Enthusiasm ran high as the Francophone country music community from Québec and Canada gathered on Oct. 26, 2023, for the 10th annual edition of the Gala Country, held this year at Club Soda in Montréal. Hosted by country singer Guylaine Tanguay, the gala presented 14 Willie Awards to artists and projects that stood out over the past year, and offered a variety of musical performances.

Sandrine Hebert, Gala Country, 2023

Sandrine Hébert

SiriusXM offered a $1,500 cash prize to Véronique Labbé, who won the Album of the Year – Classic Country Award, and  a $1,500 cash prize to Francis Degrandpré, who won in the Album of the Year – Contemporary Country category – as well as winning the $2,000 cash prize for the Song of the Year Award. Degrandpré also won the Songwriter of the Year Willie Award, confirming him as the “winningest” artist of the Gala. Sandrine Hébert walked away with two trophies, one for the Breakthrough Artist of the Year and the Public Choice Award while the band Lendemain de veille also won two trophies, in the Duo or Band of the Year and Live Show of the Year categories.

As for the performances that punctuated the evening, gala host Guylaine Tanguay paid tribute to Willie Lamothe with “Elle va revenir, mon amour,” the very first French song to reach Nashville’s hallowed Grand Ole Opry, in 1974. Laurence St-Martin and Véronique Labbé then performed a medley from the album Honky Tonk Bar. Another tribute was paid to Renée Martel by Paul Daraîche and Cindy Bédard, who moved the audience with “Contre Vents et marées.” New country sensation Phil Lauzon performed his song “Because of Yours.” For the closing number of this 10th edition of the Gala Country, the Grande Ourse collective – Andie Therio, Brittany Kennell, Fred Dionne, Guillaume Lafond, Phil G. Smith, Vince Lemire, and Francis Degrandpré – gathered onstage to perform some of their original compositions, as well as songs from their respective repertoires.

Complete List of Winners

Songwriter of the Year
Francis Degrandpré

Song of the Year
“Bang Bang”
Performer: Francis Degrandpré
Songwriter: Vince Lemire

Album of the Year- Classic Country
Véronique LabbéHonky Tonk Bar

Album of the Year – Contemporary Country
Francis DegrandpréSoir de quai

Album of the Year – Other Languages
Phil LauzonPhil Lauzon

Duo or Group of the Year
Lendemain de veille

Female Artist of the Year
Annie Blanchard

Male Artist of the Year
Matt Lang

Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Sandrine Hébert 

Live Show of the Year
Lendemain de veille

Promoter of the Year
LASSO Montréal

Radio Show of the Year
Cormier Hot Franco, hosted by Stéphane Cormier

TV Show of the Year
Aller-retour Country, hosted by Karo Laurendeau

Public Choice Award
Sandrine Hébert

SOCAN presented the band Valley, and their publisher, Sony Music Publishing Canada, with a No. 1 Song Award for their song “Break for You,” which scaled the peak of the CBC Music Top 20 Countdown on June 29, 2023.

“Break for You” was co-written by band members (and SOCAN members) Rob Laska, Michael Brandolino, Alex Dimauro, and Karah James, along with Mathijs Kriebel (SOCAN), David Pramik (N/A), and Peter Fenn (N/A), and published by Sony Music Publishing Canada.

Receiving the No. 1 Song Award, in addition to the Valley band member co-writers, were Sony Music Publishing Canada representatives Gary Furniss, David Quilico, and Mishelle Pack. (The other SOCAN co-writer of “Break for You,” Mathijs Kriebel, will be awarded at a later date.) The trophies were presented by SOCAN Director, Creative, Cameron Kennedy; Creative Executive, East Coast, Houtan Hodania; and Account Executive Hari Sridhar.

SOCAN congratulates the members of Valley, their co-writers, and Sony Music Publishing Canada on this great achievement!

Valley, Break for You

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Valley song “Break for You”



Bands and singer-songwriters from Canada’s French-speaking and Indigenous communities have until 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2023, to submit their applications on the Francouvertes website in the hope of being one of the 21 contestants in the upcoming cohort.

The competition runs from March 11 to May 15, 2024, at Lion d’Or, Club Soda, and online. The artists will perform their original compositions in front of a live audience. The spokespersons for this 28th edition are Lou-Adriane Cassidy (a previous finalist) and Thierry Larose (a previous semi-finalist).

 Whatever their musical style, Francouvertes participants benefit from a prime showcase, presenting their songs to new audiences, the media, and various industry representatives. For the first time this year, thanks to the contribution of SiriusXM, a one-time amount of $500 in production assistance will be awarded to each participating act. Also new, changes to the rules relating to entries have recently been made to make the competition more accessible to artists who haven’t widely marketed their songs. Finally, an important new feature concerning the event’s online broadcast will be announced during the inaugural evening, and it promises greater visibility for artists, and wider availability to the public.

By participating in the Francouvertes, artists will have the chance to partake of an experience that’s rich in artistic and professional meetings. In addition, there are opportunities for cash prizes – including the $15,000 SiriusXM cash prize – studio time, promotional and professional support, paid performances in major venues, and performances at major events.

Francouvertes is a competition that takes place in three stages: the preliminaries, the semi-finals, and the finals, totalling more than 11 nights, with three artists presented per night. To find out more, access www.francouvertes.com.