Inspiration and talent play a big part in any successful songwriting venture. But so, too, does luck, and being in the right place at the right time. Just ask Stephan Moccio.

The man who co-wrote “Wrecking Ball,” one of the biggest songs of 2013, might never have had a hand in composing the Miley Cyrus smash if he hadn’t kept an appointment in Los Angeles.

It was September 2012 and Moccio had been spending half of his time on the West Coast for work, leaving his wife and two young children behind in Toronto. Although he was extremely busy in L.A., he accepted an invitation to perform for the Canadian Olympic athletes in Toronto. Tempted though he was to stay at home with his wife and kids, and rest after the gig, Moccio flew straight back out West for a previously booked writing session.

“I didn’t know a thing about the other two writers [Sacha Skarbek and Maureen “MoZella” McDonald], but something told me I needed to go back and do it,” recalls Moccio, still amazed at how it all happened. “We met and there was great synergy in the room. MoZella had just cancelled her wedding and was very frail, but wanted to write about her experience. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I first played these chords on the piano. It was such an emotional moment and that melody, which I’d had hanging around, became the chorus. We knew as soon as we’d recorded the demo, with MoZella singing, that it was a special song.”

There were a number of ingredients that made the song special, Moccio continues. “It had the right tempo (60 beats per minute), the right key for a pop ballad (D minor), and the right message for a dark song about toxic love or a relationship gone bad,” he says. “We weren’t trying to write a hit, just the best possible song. We took the time to write a proper verse, pre-chorus and bridge, and to make it emotional and exciting.”

“We knew as soon as we’d recorded the demo that it was a special song.”

Luck came into the picture when MoZella, who knows Cyrus personally, was able to present “Wrecking Ball” to the singer. “Miley instantly fell in love with the song and recorded it a few weeks later with Dr. Luke and Henry Russell Walter, better known as Cirkut, producing. Miley’s vocal performance is staggering, I think. And my piano, which MoZella originally sang to, ended up being the final piano on Miley’s recording.”

“Wrecking Ball,” the second single from Cyrus’ Bangerz album, came out in late August 2013. By that time, Moccio and his wife had decided to move their family to L.A. and landed there a week later – just as news broke that the song was number one globally in digital downloads.

“It was quite an arrival,” he admits. “My friends at Universal Music Publishing said they couldn’t have dreamt up a better script for me.” A controversial video, featuring a nude Cyrus straddling a swinging wrecking ball, attracted 19.3 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours of its release. That attention helped the song rocket to top the Billboard charts.

The singer’s even more controversial appearance on the MTV Video Awards, behaving in sexually provocative way with Robin Thicke, further boosted “Wrecking Ball” into the pop-music stratosphere. To date, the song has sold more than three million copies in the U.S. alone. At press time, its video had more than 511 million YouTube views. Twitter also extended the reach, as “Wrecking Ball” became the year’s most tweeted song.

Moccio’s life was caught in the song’s jetstream. “Things were suddenly moving at Mach10 speed,” he recalls. “The phone was off the hook crazy, so much so that I had to immediately change my number. I wasn’t doing anything differently. It was just that Miley’s recipe worked; she had brought our song to the world. Now a lot of other artists are looking at my catalogue and want a song by me. And everyone takes my publisher’s calls now.”

I’m Leaving You is a personal victory,” Florence K summed up after describing how the creation of her sixth album had helped her weather one of the worst storms in her life. Strong and radiant, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter, who hours earlier had hosted the latest installment of her Ici Florence show on Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, announced that she was now ready to open a new chapter in her career.

Florence K’s most recent collection of luminous songs betray the dark moments she was living through as she was creating them in the wake of a painful breakup with her daughter Alice’s father two years ago. Despite lingering doubts about her ability to regain her self-confidence, I’m Leaving You, her chosen therapy, has been her most successful achievement so far.

The new album covers an extensive emotional palette in songs like “Remember Me,” a gut-wrenching, yet pretty ballad reminiscent of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” or like “Don’t Come Around Here Anymore” or “You’re Breaking My Heart (Mi Droga).” But there not an ounce of self-pity in sight, and Florence K made sure of that. “We’re not dealing with Hole’s Live Through This here! I love that album, but I was not trying to come up with my own tale of woes,” she warns.

“The songs on this last recording are telling my story. They’re about me, and I can live with that.”

Instead, I’m Leaving You was written and recorded in what can only be described as a blissful creative state in Los Angeles with Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell’s ex-husband, who has produced recordings for the likes of Melody Gardot, Herbie Hancock and Tracy Chapman. The album’s 10 selections also include musical contributions from David Batteau and David Baerwald, and were mixed by Tchad Blake, “the guy who mixed the Black Keys’ El Camino,” Florence K enthuses. “I can’t believe my luck!”

Her whole California experience was “magical,” Florence K marvels as she reaches out to her iPhone to sample some of the demos she recorded at the time.

With the help of Larry Klein, Florence K worked on expanding her musical colours by adding more pop- or soul-sounding tones to the Latin sounds of her earlier Bossa Blue or La Historia de Lola albums, while at the same time adding new depth to her compositions. This was far from being a radical departure, the musician explains, but a carefully planned new development: “We tried every possible way of mixing Latin, jazz and pop roots. I have a good knowledge of Caribbean music, and Larry introduced me to the East L.A. style, and one of the album’s cut, “You’re Breaking My Heart,” clearly has a Mexican sound.”

For the first time, Florence K also allowed herself to draw inspiration from her own experiences for her lyrics. Her Bossa Blue album, she admits, was based on events involving people she knew rather than herself. “I was only 21 at the time. That couldn’t have been me. I was appropriating stuff,” she giggles. This time, however, the stories came from her true life, with just the right amount of poetic licence. “The songs on this last recording are telling my story,” she says. “They’re about me, and I can live with that. It’s nice to be able to step back a little and get some perspective.”

The new release’s promotional tour was underway with a Montreal concert at the end of February, and others planned for France, English-speaking Canada and, more importantly, the U.S., where dates had already been set in a few small venues or events attended by music industry professionals. The new Florence K is poised to conquer the world, but just one step at a time. “Things are moving,” she says, “my pawns are in the right positions. When I was working on this album, I was not thinking of the places I would be playing those songs. It never occurred to me. But it’s interesting to see how all this is panning out now, where it’s all going.”

A 2014 JUNO nominee in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category, Florence K is ready for the big time, and if this means playing small U.S. and European venues for some time yet, she’s willing to pay the price. With an attitude like that, who’s going to stop her now?

Who said you have to get on a plane to experience the culture, food, and sounds of South America? If you’re a Vancouver resident and have an insatiable appetite for unique experiences, the city’s “Best Latin American Restaurant,” Baru Latino Restaurante, will be right up your alley.

Together with its award-winning food menu, music is at the top of Baru Latino’s ingredient list, providing an exceptional soundtrack for each customer experience. “Music creates the ambiance to complete the overall experience that we want to deliver to our customers,” says co-owner Rene Lafleur.

Satisfying appetites since 2009, the hip South American tapas-style restaurant is situated on Vancouver’s west side and owned by longtime Vancouver residents Lafleur and David Newis.

Using only sustainable and locally-grown ingredients, it only makes sense for Baru Latino to show the same commitment to Canada’s music community, by displaying SOCAN’s Licensed to Play sticker on their front door for each customer to see. “The sticker allows our customers to recognize our partnership with SOCAN and to understand that we use music responsibly,” says Lafleur.

“For too long, we’ve seen our music consumers and our creators as two separate entities,” says Jennifer Brown, SOCAN’s Vice President of Licensing. “Both need each other, and the Licensed to Play program – especially the window sticker – is a fun way to display that mutual admiration. By displaying the Licensed to Play sticker proudly, businesses affirm that they are putting music to work ethically and legally.”

Baru has a number of awards to boast about, including the annual Georgia Straight Golden Plate Award for “Best Latin American Restaurant,” which they earned in 2013. When asked if music is an essential aspect of Baru Latino’s customer experience, Lafleur says, “Absolutely!”

Next time you’re in Vancouver and in the mood for South American cuisine, coupled with the rhythmic sounds of Brazilian samba and bossa nova, be sure to drop by Baru Latino Restaurante.

To learn more and become Licensed to Play, click here.