of a DJ mom and a guitar-playing father, Patrick studied opera and jazz at McGill University in Montréal, and then became the lead singer of roots/bluegrass group The Stone Sparrows before going solo. She writes, co-writes, and sings honest, sometimes gritty country songs about life, love and relationships – like “I Don’t Drink Anymore” and “The Moments That Matter” – while deftly avoiding cliché. Now that she’s signed with The Agency Group for bookings, and inked a record deal with Warner Music Canada, she’s busy recording for her debut solo album in 2016.

PomoEven though 2015 wasn’t a walk in the park for David Pimentel (a.k.a. Pomo), the new year is revving u to be a rocket ride for the young Montrealer, now based in Vancouver. In 2016, he’ll release the sum of the creative work he’s been toiling on since the release of 2014’s EP, Distant Lover. The first part of the year will be devoted to opening for British house music sensations Disclosure on the European leg of their tour in February. His work with British singer Frances – recently picked in the BBC’s Sound of 2016 survey, as well as nominated in the Critic’s Choice category at the Brit Awards – will come out as she releases her first full-length album containing their collaboration, “I Care.” His work with California R&B singer Anderson Paak on the song “Am I Wrong,” featuring acclaimed rapper Schoolboy Q, will also be released in 2016. Also slated for release is his own debut album, which should prove interesting, coming from a young creator who says he’s disappointed in a lot of productions he hears from his peers. In Pomo’s words, they’re content with just reproducing what they hear, instead of creating something new by stepping outside of their comfort zones. His album promises to be made in the spirit if a beat-maker who’s not only interested in sounds, but also in meticulously crafted songs.

– This Mozambique-born polyglot moved to Montréal 10 years ago. After studying music at McGill University, he’s collaborated with Radio Radio, and was featured on Pierre Kwenders’ recent album. Samuel Carlos Matsinhe (a.k.a. Samito) decided that the time had come to spread his wings and fly on his own, with his distinctive hybrid of world and electronic music. Samito was chosen as one of the 2015-2016 Révélation Radio-Canada (breakout artists), and doesn’t hesitate to mix unlikely influences. His songs match typically African melodies and chants to digital rhythms – which he doesn’t use simply to spice things up, but manages to perfectly integrate while creating a truly unique sound. Samito should take the modernized world music scene by storm very soon; more precisely, on Jan. 18, 2016, when the single (and companion video) for his massive song “Tiku La Hina” will be released by OkayAfrica, an influential website whose backers include The Roots’ ?uestlove. He’ll also embark on a tour of Québec in February, and release three more singles before the launch of his album (on the Costume Records imprint) in the spring. Everything points to the fact that Samito will be fine-tuned and ready to take on the world by the time the summer sun shines on us once more.

– Tennyson is Luke and Tess Pretty, two teenage siblings from Edmonton who create delicate, intimate, electronic music that’s earned a recommendation by like-minded, JUNO Award-winning EDM artist Ryan Hemsworth – who’s released their music before via his Secret Songs online imprint. Tennyson’s unique songs – sometimes ambient, sometimes whimsical, always captivating – may seem breezy and supple, but except for the occasional happy accident, are often painstakingly crafted for months on end. The brother-and-sister duo like to include real-life sounds in their recordings, like dial tones, alarms, doors, and breathing, that usually sound like they’re coming from inside the listener’s own home. Oddly, their musical education actually came from busking, small gigs, and playing jazz covers while touring across Canada – in the summers between school years – in a band with their father (who’s also a drummer). So far, their singular, playful-but-mature sound has garnered them praise from such thoughtful media outlets as The Atlantic, The Guardian and NPR; a loyal online following (“With You” has now received more than 930,000 plays on Soundcloud, “Lay-by” more than 740,000); and a management deal with Matthew Langille, who also represents Hemsworth, BadBadNotGood and Holy Fuck. It’s only going to get bigger and better in 2016.

Safia Nolin broke onto the scene in no time flat, last fall, with a debut album that didn’t go unnoticed. Limoilou landed on many a year-end “Best of 2015” list and was even rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by the influential French music mag Les Inrockuptibles French chanteuse Lou Doillon so fell in love with the “young, fragile and deeply moving songwritrice” — as Les Inrocks called Nolin — that she invited her to open for her for 10 dates on her December 2015 tour. “It was always packed and we had a few sold-out dates,” says Nolin. “We played on big-ass stages, as well as small bars and a few showcases. It was nice all around and Lou is f__king cool.”

Safia NolinA whole ocean separates Montréal’s Le Lion d’Or and the Casino de Paris, an ocean that Nolin courageously flew over for the first time flanked by her cosmic twin, guitarist Joseph Marchand, and soundman Francis Beaulieu. “The first time I played in a big venue was at the Paloma, in Nîmes, a brand new magnificent and impressive venue; I was floored,” says Nolin. “That’s when I realized it was a major gig. But once you’ve played a couple of those, it’s OK. Whether there are 800 or 2,000 people, it doesn’t change much.”

It was also Nolin’s first time on a plane. “I was scared, the whole city knew about it, but in the end it was fine!,” she says. “The takeoff is even one of my fondest memories. I slept a whole five minutes on the plane. Joseph woke me up because the sun was coming up. I played that Beach House track, PPP, and I wept. When we took off to fly back home, I was listening to Gila Now, when I hear those songs again, I relive super-intense emotions.”

It was, obviously, her first visit to the continent. Was it a shock? “I didn’t expect it to be so different and yet so similar!,” says Nolin. “We could learn a ton of stuff from them, but they could also learn a ton of stuff from us. I don’t eat meat… I had a f__king hard time! I didn’t eat any vegetables for three weeks.” What did you eat? “Brie and f__kin’ bread!”

On Dec. 21, a few days after she returned from Europe, the following post appeared on Nolin’s Facebook page:

“Playing “Igloo,” that mother__kin’ sad song that saved my life, in front of 1,200 people on another continent, thousands of kilometres from that goddam end-of-time black hole that inhabited me, that was the biggest emotion I’ve ever felt.”

Nolin poured all of her mal de vivre into her debut album, and especially into that song, her most powerful emotional and melodic statement. “When I wrote that song, I was really deeply in my shit, my life sucked, big-time,” says Nolin. “It’s different now: my life sucks, but differently. I have problems, but they’re not the same anymore. It’s always very special when I play it. It’s bizarre and fun at the same time.”

Her songs are pure and very melancholy, her voice is pristine, and her guts on the table. It could easily become unbearable, but Nolin’s dazzling charisma and sense of humour balance everything out. She can’t even begin to imagine writing anything but “sad songs. But you never know, maybe if I smoke a big fat spliff… I’m just starting to like music that is not extra-down. That’s a huge step for me.”

Safia NolinThis contrast between the melancholy songs and the fun girl with an endearing persona, is exactly how Nolin immediately and unfailingly got everyone in her back pocket. She’s all too aware of this paradox, “but it’s not done consciously.” Live, she addresses her crowd with uncanny ease. “At first, I wondered what the hell I was going to tell the crowd — it happened to me in France, too —, but I just stayed true to who I am, I said the same stupid stuff I say here, and it f__king worked,” she says. “They laughed a lot… Now, I have no idea if it was because of my accent or because my jokes were funny. We’ll never know, I guess.”

Nolin began 2016 pedal to the metal: Her schedule is booked solid until May, either opening for Louis-Jean Cormier, or doing solo gigs. And what about France again? Any offers on the table, yet? “No idea,” she says, “but I’m pretty sure I’ll go back.”

Here’s the latest edition in our series of stories about the creative meetings between songwriter/composers. This week sees the meeting of two characters that seem worlds apart: Yves Lambert and Josh Dolgin, better known as Socalled. When two free musical spirits and their respective passions for tradition collide, the result is explosive!

 Another first in this series on songwriting duos: the interviews were conducted separately. Lambert, a bona fide forefather of Québec’s traditional-music scene, and former linchpin of higely successful Quebec group la Bottine Souriante, is true to himself on this day: ebullient, passionate, and on time for our meeting in a café in Montréal’s Mile End neighbourhood.

But where’s Socalled? Lost somewhere in the city, one can presume. Lost in his studio, busy producing songwriter Sarah Toussaint-Léveillée’s first album, we hope. Maybe he’s nursing a Chanukah hangover, because of eight days of celebration during this unusually mild month of December? “Socalled is one helluva weirdo, but I love weirdos,” says Lambert, with a smirk that says he’s not a bit surprised that his friend forgot our rendezvous.

Earlier in 2015, our missing weirdo launched his incredible People Watching album, a musical melting pot where pop, funk, rap, reggae and traditional Jewish music party together. Lambert was featured on that album in a duet with legendary reggae/dancehall singer Josey Wales on a song called “Bootycaller.”

As for Lambert, he recently released Lambert dans ses bottines, an album celebrating his forty-year musical career – arranged, recorded and produced by Socalled. “We’re kindred spirits,” says Lambert, explaining the nature of his relationship with Dolgin. “We don’t come from the same place, but he’s just as passionate as I am for tradition. He’s a true champion for it, he respects it, and that’s what we have in common.” Joined on the phone later that day, Socalled will add, “Also, we’re both accordionists!”

“I owned cassettes by La Bottine Souriante, I was a big fan. The way they mixed trad and jazz was unbelievable to me” — Socalled

Yves Lambert didn’t know of Socalled’s productions when they met for the first time about 10 years ago, during a benefit concert for Jeunes musiciens du monde. But Socalled was totally familiar with the work of La Bottine Souriante.

“I owned cassettes by La Bottine,” he says. “I was a big fan. It’s the only truly innovative music from Québec that I heard – their unique blend of trad and jazz, for example, was unbelievable to me. There are a lot of similarities between Québec and traditional Jewish music: they are both very festive, lots of wedding and other special events music, and both are often motivated by a desire to escape the daily grind,” explains Socalled. Lambert shares this perception.

Yves Lambert, Socalled
These two were meant to meet. It happened in Copenhagen, of all places, in 2009 during the WOMEX festival, a showcase for World Music. It was an instant match made in heaven, and they gladly exchanged phone numbers. Lambert, who had “energizing” stage experiences next to Socalled, immediately thought about him to produce Lambert dans ses bottines.

“We met a few times during the summer of 2015 at his mess of a place behind the Mordecai-Richler library,” Lambert recalls. “We were both in our summer buzz, overwhelmed with projects, we were hot, but we had to do it. The mission was simple: re-visit my old material. Then we’ll work on newer material.”

In the very specific case of Lambert dans ses bottines, the composition work was mainly orchestration since, with the exception a few old Lambert or Bottine creations, all songs are taken from the traditional Québécois repertoire. But that didn’t take away anything from the collaboration: one need only listen to what happened to songs like “Le petit porte-clé tout rouillé” or “La cuisinière” after Dolgin was done with them.

“One needs to intimately know that repertoire’s history before even thinking about having the right to mess with it,” Socalled insists. “Yves is an expert of that repertoire. All that time we spent together during the summer was used discussing, listening to each song to get to its very core, and what made it what it is, and what we were going to do with it. Going back to the grooves, harmonies, melodies, to the very foundation of this music, and building from that. You can’t just slap a house music beat on top of a song and pretend you’ve created something new.”

A few musical directions were outlined either by La Bottine Souriante or by Lambert and his Bébert Orchestra. “‘D’un bon matin,’ for example, already had a reggae feel to it,” explains Lambert. “With Socalled, all we did was take that idea to its logical conclusion, with a real reggae band.” Other directions were reached through consensus, after swapping many ideas.

“Here’s what our meetings were like,” says Lambert. “I got there with my computer, played Josh some songs – not for too long, never the whole thing – so he didn’t become too influenced by the original versions. And then we’d talk about it.” The first recording sessions with Lambert and his trio happened early in the fall, once the musical directions were well established.

“We got everything we needed to get out of our songs, and then Socalled and his collaborators started working with that material,” says Lambert. Such as American trombonist Fred Wesley, who wrote the brass arrangements. “Fred Wesley, on my friggin’ record, James Brown’s own arranger, can you imagine!” says Lambert.

Socalled agrees. “For Yves’ record, we needed the fusion to work flawlessly,” he says. “Create a true convergence between Québec’s traditional music and klezmer music, or Wesley’s funk, while using samples. It’s a delicate operation, each element needs to be carefully dosed. The rigodon, the turlute, podorhythmia, mandolin; I made up a mental list of what characterizes Québec’s traditional music and I tried to preserve those elements while coming up with new sounds.”

This musical collaboration between these two champions of folklore has paved the way for further projects, notably on original material, where two musical universes collide. Lambert is adamant: this is just the beginning. Stay tuned! Among the other ideas floating around is a stage musical that would retell a rich, yet forgotten chapter of the history of Montreal – written and composed by Lambert and Dolgin!