You’re no longer emerging artists, yet you are still not quite “institutions” in Québec’s music scene. Where do you see yourself in Québec’s musical landscape?

Daniel: If the old model of our industry still existed, I think we’d be in a place comparable to where Paul Piché, Richard Séguin and Michel Rivard were in the late ‘80s, when they all launched major albums. Right now, it’s all up in the air. The good news is everything needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. I’ll say it again, it’s a job with boundless possibilities, and the future looks bright, but we really need to find a way to compensate artists for the loss of revenues.

How critical are you of your early work?

Daniel: That’s one of the upsides of our trade: we’re supposed to get better with time.

“Most themes are universal: love, lack of love, loneliness. In the end, it’s our unique personality that becomes our signature.” – Stefie Shock

Stefie: And yet, Paul McCartney hasn’t written a hit in 40 years! I’m proud of my work starting with my second album. I’m not encumbered by over-production, so I can play those songs as-is on stage, probably thanks to the fact that I did not use ugly synth sounds when I recorded them. When my first album came out (Presque rien, 2000), analog synths were already starting to make a comeback and the awful synth sounds of the ‘80s were on their way out… I feel my records have aged well, as have Daniel’s and Dumas’.

Dumas: Our trade is like a marathon, not a sprint, except it’s possible that one needs to take a break at the 25th kilometer to regroup and start anew.

What has changed the most over the past 20 years with regards to how you work?

Dumas: I’ve grown very fond of opening up more and collaborating with others creatively. When I started out, I was very self-centered, which I think is normal because you want to be assertive and carve out a place for yourself with your ideas. Nowadays, I seek collaborations and I even have a co-writer on my latest album. That allowed me to open up and that’s when this job becomes interesting and surprising all over again.

Daniel: During my first tour, I schlepped a briefcase around that was full of pieces of paper. My band members and crew were starting to get laptops, but not me: I liked writing on paper. I finally got a laptop too and said goodbye to napkins!

Dumas: Did you ever leave yourself a voicemail with a song idea?

Daniel: I don’t think I even had a cell phone back then!

Stefie: I still write with a pen and paper. I can’t seem to get my stuff together with a keyboard. I still carry a pile of papers with rhymes and ideas that could come in handy. The big difference for me is being able to cut record-quality tracks right at home. Technology is a big money-saver in that regard.

Have your themes, preoccupations and sources of inspiration changed over time?

Daniel: That’s very interesting: for my new album, the music came really easily, but I struggled with the words.

Dumas: A lot of that has changed for me, too. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older, but I write a lot less than I used to. Writing with someone else did me a lot of good. It allowed me to have a different perspective on themes I’ve touched upon before, it was very refreshing.

Stefie: To me, things have changed simply because of what life has thrown my way. I try to stay in phase with the Now, to remain true to those emotions, I don’t go out of my way to write about stuff I’ve never written about before.

Daniel: Growing old is a form of renewal, too…

Stefie: I believe there are no bad song topics, it’s all in how you write about it. I write what I feel, and I think it’s the same for Dumas and Daniel. Most themes are universal: love, lack of love, loneliness. In the end, it’s our unique personality that becomes our signature.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is home to many noteworthy SOCAN members, including award-winning fiddler Natalie MacMaster, country-folk music group The Rankin Family, Celtic/pop band The Barra McNeils, and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Gordie Sampson. Nova Scotia is also home to SOCAN-licensed Ceilidh’s Pub – a neighborhood bar and eatery in Dartmouth, well-known for its Cape-Breton-style live entertainment and Gaelic folk music.

The East Coast business opened its doors in 2013, and has grown a loyal crew of musicians and songwriters that visit regularly to perform on both weekdays and weekends to a crowded house of Maritimers.

“I wanted to bring that traditional Maritime kitchen party atmosphere into the pub,” says owner Roseanne MacKinnon. “Music is a huge part of Ceilidh’s Pub. After all, the name ‘Ceilidh’ represents a gathering of friends and family enjoying music, dance, stories and fun.”

A variety of traditional music written and composed by Cape Bretoners can often be heard playing in the background. The pub also hosts weekly open mic nights with traditional live fiddle music on Fridays.

“Our pub is becoming the place to go within the community for great live music, and of course food,” says MacKinnon. “Being licensed by SOCAN allows us to be the place in the community where musicians and songwriters can showcase their talent and share their music.”

Another way Ceilidh’s is helping to nurture the East Coast musical community is by way of their monthly songwriting circles, where local and regional songwriters – most of whom are budding SOCAN members – gather to showcase their music and collaborate with one another.

MacKinnon adds: “Having great food and music creates longtime customers.”

Kiesza didn’t grow up inspired by Joni or Janis or Aretha, or any other big-name songwriter or artist. The 26-year-old Calgary native, whose video for her hit dance song “Hideaway” is fast approaching 200 million views on YouTube, didn’t give a music career a second thought until she was sailing tall ships in the Royal Canadian Navy and met a bosun.

“The bosun played guitar and he used to be able to sing people to sleep in the middle of a storm, practically,” says Kiesza, whose birth name is Kiesa Ellestad. “I was in awe of the power that music had over people, so I just wanted to be able to do the same thing. That’s what inspired me to start writing.”

“The year after I started songwriting, I wrote a song every single day of the summer.”

She was 17 by then. Of course her first songs weren’t sea shanties, but they were in a folk vein, she says, a far cry from the retro, soulful dance music found on her 2014 major label debut, Sound of a Woman, which lyrically “channeled a real love story,” she says. The album came together with her main collaborator, producer/co-writer Rami Samir Afuni,

“We were both babies in the ‘90s, and our moms both liked ‘90s music, played it a lot, and that’s what ‘Hideaway’ sounded like,” says Kiesza. “So we thought it would be fun to make a throwback-themed album, that had that deep-house element in some of the music, but also explored the R&B of the early ‘90s, and some of the hip-hop sounds. We put it together in a more modern way to create this album.”

Although Kiesza didn’t set out to be a recording artist, as a child she would “compulsively hum and sing.” She was shy, but performed for the first time in front of a crowd with the Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede. She did some musical theatre, but her heart and soul was in ballet. She danced until she was 15, when hip and knee injuries squashed that dream. “I needed a new passion to focus on, so I got my licence and started sailing tall ships,” she says.

Inspired by the bosun, she picked up a classical guitar and wrote her first song, “When the Rain Falls.” “I only knew a few chords. The song was very slow and soft,” she says, singing a couple of lines. “I just had a natural sense of melody and my instinct for songwriting came instantaneously.

“The year after I started songwriting, I wrote a song every single day of the summer,” Kiesza remembers. While at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC, to study music, she received a grant from a new Calgary radio station, and made her first, self-titled album during her second semester.

“I didn’t have any idea of who I was, what I was doing, or where it was going,” she says. “So if you listen to that album, it’s all over the place. You get orchestra songs, a big-band jazz song, funky song, a country song that goes into gospel, soft rock mixed in with soul. It was more a compilation of my early songwriting, whereas Sound of a Woman really feels like my first album.”

She got a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music.  “[But] I quit all the songwriting classes because they actually weren’t helping me. It felt like they were pigeonholing me,” she says. After trying different majors, she decided she wanted to be a commercial songwriter for mainstream artists. She talked to a professor who linked her up with Berklee grad Afuni in New York.

“[Rami] introduced me to all my connections and got me into writing camps. He opened my eyes to the world of being a professional songwriter,” says Kiesza, who to date, has written for, or with, Icona Pop, Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, Skrillex and Diplo. “I really loved it, really had a passion for it, and I thought that was it, ‘I’ll be a professional songwriter and I’ll do my fun side projects that can be whatever I want them to be.’

“As I started getting known as a songwriter in the industry, I wrote ‘Hideaway.’ That was the first time I wrote a song that was mine, and I had a vision for myself as an artist. So I kind of bet on myself, took a chance on it, and created the whole album around that vibe with Rami.”

Now her music doesn’t lull people to sleep like the bosun, but instead inspires us to dance like the ‘90s.

Turning The Page
“It was definitely writing ‘Hideaway.’ That changed everything. There were a lot of ‘wow’ moments – like playing at Wembley Stadium this summer for the first time, two months after I released my song.”

Publisher: Elephant Eye Music Publishing Ltd., EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
Discography: Kiesza (2008), Sound of a Woman (2014)
SOCAN member since 2010