The story begins with a dusty demo disc lying on a retired music executive’s kitchen counter. The climax occurs when Vito Luprano listens to this neglected disc, comes out of retirement, and starts a third career as a music publisher.

Flash back to 2008. Luprano, the Montrealer who signed and produced Céline Dion in the 1980s – contributing to her vast fame and fortune – was happily retired. But for his family, this retreat to a life of domesticity wasn’t so enjoyable.

“I started treating my children and my home life like a business,” he laughs. “That was the wrong thing to do.”

Luprano’s wife took action. She grabbed the dusty demo and instructed her husband to go for a drive. Wisely, Luprano listened. Cruising alone, he popped the CD into his car stereo. The arresting voice of Kristina Maria – a young Lebanese-Canadian pop singer from Ottawa – enthralled him. He heard the artist’s potential and the music industry beckoned him back.

“Once you’re in this business there’s always something in the core of your soul that won’t let go.”

“I felt my life was satisfied, but once you’re in this business there’s always something in the core of your soul that won’t let go,” he says. Luprano consulted his family about ending his retirement. The decision was unanimous. Shortly thereafter, he invited Maria to his home. “She walked in and started singing a capella,” Luprano recalls. “It was magical.”

With a handshake the deal was sealed. Luprano would manage Maria, and with the creation of Lupo One Publishing, he would also become her publisher. Two weeks later Maria was in Sweden co-writing songs with industry veterans Luprano knew from his Dion days.

While publisher was a new title for Luprano, throughout his hugely successful 20-year run with Dion, he was steadily acquiring knowledge about the field. “I quickly realized that a writer who placed even one song on a Céline record could become a millionaire,” he explains.

“I quickly realized that a writer who placed even one song on a Céline Dion record could become a millionaire.”

Luprano’s instincts to spot the next star-in-the-making are still strong. In 2012, Maria’s song “Let’s Play” peaked at No. 19 on the Canadian Hot 100; it also won a SOCAN Award.

While he’s having fun building Maria’s career, Luprano admits it’s a challenge, especially since he’s footing the bill. “It takes a lot of finances to go all the way to the top,” he explains. “My job is to put Kristina where we can get a major record company to talk to us, and then to see what the future holds.”

As a publisher, Luprano favors a model where he doesn’t just sit idly by and wait for the royalties to come in. He prefers to invest money into promoting and marketing his artists’ songs. “I think that should be the publisher’s responsibility as much as the record label.”

Looking ahead, will Lupo One Publishing expand beyond Kristina Maria? “I’m looking into it,” Luprano concludes. “I figure I should be involved in every aspect of the writing and putting together the right team.”

Song and poetry have always been akin. Yet, strangely, poems tend to be confined to bookshelves. Could the wind be turning? In the wake of the success of Douze hommes rapaillés, an album where Gilles Bélanger celebrated the poetry of Gaston Miron, Yann Perreau has teamed up with Claude Péloquin while Thomas Hellman has decided to immerse himself in Roland Giguère’s body of work.

“There’s already music in poetry, and when I hear music, I hear words, remarks Claude Péloquin. It’s all connected. To me, it’s a single universe. Besides, it’s not because it’s written down that it does not go through your ears. Your eyes and ears are quite close together!” It is true that throughout the years, many a poem has bee treated to a musical version or literally became songs thanks to the talent of giants such as Léo Ferré, Jean-Louis Murat, Villeray, Robert Charlebois, to name but a few. But how do songwriters that can very well express themselves through their own writing end up defending the words of another? Well, apparently, through happenstance and love at first sight.

This is how, one day, Thomas Hellman was offered a book of poems by Roland Giguère by one of his friends. “What I discovered was an artistic opportunity, explains the musician. I definitely felt like there was music in those lines. There was something beckoning and I had a definite impression that my musical world could bring something to that universe.”

The same scenario happened to Yann Perreau. Following an unexpected meeting with Péloquin, the two artists from different generations talked about a possible collaboration. Pélo, as he is known, sent a massive collection of hitherto unseen texts to the young singer and it wasn’t long before Perreau was roaming the vast lexical plains of the author of “Monsieur l’Indien”.

Shedding New Light
There is one unavoidable challenge any artist wishing to put music to verses and rhymes will have to face. They will need to give it a second wind or prolong the momentum of the written version. But how does one do that? Does one grant themselves artistic licence or remain staunchly true to the original? For Yann Pour Yann Perreau, the process that lead to the creation of À Genoux dans le désir was not that disorienting since he often adapts his own poetry into a song by reworking them and adding music. “My melodies always come from the words, explains the artist. I don’t have a regular meter (number of syllables). Often times, my music contains unusual structures or added 2/4’s because I need a certain tempo to make my sentence fit in. I don’t like it when things are too regular.”

It’s interesting to know that Péloquin gave Perreau carte blanche to adapt his words as he saw fit, which does mean that Perreau added rhymes where there were none. Rather than that, it’s the images, the prosody and the alliterations that are the basis of the song’s dynamic and, as a result, carry the songs into uncharted territory. “Every now and then I’ll throw a rime in just to tame your ear, but poetry has freed itself from the tyranny of the rime over the past few decades and, just as is the case with songs, it has done it a lot of good. […] It’s good to let the meaning take precedence over the rhyme, it opens the way for more precise emotions.”

As for Thomas Hellman, he stayed very true to the words published by Roland Giguère. But it was crucial to him that the words and music bond seamlessly with one another. In his mind, it is precisely when this bond happens that songs become like a treasure map to Poet’s Island. “Poetry doesn’t need music to be good, he reminds us. When a poem is good, it stands alone. What I wanted to do is shed new light on this poetry, to clear a pathway towards it. It’s the magic of music: it can turn a more opaque poem into something more accessible.”


Underestimated Audience
Throughout his career, Claude Péloquin has dipped his pen in the inkwells of spoken and written word. He is, of course, most known for penning Robert Charlebois’ classic “Lindberg”, but he’s also released many albums and he’s working on a new recording with Michel Le François with whom he had released “Les Chants de l’éternité”. The man – who prefers “looking crazy than looking lost” – is therefore in an excellent position to gauge the impact of a song. “If we can make more people appreciate poetry through music, all the better! Songs are more in the moment. You can always close a book and come back to it later, but music is right now. It’s akin to karate!”

Yet, both Perreau and Hellman believed that by following in the footsteps of a poet, they were embarking on a relatively marginal side-project. In both cases, they were surprised by the scope of the reception they got. In Perreau’s case, it turned out to be a “regular” album in his own discography, but even better than that, it has led him, since last February, to a series of important concerts. “I played the demos to people early on and they didn’t bat a lash; they were convinced those were my songs. When I told them it was Péloquin’s words, the were blown away!”

This scenario was true for Thomas Hellman chante Roland Giguère, even though Hellman chose to go the way of a CD-book, which associates it more closely to the realm of literature. The artist – who is also a radio host on occasion – insisted on addressing Giguère’s work as a visual artist, more so since the late poet was also a publisher… What happened is that Hellman noticed that his fans followed him in this adventure and he acquired new ones from the world of literature. This, just as for Perreau, has led him on stage for several concerts here and in France.

Clearly, perfect rhymes and vivid stanzas are still relevant. Nowadays, they take the glorious shape of a counterweight to the lightness, and even frivolousness of vast swathes of pop music. “There are still people who aren’t afraid of going further, and there is an audience for that,” realizes Yann Perreau. “You have to take chances and tear down walls, acquiesces Claude Péloquin. The audience is able to accept a lot more than we think. And one must be weary of lulling them too much…”

Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire launched her third album, Wrecked Tangles and Love Knots, on October 11th, 2013. The almost entirely English album playfully oscillates between French and English, folk and jazz, poetry and ballads. Raised by her francophone mother and anglophone stepfather, the Edmontonian singer-songwriter got her inspiration from many, varied sources.

“My dad was a musician, a professional classical guitarist, and my mother, Gisele Lemire, also played guitar and wrote songs. Let’s just say I grew up surrounded by music. But above all, I wanted to become a novelist. That’s what I wanted to do since I was 10. Québec writer Manon Beaudoin lived in Edmonton and was my mentor during my teens. She would critique my texts and I learned a lot from her advice.”

Music came later. The bright-voiced singer continues: “I’ve always sung, but because I’m deaf in one ear, my 3rd grade teacher told me I was out of tune and sang badly…” Ariane took piano lessons but it’s only at about 21 that she got her first guitar and mastered the instrument. That is when she decided to get into songwriting. “I listened to a lot of Brel, Cabrel, Ferré, Thomas Fersen and I read poets like Prévert. So, at the time, my main sources of inspiration were the great francophone songwriters and poets.”

 Having learned English only at the age of 7, she is very attached to her Franco-Albertan and Franco-Saskatchewanian (through her mother’s side of the family) identities. She only had three songs in her repertoire when the organizers of the Gala albertain de la chanson invited her to participate in the contest, which she won in 1999. She soon participated in Chant’Ouest and Festival international de la chanson de Granby. Despite her budding career, Ariane decidced to take a break from music. “I wasn’t ready. I barely had four or five songs and I couldn’t accompany myself since I didn’t know how to play guitar. Ma father was supposed to help me with the arrangements, but I prefered to stop and study.”

She studied theater as well as media and digital arts, both of which are helpful to her ongoing career. “On top if my concerts, I can also give songwriting and theater workshops in schools. I’m proficient at graphic design and viedo editing. I’ve learned a ton of stuff having to do with music and it allowed me to keep the creative control.” She art directed the magnificent sleeve of her latest album, yet, as she says: “Here, out west, there are very few infrastructures, management companies, publishers. Most singer-songwiters are independant, but there is a tremendous amount of mutual help and solidarity. Whenever there is a concert, almost all the other artists are there to support…”

In 2005, following the completion of her studies, Ariane Lemire once again began giving concerts. Her first album, Double entendre, is a half-French, half-English affair that mirrors the reality of her own life straddling both cultures. “Nowadays, I never feel totally French or totally English and I get the impression I make mistakes in both languages,” she says.

Just as her career began taking off, in the wake of the launch of her second album entitled Décousue, in 2009, Ariane was involved in a bad car accident and she sustained injuries to the back and wrist. “It slowed down my career, obviously, because I was convalescing for quite a while. When you tour, you need a good back to lift the gear, and a good wrist is essential to play guitar. I get by OK now, I can be on stage for a couple of hours, but back then it was impossible.”

Wrecked Tangles and Love Knots is in essence a series of vignettes about the 32 year-old singer’s life, her love life, her environment, fears and hopes. Her luminous folk and melodic voice have cerried her all the way to France and will grace some of our country’s concert halls beginning in May. She hopes to break into other markets such as Australia and even Dubai, with the help of her many contacts.

Such is the reality of of Canada’s Francophonie: mutual help is the key. Two of her albums were financed by Rawlco Radios, a network of stations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the third by Musicaction, and she received the help of many talented producers and musicians for her arrangements. Inspired by the recent artistic boom in Edmonton, Ariane is already working on her 4th album whose working title is Déjà rapiécée (already patched up, loosely translated). “Following up Décousue (unstitched) and in the wake of my car accident, there is a good chance that Déjà rapiécée will stick as the album’s title. I’m recording two of the songs in January and most of the album is written. It will be a French album.”

Feeling well-established in her current environment, she doesn’t plan on leaving her Edmonton appartment, despite the fact that she lives part of her life out of her suitcase. “Edmonton is inspiring creatively, but the people are not braggards. We do compete with the Internet and all those screens that keep people in their homes rather than coming out to hear us play. But the younger generation here is rebelling against that lifestyle. It’s a very vibrant environment that’s grown a lot in the last few years. The music scene is totally abuzz,” she concludes enthusiastically.