Singer-songwriter Vincent Vallières’s single “On va s’aimer encore” (“We’ll Still Be in Love”) met with such success when it came out that one could have easily ignored the fact that the artist had been preparing for this runaway hit with four previous albums before the 2009 release of Le Monde tourne fortTrente arpents (1999), Bordel ambiant (2001), Chacun dans son espace (2003) and Le Repère tranquille (2006).

Life changed for Vallières in 2010 when he sent “On va s’aimer encore” to Quebec radio stations without really knowing how things would pan out. Public reaction was both unexpected and tremendous, with the song remaining listed on sales charts for more than 100 weeks.

Now in the studio to write his sixth album, Vallières casts a humble and realistic look on what he calls a major piece of luck in his life, and thanks heaven that it didn’t come any earlier. “That hit song came at a time in my career when I was already grounded in the music industry with a fan base and record sales,” he says. “But there is no denying that this song was a game-changer in terms of mainstream acceptance. Obviously, I would like the same thing to happen again with another song, but you have to recognize that if there is a lot of work behind every title, there also is a lot of luck in the equation.

“It’s a matter of timing between a particular song and the times we live in. Had this tune come out six months earlier, it might not have played on the popular media… I’m very happy to have had that life experience and the opportunity to sing night after night. Right now, however, let’s say that my main worry is how to retain the fans I had before ‘On va s’aimer encore’ came along.”

Once again finding himself entrenched in the songwriting and recording process smack in the middle of the summer season, Vallières remains acutely aware that he’s always been able to call on his longtime colleagues to help him “arrange” his new pieces.

“I envy those who can do everything by themselves,” Vallières admits. “Not me. I believe that what I can do best is bring in promising raw material, and then I need other people to refine and polish my arrangement ideas from the rough outlines I can provide. Basically, I’m a band guy. I’ve been working with the same musicians for many years, and I believe that they, too, think we’re a real band. They started at the bottom with me, and we’ve climbed up the ladder together. For this, I’m extremely grateful to them.”

Now that a lot more people will be looking forward to the release of his next album, does Vallières find the creative process harder? “It depends,” the songwriter replies, searching for the right words. “When I come in to work with the musicians, and I already have a great song I believe in, and the lyrics are already in place, things work out fine and arrangements tend to come more easily. Otherwise, you have to spend more time working on structure, tonality, tempo – and sometimes it just won’t work, there are things missing here and there.

“We recently racked our brains for three days on end on a song with the working title of “Loin” (“Far Away”) that finally produced satisfying results, to the point of being one of the better pieces we’ve come up with for our current project to date. At other times, once we realize we’re fighting a losing battle, we give up. It’s also because we care about originality and efficiency, even for pop tunes that we know ourselves are not going to make music history. By the time we consider a song ready, we’ve made all possible efforts to make sure it will get listened to from beginning to end.”

Since he entered the business in 2009, the music landscape has changed to the point where new technologies have seriously impacted the creation and distribution of musical works, and Valières believes that musicians must adapt and adopt new ways of doing things.

“You have to look for the new benefits and not resist change,” he says. “What makes the music industry uniquely strong at the moment is the fact that it has helped democratize art and discover new artists. This being said, it’s obvious that, in the Quebec micro- market, the song supply side exceeds the demand side. For me, this is a positive situation that calls for self-analysis and an increased desire to succeed. The fast pace of technological change systematically puts musicians off balance. But one thing never changes: a great song is a great song. I believe that great music and great artists will always end up rising to the top.”

In spite of the complexities and pressures of today’s music business, and of the birth pangs of songwriting, Vallières has retained a disarmingly simple attitude towards his creative contributions:  “Personally, I try to make songs for the enjoyment of people who are not necessarily musicians themselves,” he says. “I think of Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so climbing into their car and playing my record to enjoy some kind of release.”

Those “still in love” with great songs should definitely be looking forward for his next opus.

It’s been a busy few years for New Brunswick singer-songwriter-guitarist Andy Brown.

His passionate singing, charisma and powerful songs have earned him honourable mentions the International Songwriting Competition in the folk/singer-songwriter category in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  In 2011, his song “Ashes” was featured in the ABC TV show Rookie Blue, sending him to the top of the iTunes singer-songwriter charts for both the U.S. and Canada. Brown soon found himself lending music to shows airing on NBC, CBC, CTV and Global.

His latest full-length album, Tinman, was released in Canada and Australia in 2013, and debuted in the Top 10 of the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. Australia has been very welcoming, and this fall he’ll complete his third annual tour there, and another cross-Canada jaunt.

“I’m really excited about the fall,” says Brown. “So many exciting things happening!” He embarks on his first tour of Europe in 2014.

Unheralded, Stéphane Côté started making his way from Quebec City to the larger world of show business some 20 years ago. Yet, although he managed in that period to shine at music competitions, release album after album, work with major artists, perform extensively here and in Europe, collect more than his share of kudos and attract a solid fan base, this 41-year-old self-taught artist remains insecure to this day.

“I’m never quite sure,” he candidly admits, “particularly where I am concerned. Things are going slowly, but they are going. Someday I’ll just have to come out of my cocoon.” Quite the understatement when you consider that Lynda Lemay, another seasoned singer-songwriter, was moved to tears when she was offered an opportunity to sing “Au large de nous” (“Away from Us”) with him on Ballon d’héliHomme, his fourth and most recent album.

Côté’s lingering self-doubts may well go back to his childhood years in a household where both parents were deaf and where there were no words and no music. “My decision to become a songwriter may have been a reaction to that. I’ve always been fascinated by words. When I was 14, a friend gave me a guitar and taught me my initial chords. However, I only wrote my first songs six or seven years later. For me, writing my own songs was a formidable prospect.”

In the meantime, Côté performed covers of songs by Paul Piché, Michel Rivard, Beau Dommage and Jim et Bertrand before discovering the work of French singer-songwriter Georges Brassens, his ultimate inspiration.

“That did it,” he explains. “I learned to sing all the tunes of his compilation albums by heart. I thought his lyrics were so right – simple and complex at the same time.”

Gradually, Côté started composing original songs, but had to wait for five years before finding the nerve to perform then in public, notably at the Saint-Ambroise and Granby music competitions and festivals, where he reached the finals and the semi-finals respectively.

“I couldn’t believe it! Then I took part in other competitions, played bar gigs and ended up competing at the Petite-Vallée festival, which I won in 1999 at the age of 28. This is when I realized that the universe was sending me a message and that I was meant to keep going as a singer-songwriter.”

Rue des balivernes, his first album release on the Studio Sismique label (the first single was fittingly titled “Chemin d’escargot,” or “Snail Road”), was critically acclaimed, if only for its bright lyrics, and its release was followed by more than 150 concerts in Quebec, France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Discovered by producer Marie Bujold, who took him under her wing, Stéphane’s songwriting career was underway, and he never stopped writing or composing since. “I have a daily routine. I get up early, make my coffee, start looking for excuses, and eventually sit down to write for three to four hours. I always start with the melody and add the lyrics later on without worrying too much about length. I write about states of mind, about feelings, about the things that make me laugh or cry.”

As if by accident – it’s funny how talent attracts talent – Côté soon began partnering with recognized creators. First, there was Réjean Bouchard, who produced the shifting ambient atmospheres of Le Cirque du temps, Côté’s sophomore album. Then there was Alain Leblanc, who toured with him from 2007 to 2012, helped him “become comfortable on stage” and went on to arrange and produce Des nouvelles, his third opus. Ballon d’héliHomme, which was released last spring, was produced by Éric Goulet because Stéphane “felt a need to be more spontaneous with more introspective tunes. I now realize that people really identify with what I am going through.”

Côté’s folk and country sounds and colourful lyrics deal with topics ranging from relationships to human behaviour to the meaning of life. “I wrote ‘Du soleil et du vent’ (‘Sun and Wind’) at a time in my life when I felt a great need for space and light,” the songwriter recalls. “The lyrics of ‘Une lettre’ emerged as a tribute to the late Bruno Fecteau. ‘Ballon d’héliHomme’ is all about disillusion, but it ends on a hopeful note, with the prospect of madness as a refuge. In a way, it’s the album’s flagship piece.” One of the album’s cuts, “C’est vrai,” a piece about love and friendship, is a duo with Brigitte Saint-Aubin.

Going forward, Stéphane Côté plans to continue to explore his gifts as a lyricist. “I would like to write for other artists, as I did before with the young Valérie Lahaie and with Lina Boudreau,” he says. But not immediately. Right now, Côté is committed to successive tours of France and Quebec, but you can bet that the titles of his fifth album will soon start floating around in his creative mind.

“I want well-matured songs,” he cautions. “I don’t feel like rushing into things.” A familiar refrain!