Undoubtedly, Tebey Ottoh is best known as a songwriter. He’s written for artists as diverse as Canadian pop star Shawn Desman, U.K. R&B/soul songstress Pixie Lott, and country artists including Tara Oram, Doc Walker and superstars Big and Rich.

He remains a prolific and diverse songwriter and has recently written multiple songs for Emerson Drive’s 2012 release, Roll, Smash Mouth’s comeback single, “Magic,” and provided two cuts for worldwide pop sensation One Direction’s sophomore effort, Take Me Home.

Tebey’s first love, however, is performance, a passion he’s nurtured since first taking the stage at the Burlington, Ont., church he attended as a child. Ever since, the now Nashville-based singer-songwriter has wanted to release a record of his own, a dream he finally realized in November 2012 with his debut album, The Wait.

“Writing and recording this record was a matter of learning to go with my heart, and record the songs I love.”

Aptly titled, The Wait isn’t so much a transition for Tebey as a return to his roots as a recording artist and performer in his own right. “I’ve always written different genres of music because I don’t think music should be put into a box,” he says. ‘I grew up listening to everything, and I take those influences into my songwriting sessions, but when it comes to my artist career, it’s definitely country.”
Tebey’s career as a performer began early on. At age 16 he signed with Nashville-based MCA Records and moved to Tennessee with his father to hone his craft. A publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and a singles deal with RCA Nashville followed.

While his 2002 single “We Shook Hands (Man to Man)” garnered Tebey a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination for Best New Male Country Artist, broke the Top 40 U.S. Billboard Country Singles Chart and hit No. 3 in Canada, ultimately, RCA decided to shelve his album.

Tebey returned to Canada and focused on songwriting, but didn’t give up on his dream of writing a record expressly for his own voice; a collection of songs that, although definitely country, were also informed by his love of R&B/Soul and rock.

“When I write for myself it’s harder because it’s easier to second-guess things,” he says. “Writing and recording this record was a matter of learning to go with my heart, and record the songs I love that, hopefully, other people will love too.”

Track Record
• “All About Tonight,” performed by Pixie Lott, was nominated for a 2012 Brit Award for British Single of the Year, and became Tebey’s first No. 1 U.K. single.
• “Somewhere In The Country,” Tebey’s latest single, was released Sept, 28, 2012.
• Tebey recorded his unreleased 2002 album with iconic producer Bob Rock.

West Coast woods are tinder dry by the end of the summer, and composer Rudolf Komorous, whose house is surrounded by statuesque Douglas firs and cedars, knows it wouldn’t take much to ignite them. Yet many of the pieces he has written over the course of an extremely productive life are physically present in only one place: his home. He has packed his scores and manuscripts into suitcases – ready to roll them out the door if that fire materializes – but it’s like keeping one’s savings under the mattress. They’re close at hand, but they’re not really safe. Komorous turned 80 last year, however: “And I am thinking about my legacy,” he says.

Komorous came to Canada in 1969 from his native Czechoslovakia, where he was associated with the avant-garde Smidra group and its “aesthetic of the wonderful.” His oeuvre includes orchestral, solo, chamber and vocal music and two operas; he wrote his most recent composition, Minx, for Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble in 2010.

Having taught at both the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University, a huge part of his legacy is alive in the minds and music of the many composers who studied with him. But Komorous’ music will speak directly to future generations only if they know about it. Happily, a great deal more of that extraordinary music will soon be accessible to performers across the country for the first time.
Komorous hoped to consolidate all his scores at the Canadian Music Centre, which lacked at least three dozen works. He’s submitting both newer works and older, handwritten manuscripts, which will be cleaned up and scanned or typeset before digitizing. He has met a few detours, though, ranging from locating lost scores to re-translating titles and double-checking revised scores. Of at least one piece he’s confessed, “I think that the first version may be better than the last!”

Copyright laws prohibit the Centre from holding those pieces that were published commercially, so the CMC collection will still be incomplete. As Bob Baker, CMC’s regional director for British Columbia points out, “a publishing company’s priority is to make money, not promote a composer’s legacy. Fortunately, as a library, the CMC has a different mandate.” (Partly for this reason, the CMC has revamped its publishing activities, and performers can now purchase CMC scores, which are typeset and specially bound.)

In addition to the scores, Komorous has sketches, letters and assorted papers, which he originally intended to donate to the University of Victoria Library. But since the CMC will digitize these, too – storing originals safely in its archives in Toronto – it makes sense to have everything in one place.
And so the suitcases are getting lighter, even (at press time) as the first fall rains arrive.

Late last summer, Dany Placard released Démon vert (Simone Records), an album that does not reinvent the Dany Placard sound but definitely takes us closer to the artist and his loved ones. I met with Dany early in the morning at Café Placard on Mont-Royal street. He assured me that he was fine, one of the rare musicians that are able to get out of bed before 10 a.m. for an interview… “I was up at 6:27 this morning because of my youngest one,” he explains.

This is not a trifling detail, for his loved ones – his paramour and their sons – are the muses to which we owe this fourth album. Songs are dedicated to them and even the creation process was totally dependent on the domestic realm: “I would wake up in the middle of the night with a melody and words in mind. I’d jot down the first verse and chorus and when I dried up, I’d go back to bed. I would go to the kitchen and record my voice, no guitar or anything, with my iPhone, making sure I didn’t wake anyone up. And I would pick up from there when morning came,” confides the spokesperson of the 2013 edition of Francouvertes.

Except it’s not easy to write about one’s intimate life without sounding mushy. Mara Tremblay, Julie Doiron and Michel Rivard all pulled it off. How did Dany deal with it? “I couldn’t have pulled it off 7 or 8 years ago. I’m 36 now, and life’s been good over the last 2 years, everyone tells me that I look happier and more serene than before, and they are right about that. So, since I felt ready to write about it, the process wasn’t hard at all. ‘Sarah’, ‘Robin’, ‘Lucky Luke’…: I wrote those songs with the utmost respect for the people I love. The thing is, they’re not always easy to sing. I was doing a showcase during a ROSEQ tour not long ago, and I almost started crying when I started to sing ‘Lucky Luke’… I guess I’ll get over it sooner or later!”

So, musically, it’s a return to a more organic and sensitive folk, which by no means signifies that it is stripped down. He tapped his usual accomplices and also surrounded himself with the dulcet tones of Les Sœurs Boulay, and the result is music that is firmly steeped in the wake of his masters’ work, Dylan and Neil Young, who Dany says he’s listened to a lot during those last 2 years. A few tips of the hat to his old band – Plywood ¾ – can also be heard, mostly in the use of a brass section. The harmonica is used to its full melancholy effect and the pedal steel wraps listeners in its languor. Here and there, a few rockier passages remind us of the artist’s Saguenay roots. Straightforward guitars that exorcise the album’s title’s “green demon”, a personal demon that he bumped into in a hallway in the wee hours of the morning.

One would be remiss to not mention “Parc’qui m’fallait”, a major song on this album and – let’s not mince words – in all of his repertoire. The song is about his relationship with creation and an artistic lifestyle and the ideals and frustrations that entails. It is at once a self-affirmation and a protest song: Placard bears all. “It’s the first song that came to me. I had to get it out of my system. I wrote the previous album expressly so that its song could play on the radio. It was a lengthy and complex creation process that I didn’t really enjoy. Plus, back then, radios all but completely stopped playing Francophone rock, so I kinda missed the boat on that one… As a reaction to all that, I gave myself full creative freedom for this new album. Raw Dany Placard, that’s what I like to do.”

A former cabinetmaker turned director (domlebo, Chantal Archambault, Francis Faubert, Louis-Philippe Gingras, Tire le coyote), Dany Placard sings about our relationship to money on “Parc’qui m’fallait”. “I was having this discussion with somebody rich, and they told me: ‘You live the good life, all you do is get drunk with your friends on weekends.” But when I told them what I earned in a year, he told me to give it up, that I made no sense… And I won’t quit, because it’s what I like doing the most in life. In that song, I open myself up with regards to what I do in life and the lifestyle I have. It is quite a somber song, even negative at times, but it ends well: with love. It was a first for me, exposing myself to such an extent. Even more personal songs came to me after that one, as if ‘Parc’qui m’fallait’ had opened a portal to a new dimension,” reveals the young ma who says he’s inspired by the careers of Louis-Jean Cormier, Julien Mineau and Olivier Langevin.

This honest and uncompromising voice will no doubt still be present on albums that are currently incubating. The “Printemps érable” gave rise to something that years to bloom, to be said, to be sung. We have not yet heard the last from Mister Placard. Thankfully.