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!”

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.”

Chloe Charles could have made one of the most spirit-crushing albums in recent years, for which she would be totally forgiven. But she didn’t, and With Blindfolds On is a testament to her irrepressible musical spirit.

In the space of a year, the Toronto- and Berlin-based singer lost several family members, tragedies she touches upon in the song “Through Your Eyes.”

“Through Your Eyes” was written to “work through the strange and confusing feelings of loss, and also for my family,” says Charles. “Each verse is for a specific family member, written from the perspective that when you lose someone, you not only lose them but you lose a piece of yourself, as nobody will ever see you through those same eyes. Every time I sing this song, I’m thinking of my family members. I’m taken back to them, often hear their voice, their laughter. At times it’s very trying, but for the most part, I feel closer to them when I sing it.”

In addition to dealing with those losses, the bi-racial Charles seems to also be dealing with the subtle racism she sometimes finds in the music industry, and marketing types who don’t know what to do with her. These experiences manifest themselves in several of the album’s songs.

“People misjudge me based on the colour of my skin and attempt to box me into [only] jazz, or soul, or R&B, even before ever hearing a note,” she says. “However, I just make music which doesn’t have a race, and shouldn’t. As well, I’ve been urged many times to create music with a different sound, something more cohesive, something more ‘radio,’ something easier to market.”

“I want people to feel more than just entertained after my concert. I want them to remember those feelings and roll through them alongside me.”

Charles shared an excuse she hears often – “Your music is amazing, but we don’t know how to market it” – and calls it ridiculous, “because if you’re good at marketing you should be able to find a creative way to market anything that you deem good.”

Despite these trials, Charles has achieved considerable critical acclaim. She launched the self-produced With Blindfolds On, her sophomore album, with two sold-out shows at hip Toronto club The Burdock in late May of 2016. Publicity for the launch included a national-television performance on one of the last episodes of CTV’s Canada AM, and coverage in NOW magazine. Her critically acclaimed 2013 debut album Break the Balance received major accolades from Billboard magazine, the German edition of Rolling Stone, Mojo, The London Times and Elle magazine. Charles has toured Europe extensively, and has also won a 2014 Sirius/XM Indie Award and Harbourfront Centre’s Soundclash Award.

She feels artists are more stylistically promiscuous than ever before and says “music needs creative people around it who appreciate discovery, experimentation and risk-taking rather than approaching music and artists as a commodity.” She isn’t fazed by narrow-mindedness and lives by her philosophy that music should be “creative, fearless and push boundaries.” So it’s no surprise that With Blindfolds On sees Charles brilliantly straddling pop, folk, electronica, chamber pop and R&B, appealing to those whose tastes don’t fall into one specific music genre.

Her smoky, versatile and powerfully captivating voice and deeply felt, honest songwriting continue to be the stars of her records. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album’s lead track, “Black and White,” which won the 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Pop Category. Co-written with her friend and fellow SOCAN member, singer-songwriter Steve Fernandez, “Black and White” was composed a year after her father passed away. Hearing her describe the creative process behind it is heartbreaking.

“I was still struggling with feelings of hurt, anger and abandonment,” says Charles. “We had a deep talk, and I explained the story of my relationship with my father to Steve. I ended up expressing things I hadn’t had the courage to say to my father while he was alive. Steve just began writing down pieces of what I was saying, and from those snippets we developed this song.”

Charles says she tries to write songs that “have some sort of emotional pull on me, that are based on true experience, so that I’m better able to share that sentiment with the audience,” she says. “I want people to feel more than just entertained after my concert. I want them to remember those feelings and roll through them alongside me.”