After four albums, the Algerian born singer Lynda Thalie, who settled in Quebec at the age of 16, finally perfected the mix of Middle Eastern sounds and socially conscious lyrics she was striving for, and she knows why: she did her homework. “It’s the time I spent getting in touch with my cultural roots on my first three albums – Le Sablier (The Hourglass), the self-titled album and La Rose des sables (Gypsum Flower) – that provided me with the confidence I needed to write Nomadia,” the 34-year-old artist explains.

Having learned piano scales, and taken part in school competitions and showcases from an early age in her country of origin, Thalie felt right at home in the student musical productions at her new Quebec high school. “It was more or less love at first sight,” she recalls. “When I visited Cégep Ahuntsic at one point in Montreal, there was a show being presented in the central square, and I immediately felt that this was where I was going to be some day. Later on, leaving the stage of the Cégeps en Spectacle competition where I had been a contestant, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.”

Thalie then began writing and composing, winning the 2000 Ma Première Place des Arts competition in the performer category and signing a record deal with GSI Musique, a company “that was looking after such prominent singer-songwriters as Jean-Pierre Ferland, Gilles Vigneault and Daniel Boucher,” she recalls with obvious gratitude for that promising introduction to the Quebec music world.

“The label hooked me up with some creators from whom I would increasingly learn the profession. I spent a year and a half with Nicolas Maranda from 2001, for instance, laboriously crafting my first album. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to get used to the daily routine in the studio. Since then, I ended up singing with people like Marie Denise Pelletier, Luc De Larochellières and Michel Rivard! All that on-the-spot training got me involved early on with the song-creating process, and provided me with the professional tools I needed to trust myself.”

A straight talker, Thalie has criticized radio broadcasters in the past for what she called their conservative and close-minded attitude towards sounds that they deemed “too different.” With today’s runaway radio success of “Dance Your Pain Away (La tête haute),” the single from her Nomadia album, however, things seem to have turned around somehow. So, who changed? Was it the artists or music programmers?

“Actually, I think it was both,” Thalie offers candidly. “Since I moved to Quebec, I really went out of my way to explain my music to people and have them accept it. I met my audience halfway, so to speak, and they’re the ones who made it happen through their support and word-of-mouth recommendations. But radio stations did their part, too. When you see what’s happening in the world with people like Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Shakira and other world music-sounding artists… When Sting came up with ‘Desert Rose,’ featuring Cheb Mami, I was ecstatic. I realized that if we were unable to get results with our efforts within Quebec, then change would come from without. That’s exactly what’s happened, and radio stations have now yielded to the world trend.”

Back to the topic of songwriting, Thalie admits that she learned how to force inspiration after giving up fighting the blank page syndrome. “If it happens again now, I simply concentrate on filling up my mind with images and phrases and things that I pick out of thin air or on the airwaves… I sort of grab them and file them away in my mind’s drawers. When it’s time to write, I do like Ferland did – I force inspiration. I sit down and make a mental appointment with it, then the floodgates open up. I don’t know where it all comes from. All you have to do is grab it.”

Occasionally, as she did before with Yann Perreau, Nicolas Maranda, Carlos Placeres and Nomadia producer Louis Côté, Thalie prefers group creation to solo inspiration. “I could have written the whole album by myself,“ she says, “but something very special happens when two artists decide to co-operate with their creative guards down – it’s like some golden umbilical cord growing and helping two worlds produce something that could never have been generated singlehandedly. Creating something new together with someone else is both wonderful and fulfilling.”

Increasingly active in the French-speaking world, Thalie understands the importance of expanding her market reach. And while competition is tougher in Europe for world music, she still manages to get noticed thanks to her Quebec roots.

“What’s fabulous is that wherever I am, people find me different,” she says. “When I’m performing in Quebec, this is a foregone conclusion, but I experience the same reaction everywhere, as if I people thought I arrived to their country with a trunk full of maple syrup! So wherever I go, I help people travel in their own minds. How fabulous is that?”

Tell us about the creation and development of your publishing company.
Éditions Dakini was born at the same time as Productions EM, the management company and label it is part of. That was in 2001, and it was obvious from the start that our publishing arm could not flourish without some form of control in all related areas.

I started out as a producer in a small town in the South of France where I programmed no less than the jazz artist Tony Pagano on the first night. Later on, my taste for music was definitely confirmed by exposure to outstanding artists such as Véronique Sanson, William Sheller and Stephan Eicher as part of special World Music Day presentations of the Taratata music show on French television. In 1997, I moved here to Quebec – I must admit that, a little earlier, you had sent me one of your best representatives, Gilles Vigneault, who was staying at a hotel in the South of France where I was working and told me all about Quebec.

In 2002, with the release of IMA’s first album, our publishing activities started expanding thanks to Frédérick Baron’s contributions as a lyricist here (for Mario Pelchat, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Bruno Pelletier, Renée Martel, etc.), but also in Europe. In parallel, Éditions Dakini developed new songwriting collaborations such as the writing partnership between Catherine Major here and Marie-Jo Zarb in France.

Then came new singer-songwriter discoveries like that of Laurence Hélie, in 2008, which yielded a debut album, an ADISQ Award and two SOCAN Awards. In the fall of 2012, I received my first SOCAN award in the 10 most performed Francophone pop songs of 2011 category for a song co-written by Frédérick Baron and Céline Dion and performed by Marc Dupré. Éditions Dakini are now expanding internationally with new singings to be expected soon.

In your opinion, what have been the most dramatic changes in music publishing in the past five years?
Needless to say, digital broadcasting and distribution have turned our work habits upside down in the past five years. Some countries have completely done away with traditional physical supports. On the plus side, this helps us reduce some costs, increase the number of promotion platforms and, in the end, discover more new artists. On the minus side, we still have a long way to go before fair management of the varied rights for the use of musical works on all of these platforms can be achieved.

What are your short- and medium-term plans for your publishing company and the authors you represent? Are you in a new artist signing mode, for instance?
Éditions Dakini is currently busy with the promotion of Frédérick Baron’s Humeurs Variables album while preparing for the release of Laurence Hélie’s next album, à présent, le passé. We are also dealing with the administrative and editorial follow-up of dozens of works written by Frédérick for other artists whose upcoming albums are scheduled for a 2013 or 2014 release. Éditions Dakini also just signed a very promising artist, Tina-Ève Provost, whose first EP is going to come out in the fall of 2013. Plus we recently signed international agreements. As for new artists, Éditions Dakini’s is constantly kept to the ground.

How about your repertoire? How do you grow and develop it locally and internationally?
Éditions Dakini represents two groups of works – those of our own songwriters that are performed by other artists, and those that are self-performed. We value good administrative and editorial management and invest heavily in the distribution and promotion of our singer-songwriters’ works. Internationally, Éditions Dakini has just signed sub-publishing agreements with France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, etc. – as well as with South Korea for Laurence Hélie and Frédérick Baron.

As a music publisher, are you also a member of other organizations or advocacy groups?
As a music publisher actively involved in the creative and promotional process, I am happy to leave the representational aspects of the business to elected officials and the collectives and associations I am a member of. These are the defenders of my rights, and they have my full confidence.

What does the future of music publishing look like in regards to current technological changes?
Being an optimist, I dare hope that our governments will rapidly adapt to the digital reality and understand our creators’ financial plight. They should also recognize that culture is not a luxury, but a necessity. Without it, countries gradually lose their identities and become unable to stand out and shine internationally.

Fronted by the vocally gifted Sabrina Halde, Groenland – a six-member band with a brand new debut album – is taking the Montreal music scene by storm.

The Chase’s indie orchestral pop sound with electro undercurrents – for which Montreal (the city that gave Arcade Fire to the world) is known – is unmistakable from the first listen, with its lush orchestrations and exquisite compositional details. Released on the Bonsound label and solidly produced by Philippe B and Guido Del Fabro, this new specimen of the “Montreal sound” includes French lyrics à la Coeur de Pirate and English words à la Patrick Watson, a trend among a number of Quebec groups with French-sounding names.

And, of course, there is Sabrina Halde’s voice, a beautiful-sounding, perfectly-pitched and controlled Regina Spektor-like instrument, developed as a jazz singing student at Montreal’s Cégep Saint-Laurent. The artist, who went on to completed a minor in digital music at the University of Montreal, comments: “To some listeners, I have a pop-sounding voice, although we’re going in other directions musically, and this is why we’re sometimes compared to small niche indie bands.”

Over the past ten years, Halde’s partner, Jean-Vivier Lévesque (keyboards and programming) has been performing as part of Le Roi Poisson and Le Citoyen. The “Chase” of the band’s album title is a metaphor for the team’s professional quest. “At the risk of sounding a bit corny, I’d say our title is a reference to the huge challenge of making it with our music, not an easy life project by any means,” says Halde. “Managing to blossom out and searching for your own individual sound are valid quests and remarkable accomplishments in themselves.

“We were initially inspired by The Eraser, Thom Yorke’s solo album, but when we sat in front of our computers, we realized that we preferred working instinctively instead, more organically, more impulsively,” says Halde. “What young bands need, sometimes, is just to get out there and jam their songs in front of real people instead of sitting for hours on end in front of the computer looking for ways to put words on ideas.

“Naturally, we changed our minds about making electronic music – though it is now part of our sound – and we decided instead to create our own group and open it up to other musicians,” namely Jonathan Charette on drums, Simon Gosselin on electric bass, Gabrielle Girard-Charest on acoustic bass and Fanny C. Laurin on violin. “That makes three men and three women – an equal opportunity band,” Halde  laughs, adding that she really appreciates that “the company of other girls on those long road trips.”

The band’s songwriters remain halde and Lévesque, whom she calls JV. “As a rule, when we’re composing, once we get to the melody, words will slowly emerge, and this is when something starts to move lyrically,” says Halde. “I remember reading an interview with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver who was saying that before questioning the meaning of his lyrics, he allows words to place themselves naturally, playing around with them for a while. The editing work comes later. I love it when the music dictates the words.” While Halde begins work on various sections of a developing song, JV keeps an overall vision of the finished product, their respective roles complementing one another throughout the creative process.

How does halde deal with her role as the band’s frontwoman?  “I felt at home onstage from the word go,” she says. “I just knew that this was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. Of course, it takes time for things to take shape. It’s a bit stressing initially because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, so you take a big breath and jump in. Lifeless performances won’t cut it – what you need is high energy. I always knew that the pressure on the group really was pressure I was putting upon myself. We’re a gang, we hang together! That very thought energizes me.”