Wanting’s initial rise to fame in China began after director Pang Ho Cheung heard Wanting’s song “Drenched,” which reportedly inspired the script for his 2012 film Love in the Buff. He put that one and “You Exist in My Song” on the soundtrack. “That movie definitely helped to drive awareness, mainly in Hong Kong,” says Wanting, “but then Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore get influenced by Hong Kong films, too.”

Those songs were also on her full-length debut, Everything in the World, all written by Wanting, except for a few Mandarin co-writes. The album was certified six-times platinum in China (120,000 units sold ) and received 15 best new artist awards across Asia. The Mandarin-language single “You Exist in My Song” racked up more than 100 million views online, and was No. 1 on radio in China for eight consecutive weeks, according to Nettwerk.

For the follow-up album, McBride suggested Wanting meet with Nettwerk producer Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen, Barenaked Ladies) when she was in Los Angeles performing last year. “I really wanted her to find a great musical muse who would challenge her on every level, and pull from her the best performance possible,” says McBride. “Ron was exactly that and more.”

“Even these Mandarin songs I wrote, and my style, speak from the heart in very direct, emotional lyrics.”

Wanting got straight down to business at their first meeting, playing him some of her new songs. Says Wanting of “STHU,” the only collaboration on Say The Words, “I said, ‘There’s one song I’m in the middle of writing, and I want to finish it with you,’ because he showed me some of his stuff and I thought that song would fit his style very much. So we demoed that song together in one day.”

When McBride later asked her who she wanted to produce the album, nudging her in Aniello’s direction, she was game and headed to L.A. for the next four months. Of the 13 songs, “Love Ocean” and “When It’s Lonely” are in Mandarin, while “Us Under the Sunshine” is in both languages.

“Mandarin is my first language, and I have no problem singing it,” says Wanting. “When I write the lyrics, the language and the culture of China make it hard for me to express English and the English culture. Chinese [people] tend to like lyrics that are very vague and poetic, but because I’m the singer-songwriter, even these Mandarin songs I wrote, and my style, speak from the heart in very direct, emotional lyrics.

“I think people, slowly, are becoming very fond of this style of writing because it actually hits them really fast, rather than [having to] listen to it 10 times and trying to figure out what the message is behind it.”

Nettwerk One Music
Wanting (EP, 2010), Everything in the World (2012), Say The Words (2013)
SOCAN member since 2008
Visit www.wantingqu.com

On an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, Gordon Lightfoot is in an uncharacteristically reflective mood, sipping coffee and looking back on a career that has produced every kind of song imaginable: historical epics, romantic ballads, sea shanties, country ditties, folk-style protests and bluesy “toe-tappers,” to use Lightfoot’s quaint term for his uptempo numbers. Many became hits; many more are considered iconic, as quintessentially Canadian as a Group of Seven painting or Alice Munro short story. To say that he’s been prolific is like saying the CN Tower looms over Toronto.

Sitting in the kitchen of his sprawling home in North York’s exclusive Bridle Path neighborhood, the 75-year-old legend admits that these days his focus is strictly on touring and spending time with his family (a life-threatening abdominal aneurysm in 2002 kept him out of action for two years). The songwriting well hasn’t run entirely dry – his girlfriend, Kim Hasse, recently encouraged him to complete one unfinished song, “It Doesn’t Really Matter.” There are three or four others “on the back burner,” he admits, but to pull them together at this late stage, well, he feels there just isn’t time.

“It was a great run while I was doing it,” Lightfoot says about his compositional output, which resulted in an astonishing 294 published songs. “I was under contract for 33 years to record companies,” he says by way of explanation, adding “33 years” again for emphasis. “I had a band and a family, so I had a responsibility. When it was time to make the songs, I had to do that. Sometimes the pressure causes the job to get done, to keep things moving and make the next record.”

Uncommonly humble for a star of his magnitude, Lightfoot would  rather talk about his live show and rehearsing his band for the 65 to 80 North American dates he still proudly performs each year than his songwriting gifts. He’s more at ease discussing that, and his work ethic, good timing and good luck.

“Sometimes you just have to let the imagination do the work. You draw from an old scene, or something you experienced.”

He never fails to credit Ian and Sylvia – who recorded two of his earliest songs, “Early Morning Rain” and “For Lovin’ Me,” and introduced him to their manager, Albert Grossman – with his good fortune as a composer. And he often admits that he had absolutely no idea that his masterpieces “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” would become hits.

But Lightfoot is undeniably gifted. The craft and beauty of his work, dating back to 1967’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” all the way up to 1998’s autobiographical classic “A Painter Passing Through,” has inspired artists from Elvis Presley and Barbara Streisand to Bob Dylan and Judy Collins. Canadian songwriters have often covered his work, most notably on the 2003 compilation Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot, which included Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Ron Sexsmith, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies and the Tragically Hip.

The roots of his craft can be traced to the Westlake School of Modern Music in Los Angeles, where, at 18, the Orillia, Ont. native studied orchestration and music theory. Returning to Canada with composition and sight-reading skills, Lightfoot launched his music career in Toronto – but took day jobs as a bank teller and a backup singer, dancer and drummer (under the pseudonym Charles Sullivan) to make ends meet.

Lightfoot’s first commercially recorded and released composition, “This is My Song,” appeared on 1962’s Two Tones at the Village Corner, a live duo recording made with his then singing partner Terry Whelan, a high school friend. But within months he’d released a single of another original song, “(Remember Me) I’m the One,” credited to simply Gord Lightfoot. A pre-folk, middle-of-the-road pop recording, it reached No. 3 on Toronto’s CHUM radio station chart. “We were aiming in a different direction at the time,” he recalls.

Ariane Brunet may only be 22, but she knows exactly where her future career path is going to take her. A determined, smiling and lively singer-songwriter, she answered our questions straightforwardly without taking herself too seriously. After Le pied dans ma bulle, her refined, introspective pop debut album, she released her second opus, Fusée, a collection of upbeat, catchy tunes, this past August.

“I have become more self-assured, that’s for certain,” Brunet stresses. Three years after her first album, the young musician is making giant strides in her understanding of what’s happening in her life and around her. While the lyrics of Le pied dans ma bulle were written when she was in her late teens, she is now a more mature woman casting a thoughtful look on universal themes such as love and loss, the importance of finding one’s place in life, the urgency to live, and more.

Brunet already had an album in mind, and knew how to surround herself with musicians who could help her take her ideas further. Involved in every step of the creative and recording processes, her personal touch is visible everywhere on the finished product, as she freely voiced her opinion on each and every aspect of the album’s production to her manager, and producer Toby Gendron. “I learn everything from him,” she says. “He provides me with great freedom, and I am welcome to tell him exactly what I want my music to sound like. I am also able to tell him what bothers me. I’m open with him – he’ll help me get the sound I have in mind.” 

“You need talent, but I think there’s more to it than just that. Plenty of other factors come into play.”

As demonstrated on Fusée, Brunet’s palette can be quite extensive, with styles ranging from pop to groove to ballad, with nods to the bossa nova (“Que des amants”) and jazz (“Le temps de vivre”). Asked whether she believes that her considerable talent was the cause of her precocious success, she humbly acknowledges that “Yes, I think it played a part. You need talent, but I think there’s more to it than just that. Plenty of other factors come into play. Talent is helpful, but it can never replace hard work.”

In spite of her obvious gift for lyric writing, Brunet is more prone to call herself a melodist than an author, feeling like an “imposter” in the latter role. “The fact that I am a musician does not make me an author,” she cautions. “I couldn’t write verses that are not meant to be part of a song, but I can write musical pieces without words. The first thing that comes to me is the tune: that’s what I focus on. Later on, when I get to the lyrics, I look for pleasant sonorities and rhymes. I try to pick words that suit my melodies.”

When Nadja fell under her spell and asked her to contribute pieces to her upcoming album Des réponses, Ariane accepted in spite of the fact that she had no idea how she was going to go about honouring that request. She ended up adapting a couple of lyrics she had lying around, and was delighted with what happened. “When I heard the result,” she beams, “I was thrilled. Nadja also asked me to help her solve some melody problems she was dealing with, and I couldn’t believe it – it was such an achievement for me!”

Brunet is now planning to tour Fusée throughout Quebec over the next few months, including songs from her previous album and two covers, Isabelle Pierre’s “Le temps est bon” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” on a suggestion from her show’s stage director, actor and Mes Aïeux member Stéphane Archambault. “I am gearing up for an action packed show where each song will portray a different situation with its own emotional palette. I want to be performing on percussion, guitar and piano, and I want a variety of styles,” the musician said excitedly a few weeks before the start of her tour.

In spite of her two album releases and several radio hits, Ariane Brunet, far from resting on her laurels, is actively planning her third album, which will deal with new themes such as anxiety and the difficulties of existence.  Originally from Montreal’s West Island, she is now also considering the release of an English-language album under a pseudonym.

Any other future plans? “I’m quite pleased with what I have done up to this point. I can see a progression between my first and second albums. It’s a work in progress. I feel that the third one will be even better. I enjoy climbing the ladder one step at a time, slowly but surely.”