Tally’s and Mandee’s lives have changed radically in recent months. Signed by U.S. publisher Sony/ATV Music, these two Montréal songwriters, also known as Heartbeat, now have their eyes firmly set on worldwide pop success.
It all started in 2010 when the two women – who’d been invited to attend a writing session by Montréal producer The OC, now known under the banner of Retro Future – quickly discovered that they had uncanny chemistry. “We hit it off so suddenl,y that I invited her to my place immediately after to try and create something together. We did three songs the first night,” says Tally. “But we were really just looking at this as a hobby.”
Their first meetings provided the two artists with opportunities to get to know one another’s strong suits, and it turned out Tally was mostly interested in working on lyrics, while Mandee worked primarily on music. Mandee also acts as a singer on the demos that the duo sends to new artists, or to A&R reps hoping to discover new talents. “Our game is placing songs, not releasing projects. We’re what you might call ‘artists in hiding,’” Mandee explains.
“What we’re interested in is the root of things, the raw material of songwrting.” – Mandee, of Heartbeat
Over the next 10 years, the two experimented with a variety of styles, ranging from hip-hop to dance, through R&B, and more recently, reggaeton. They wrote songs for budding Canadian artists such as Benita, Keshia Chanté, Adam D, and Divine Lightbody, and joined forces with such renowned Montreal rappers as Rymz, Zach Zoya, and Nate Husser. The extent of their contributions varied from one artist to the next, ranging from a full song to a chorus or verse.
“Sometimes we were only there to stimulate an artist’s inspiration,” says Tally. “My good friend Nate, for instance, came to see me because he needed a new perspective on his creative process. He told me he wasn’t at all happy with the way his brain was working. So we sat down to talk, and we ended up writing ‘Tunnel Vision.’ That allowed me to talk about rougher stuff than I normally do. It was a fascinating exercise.”
This sort of behind-the-scenes exercise isn’t necessarily a cover for any shyness, or fear of the limelight. It’s simply a matter of taste and personal interest, as the musicians themselves insist. “Being an artist means that you have to do shows, look after promotion,” says Mandee. “All this cuts into your studio time. As for us, what we’re interested in is the root of things, the raw material of songwriting. We want people in the industry to recognize our strengths and call on us for that.”
That’s what happened in August of 2019 when Heartbeat was signed by Sony/ATV and Stellar Songs, a publishing company co-founded by Tor-Erik Hermansen (half of the Norwegian pop producer duo Stargate), and managed by British producer Tim Blacksmith and businessman Danny D.
It’s actually through the Danny D’s wife, originally from Québec, that their partnership took shape in the spring of 2018. At the time, Mandee was working in a tanning salon. “One day, an older gentleman came in with his wife, and sat down with me to talk as his wife was tanning,” she says. “He asked me what I was doing for a living, and I told him I made music. He said, ‘This is quite something, because my daughter is married to a big shot guy, someone really important in the music industry.’ He ended up giving me his e-mail address. I was a bit skeptical, but I shared this with Tally anyway, and we ended up sending him songs. Two days later, she answered us asking for more material. Then, after exchanging a few e-mails back and forth, we ended up meeting her, and her husband Danny D invited us to come down and see him in Los Angeles.”
So, in May of 2018, Tally and Mandee went down to L.A. at their own expense, and wrote 19 songs over two weeks. While they were there, they activated their contacts and met with Keshia Chanté, and ex-N’SYNC member JC Chasez. More than pleased with their work, Danny D promised them a contract… which failed to materialize. “That’s when we understood how the industry works,” says Mandee. “You can’t believe anything they say to you until something’s been signed.”
In October of 2018, their friend Barnev (a Céline Dion backup singer) invited them to return to L.A. to meet other important people. While they were there, their lawyer, Bob Celestin, one of the world’s top music lawyers, met with Danny D, and the subject of the promised contract came up again. “But we waited and waited, and got nothing. We felt pretty depressed up until the last day,” says Tally.
On that day, Rodney Jerkins, a.k.a. Darkchild (known for his work with Destiny’s Child, Lady Gaga, and many other pop heavyweights), invited them to his “huge mansion” and made a counter-offer to them right away. In the following months, two publishing companies, APG and Kobalt, followed suit, which put pressure on Stellar Songs and Sony/ATV officially to go ahead with an offer. Negotiations started in November of 2018 and finally succeeded in August of that year.
The name Heartbeat has resonated in the American music industry ever since. This summer, the two songwriters took part in a song camp in Miami for the Mexican singer Thalia, the wife of former Sony president Tommy Mottola. This was when they first flirted with reggaeton. “We were completely outside our comfort zone,” says Mandee, “but it was a fabulous, very enriching experience.”
“We’re keener than ever to touch on everything, and to experiment. We absolutely want to avoid finding ourselves in a box,” says Tally. “The minute one of our songs starts sounding too much like something else, we know we’re lagging behind. You always have to chase the next vibe.”