In her final year of high school, Nostalgix went to her first electronic music show – and things would never be the same. “My entire life changed that night,” says the Vancouver-based DJ and EDM artist. “I felt like a found a place where I really belonged. I fell in love with the music and how much fun everyone was having.”
Nostalgix bought a mixer and began teaching herself how to DJ in her dorm room at the University of British Columbia, eventually landing a gig at a pub on campus. She started playing larger venues and festivals in Vancouver, which inspired her to start writing her own music. “I played this one really big show and I remember walking off the stage and thinking, ‘I want to have my own songs that make people dance,’” she says.
Around three years ago she released her first songs, including the infectious and instantly danceable “Alien Invasion” and the heavy-hitting festival anthem “Basics.” As she became a stronger producer technically, she also worked up the nerve to incorporate vocals into her songs.
“I can make a song and put it out easy, but if I have my own voice on it, it feels much more personal. I was definitely nervous,” she says. But those nerves don’t come through on her latest EP, Act Out, which came out in November of 2020 on Night Bass – where, on the title track, Nostalgix raps with cool-girl swagger.
Nostalgix has been celebrated widely, from signing to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint, to being tipped as one of DJ Mag‘s “12 Emerging Artists,” to coverage in Forbes magazine. She’s spent as much time as possible in 2020 in the studio, working on her vocals, writing new songs, and even teaching herself how to play piano – something she says she would have never done if not for the quarantine. “The year has had its ups and downs,” she says, “but I realized I need to take it day by day and just make music, and eventually, I’ll get back out there.”
Photo by courtesy of / courtoisie de Maxime Fortin
#ComposersWhoScore: Maxime Fortin
Story by Philippe Renaud | January 19, 2021
The year 2020 was rough for everyone, but maybe a little less so for young screen composer Maxime Fortin. So, just how many awards did you win last year, Maxime? “I think I won two, maybe three, I don’t quite remember because of all the festivals that have been postponed,” he says. Best Original Score for Eva Kabuya’s web series Amours d’occasion at the Marseille Web Fest, Best Original Score for Mara Joly’s La Maison des folles at the Melbourne WebFest, and we’ll maintain the surprise of Fortin’s third award. Clearly, his career is in full bloom.
At 28, his mastery of timbre contrasts and sonic textures is impressive. “It’s what I like to put at the forefront of my music,” says Fortin. “The way I see music for film and television, we’ve maybe forgotten a bit about very clear themes or melodic motifs, so I’ve made the bet of working on less thematic and more textured [musical] signatures.”
Born in Amos, Québec, Fortin graduated from Cégep Sainte-Foy in classical piano, then from Université de Sherbrooke – where he first enrolled in Classical Interpretation, before switching to the newly-created Screen Composing program, run by Professor André Cayer. The curriculum, he says, is “starting to establish itself as a major program,” where he sometimes hosts workshops.
The composer moved to Montréal in 2015 after graduating, in the hope of making it in the screen composing trade: “I’ve always been a big movie buff and I consider myself a film music specialist more than a musician who decided to write film music,” says Fortin..” What got me into screen composing, I think, is the fact that I love movies so much.” He also loves some of the prominent composers. like Hans Zimmer, Trent Reznor, and (in a different register) the famous Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, all of whose whose work seems to resonate particularly with filmmakers.
After his graduation,Fortin benefited from the advice of composer Samuel Laflamme, who works in television, advertising, and videogames: “I’d reached out to get some advice and learn how to launch my career, but in the end, while I was looking for an apartment, he offered to share a space” in Tone Studio, owned by composer and sound engineer James Duhamel.
“It allowed me to learn the ropes, and also to learn about the world of videogames, which I might not have been able to do on my own right out of university,” says Maxime. “Those two years were incredibly formative for me, and I really encourage young screen composers to seek mentors, people with a lot of experience and tons of projects, who’ll agree to help them.”
“With the silver screen on pause because of the pandemic, people are discovering new formats from the comfort of their living rooms.”
Fortin’s early years were rich in experiences and various projects, but the last few months have been particularly busy for the composer, whose phone has been ringing off the hook for a year. “I believe each film, each work, is an undertaking in which we try to bring together the best elements,” he says, meaning screenwriters, actors, directors, producers, etc. “When I choose my projects, I try to see if all the right elements come together, and if I can become an element that will contribute to the success of the work,” says the composer. He also explores the realm of pop as a composer, producer, and arranger “with musicians who don’t have a lot of notoriety yet. But it allows me to make my mark and understand how the [pop] scene works. Writing songs and writing film music are two completely different universes.”
His judgment has served him well, and the works with which his name is associated have attracted attention, both at home and abroad. He’s already penned the music for seven web series, including Col Bleu (2017, on tv5unis.ca), and Nomades (two seasons on ici.tou.tv), two projects that have earned him nice rewards.
“The web is the new commodity,” says the composer, now mainly associated with that format. “I’m gaining experience [through these web series opportunities]. With the silver screen on pause because of the pandemic, people are discovering new formats from the comfort of their living rooms. These are projects that are very similar to a feature film, in terms of total length, but also to a TV series, in terms of broadcasting and segmentation. It’s a nice hybrid that works well during a pandemic – you can binge-watch a whole web series in an hour-and-a-half to two hours.”
“Being an associated with this type of format can’t hurt,” believes Fortin, currently working on several new projects: new compositions for a TV adaptation of La Maison des folles are in the works, and he’s hoping for good news from a new Québec feature film project for Netflix. “I have a few other projects for the web and TRV, but the pandemic means we have to be patient,” he says. “I stay in touch with my collaborators and the production companies, I do some advance work; I hope everything won’t be greenlighted at the same time… but that would be a nice problem to have, if it happens!”
Photo by courtesy/courtoisie. Left to right/De gauche à droite : Domanique Grant, Dave Sampson, Desirée Dawson
The SOCAN Foundation TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship
Story by Mary Dickie | January 13, 2021
Like all artists, songwriters have to be skilled businesspeople if they want to make a living from their work. Yet artists are rarely offered opportunities to learn about mundane but crucial things like budgets, marketing strategies, and taxes, on the assumption that they’re somehow above all that.
Wrong, says Toronto singer-songwriter Domanique Grant: “We’re told for so long that we’re artists. And one of the biggest problems with developing artists is that we’re made to think entrepreneurship isn’t part of our career, when it’s actually one of the most important parts.”
Luckily, Grant has been able to participate in a SOCAN Foundation program that aims to change that. Established in 2018, the TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship, a partnership with the Foundation, supports emerging music creators with funding, mentorship, showcase possibilities, and a webinar series that offers tools and resources to help them build sustainable careers in music. Grant says the support helped her work on songwriting and production for her upcoming album, as well as boosting her visibility, and providing invaluable connections and resources.
“It gives you practical help, including money, so you can actually do something to advance your career,” says Grant, who also hosts a web series featuring music professionals. “I was able to expand my music catalogue and work with other writers. Things like that can pay off. And it connects you with a mentor in the industry – in my case, Ralph Singh at Universal Music Canada – so you can continue to grow. Getting help to break down administrative rights, and understand how music publishing works, was key for me.
“The program emphasizes the fact that being a songwriter means you’re an entrepreneur,” she adds. “And you need to own that, and know that you’re capable of understanding the industry and doing things for yourself, rather than looking for someone to do it for you. I think that’s what was most valuable about the Incubator.”
Halifax singer-songwriter Dave Sampson had already been signed to a publishing deal when he entered the Incubator program, and he continues to work on his new album with producers in Nashville via Zoom. Sampson used the Incubator support to build his website and social media marketing, and develop his songwriting and networking skills with his mentor, Sony Music Canada’s Joe Ferrari.
“It was great to pick his brain over the year and ask him questions,” says Sampson. “We’d get on the phone and I’d play him songs, and it was cool to connect and get his feedback. This whole industry is based on networking and connections.”
Sampson found the webinars on business skills equally valuable. “Every week I’d tune in for an hour, and they’d have a social media manager, or someone at Canada’s Walk of Fame, or an accountant showing us how to do our taxes, and all the administrative stuff that tends to fall by the wayside,” he says. “It was like online university, and what you take from it and how you use it are up to you. It’s like a master class in virtually everything.”
Desirée Dawson is a Vancouver singer-songwriter who’s been extremely busy writing and releasing music since she won the CBC Searchlight Competition in 2016. In fact, Dawson had so many projects on the go that she used her Incubator mentorship with music publisher Warner Chappell’s Vivian Barclay help her narrow her scope and focus on what was most important.
“We had good conversations about things like what direction I’m going with my career,” she says. “And she had a lot of insights into things like song placements, and writing for other artists.”
Dawson used the Incubator funding for recording and production, and she was selected to travel to Toronto to record and play a showcase for music industry pros. But she also raves about the webinar series. “Hearing so many different perspectives from so many people throughout the industry was really helpful,” she says. “It kind of lit this fire under me to keep going, and remind me that if I need help, I can reach out and find it.
“It was also a reminder that I’m not alone, even though I’m an indie artist who’s basically doing it all on my own. It was nice to remember that there are others in this position, and that there are resources I can use to help me build my business.”
The program was pioneered by Charlie Wall-Andrews, Executive Director of SOCAN Foundation, in consultation with artists and industry leaders, to design a program that empowers music creators to become artist entrepreneurs and ensure their passion and talent become successful and sustainable careers. The TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship program will accept applications early in 2021 for the next cohort. More information can be found on www.musicincubator.ca