Andrew Allen was only 12 or 13 when he first realized how powerful music could be. Though he’d been playing piano since kindergarten, Allen soon found himself restless with his classical repertoire and began dabbling in pop tunes – many lifted from Disney movies. “Everyone knew them and would sing along,” he says, recalling his early performances for family and friends. “It was the greatest feeling in the world.”

It was also the moment Allen realized that music was not only allowing him to express his emotions – but that he could use it to help other people do the same thing, too.

Now 35, with four EPs and an album under his belt, Allen, signed to Sony/ATV, is still guided by the same principle: He writes honest pop songs that express genuine feelings. It’s an approach that’s seen him top the Adult Contemporary (AC) charts three times in Canada, share stages with Bruno Mars, OneRepublic and Barenaked Ladies, and build a loyal fan base, especially among women.

Born and raised in Vernon, BC, Allen first began writing songs after buying himself an electric guitar (“against my parents’ best wishes – they wanted me to get an acoustic”) and starting a band while in high school. A few years later, at 21, he married his now-wife, Julia Allen, after an eight-month courtship. “My bandmates were, like, ‘Oh man, this is your Yoko Ono,’” he says with a laugh. “But I remember thinking, ‘I don’t see why I have to stop music.’”

But he did, and after settling into a nine-to-five life, it was Julia who – noting Allen’s restlessness – pushed him to consider returning to a career in music instead. Buying himself a computer, Allen decided to record an album using GarageBand software. “I wrote the whole thing while working a full-time job,” he says. Still in his early twenties, he then turned his attention to touring, “anywhere from night clubs, to churches, to house concerts. I just went for it,” he says.

“You can’t write about life if you aren’t living it.”

It was during that period that Allen wrote a song called “Not Loving You,” one he describes as an apology letter to his wife in recognition of how little time he had to spend with her. Impressed with the song, Julia contacted producer Jeff Dawson to ask about recording an album, but Allen didn’t have a budget for him. He decided to borrow enough to record an EP, entitled Andrew Allen.

It was a gamble that paid off when the music landed on the Canadian Top 40 AC charts. Not long after, Allen connected with a representative from EMI and was flown to Nashville for his first studio co-writing session. There, Allen remembers thinking, “Is this what you do? Just sit down and write a song together?”

But he clearly had a knack. Allen, who says he writes “a lot of songs about genuine love, not about hooking up,” walked out of one four-hour session with a demo for his 2010 hit, “Loving You Tonight.” It went on to sell more than 100,000 copies, remained on the AC Top 10 chart in Canada for 22 weeks, and ultimately landed him his Sony deal, catapulting him into the U.S. radio market.

In 2012, Allen and his wife re-located to Los Angeles so that he could focus his attention on writing for other artists. And while he was able to write a few hundred songs, and valued the many opportunities he was given to work with strong producers, he realized that he didn’t love writing for other people.

“I came to the conclusion that the reason I was writing, originally, was to express an idea or a feeling that I needed to get out,” he says. “When I got it out, it resonated with other people. It was like writing Hallmark cards for other people – I could express what they couldn’t.”

Andrew AllenBy contrast, Allen says he struggled with trying to channel just what it was that other artists wanted to say with their music: “I was like, ‘I want to write my words, and if that makes sense for you, by all means, you can use them.’” Still, he kept at it, with some success. Allen’s writing can be heard on American electronic artist Kaskade’s 2013 Grammy-nominated record “Atmosphere,” English singer-songwriter Nick Howard’s sophomore release, and Italian Marco Mengoni’s double-platinum record “Ad Occhi Chiusi” (“my music is finding a home in different languages, which is beautiful”), to name just a few.

Now based in Port Moody, BC, and a new father (he and Julia welcomed their first child nine months ago), Allen is clearly most at home when he’s onstage before an audience of fans. He’s on the road again this summer with drummer Dan Oldfield (and a selfie-stick – the tour is being well-documented) playing festivals and house concerts.  He’s also looking forward to a return trip to Ethiopia this fall, his second with the Canadian charity Canadian Humanitarian (the first was run as a contest: two fans got to join him for the trip, during which Allen put on a concert with and for local kids).

As for longer-term goals, Allen doesn’t want to tie himself down to anything too specific. “The music industry changes so quickly,” he explains. “So I have goals, but I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself – because if I do, I might start to bend and force things that aren’t real.”

While Allen dreams of playing some venues (Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, for example) and loves the idea of filling concert halls on the strength of his music alone, he’s also quick to add that he doesn’t want the stress of chasing the dream to keep him from enjoying life’s moments.

“You can’t write about life if you aren’t living it,” he says. “I’m in a place where I need to be real and write what I want to write. Right now, I want to stay focused on what matters.”

Daniela AndradeDaniela Andrade. The name might still be unknown to you, but bear it in mind, especially if you’re a fan of Milk & Bone, Kroy and Charlotte Cardin. On July 15, 2016, Andrade released a visual EP entitled Shore, composed of four songs, each with its own video directed by Jeremy Comte. “The shore is where the sea meets the land,” says the 23-year-old singer-songwriter. “When you stand on this boundary, you either jump in the water or on dry land. I use this metaphor to mean being ready for a major new stage: falling in love, trying something new, heading into the unknown. It can sometimes be hard to do, even when you know you have to. You hold on to what’s familiar… and then you leave your loved ones and everything you know in order to grow as a person. It’s a big scary leap, but it’s necessary.”

Born in Montréal, Daniela grew up in Edmonton. She moved to Toronto about 18 months ago, but life dragged her back to her native town. “I came to Montréal last summer to record my album at Studios Apollo with Gabriel Gagnon (producer) and I really like the city,” she says. “I also worked with Jeremy Comte, the video director. Everything in Montréal was beckoning me, and I now live in Le Plateau!”

Many have discovered Andrade through YouTube, thanks to her acoustic covers of classics from pop and rock repertoire, like The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” or Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” the video of which has garnered more than 300 million views, sees Shakira herself sitting at the end of a couch, eating fruit and playing on her phone.

The songs unfold differently, undulating slowly. Is this a way for Andrade to reveal her musical DNA? “They’re songs I really love, or that influenced me deeply,” she says. “I chose them for their lyrics, which I felt weren’t put forward as much in their original versions. I even dared to cover Radiohead’s ‘Creep,’ a rather perilous feat, since covering such a classic would inevitably irritate some people. But I was dying to do I,t and my manager dared me to!”

Often compared to the likes of Norah Jones and Cat Power, Andrade says she’s more influenced by the great voices of jazz: Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. “When you hear them, you really feel the emotions in the songs,” she says. “Even when they’re happy songs, it feels like they’re singing from a painful place.”

Andrade herself manages to express a subtle mix of melancholy and sensuality. She’s been singing since she was a toddler. “We were always singing at my house,” she says. “I signed up for choirs when I was in school. At about 13, I started tinkering with the guitar and my father taught me a few chords. Then, I perfected my learning using YouTube! My family is from Honduras, and my dad was always listening to mariachi music at home! I learned in a very organic way, simply from my surroundings.”

In an effort to better her skills even more, Andrade participated in the second edition of SOCAN’s Kenekt Song Camp, held in May 2016 in Upper Kingsbury, Nova Scotia. “Up to now, writing a song had always been a solitary experience,” she says. “It was a great adventure to work that way, every day, surrounded by music creators. We’d meet each morning to bounce ideas off each other. We’d write several songs every day, sometimes for specific people. But sometimes, the person destined to sing a song will change, mid-way through the writing! They were produced and recorded on the same day. We recorded 25 songs in all; it’s crazy! I also learned that small ideas should not be discarded; sometimes, as a songwriter, we’re very harsh with ourselves and we discard good ideas too quickly.”

It was also the first time Andrade had visited Nova Scotia. “It’s such a magnificent place,” she says. “The ocean lies at our feet, and there are sheep grazing right next to it.”

To Andrade, music is a way to reveal her true self. “I believe that we try to tell our story through our songs, to reveal small parts of ourselves,” she says. “I think it’s important to go beyond small talk and speak the truth. When I write, I tap into my memories and the experiences that have made me who I am. My music truly is a portrait of who I am, and what I’ve been through.”

Aliocha Schneider is mainly known for his acting work in Québec TV productions and a handful of Canadian movies (Closet Monster, winner of the Best Canadian Film Award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival [TIFF]) and Québec feature films (Ville-Marie, with Monica Belluci and Pascale Bussières). He was also consecrated as the  Rising Star at the 2015 TIFF. Québec youth have adopted him as one of their favourites, following popular roles in such productions as Taktik, Yamaska, Les Parents and Le Journal d’Aurélie Laflamme.

Niels Schneider’s younger brother boasts a résumé that suggests his next step would be Hollywood, or La Croisette, but the 22-year-old has decided to tread a new path: music!

“I wrote my first song when I was 15, inspired by the chords to Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay,’” says Aliocha, who chose to use only his first name for his musical career. “I was in charge of evening entertainment at a summer camp back then, so I was able to try out my song that night around the campfire, where I slipped it in between my covers of Cat Stevens, Jack Johnson and John Lennon. The next day, a camper was humming my chorus. It might sound trivial, but I was ecstatic! It gave me the confidence to do it again.”

Thus, with his songs and a record deal with Audiogram, as well as a publishing deal with Éditorial Avenue, he hired Samy Osta – the producer from France behind the most recent albums by Feu! Chatterton and La Femme – and will release his first EP on Sept. 9, 2016.

When asked about his inspiration, the young songwriter says, “Our fleeting emotions, sensations and thoughts. What I’m interested in, what I seek, is to be able to capture those shapeless, ephemeral things and crystallize them in a song, so that I can feel them again and – if I’m successful – make others feel them, too.”

All the songs on this first EP will be in English, but Schneider doesn’t exclude the possibility of writing in French at some point. “It’s true that it’s easier for me to write in English; it comes more naturally, for some reason. The Francophone artists that I admire all have a very personal and singular way to sing that language. I haven’t found mine, yet. When I try, I sound like a wannabe Jean Leloup. I’ve tried to sing one of my own songs in French, but it doesn’t work, even with Prévert,” the singer explains, conscious of the fact that he’ll have to answer the same question over and over again in the coming months.

With feelers already well deployed in the direction of France – the EP will be launched here and there simultaneously in the fall – chances are L’Hexagone will rapidly fall for this handsome blonde. “We’re already building our team over there: label, booking, etc. It’s important for me to have a presence in both places, since I was born in France, but grew up in Québec.”

And what’s next? What will the second half of 2016 hold in store for him? “Play live as much as I can!” he says. “I’ll spend a bit of time in France this fall. Next will be the album!”