Queer songwriter Mélodie Spear’s first EP, Fabulations sheds light on her past through five songs, written between the ages of 15 and 21. The 23-year-old guitarist from Beauport, a suburb of Québec City, got them out of her system as a catharsis. Spear, sometimes angelic and often devilish, enjoys revealing her many sides.

Melodie Spear“Because that’s is a turning point in anyone’s life, where everything is changing, I couldn’t write those songs today,” she says. “The woman I’ve become is getting re-acquainted with the girl I used to be. Fabulations is a meeting with myself.”

Thanks to her new collaborator, producer Ben Shampouing (aka Benoit Villeneuve), who we’ve recently seen alongside Tire le Coyote, Spear was able to fully express herself as a musician.

“Over two years a go, I arrived at the Ampli de Québec [studios, professional training, etc.] and I was this weirdo with plaid pants and a big jean jacket,” says Spears. “I said to the guy in charge, Guillaume Sirois, with a cocky attitude, ‘I wanna play rock, where are the rock people in Québec City?’ He’s the one who introduced us…

“I was still in Cégep when we began pre-production on those songs, about two years ago. I would go to Shampouing’s basement studio with my little guitar, and I’d never played with a band before. He had a Felix on his desk,” she says in awe, “right next to an alligator skull, and my first reaction was, ‘He really knows what he’s doing!’” she laughs.

Thanks to her four accompanying musicians – Olivier Beaulieu, also her manager, on drums; Elizabeth Lavallée on bass; Jean-Michel Letendre on synths; and Vincent Gagnon on keyboards; all of them musicians who actively play with Lou-Adrianne Cassidy, Beat Sexu, Hubert Lenoir, etc. – we can enjoy plenty of controlled skids. Everyone was involved in the songwriting.

Spear then proceeded to create a “band of girls” from Québec City, dubbed Les amazones, for her stage show. “I want to give women with a lot of potential chances to play in public, so that they, too, can play at the same level as the guys,” says Spears.

Les amazones made a good first impression during the preliminary round of the 2020 Francouvertes competition, thanks to “Sorcière,” a song that’s not on Fabulations, a fist-pumping hymn with staccato riffs and very high dance-making potential. This Amazonian effort is instantly etched on the brain. Very convincing.

Fabulations opens with “Dans les limbes,” with the band playing as one, lit production, and an instant climate of unpredictability. Spear sings a stripped-back version of it in her intimate show Dans l’shed à Léon. The difference between the two is striking. “A song is a feeling you re-visit,” she says, “and you always do so for different reasons.”

Says Spear about “Ana,” the second song on the EP, “It was born of feeling like I wanted to bury my head in the sand, to dampen the noise of everything going on around us, to become numb. I was a very rebellious teenager. ‘Ana’ isn’t easy to handle, but we all fall for her charm.”

“Les enfants de la tempête” is a glimpse into the divorce of Spear’s parents, both of whom are also musicians. “Divorce is a phenomenon that’s marked my generation,” she says. Yet the song goes down smoothly, thanks to Shampouing’s production; there’s something for the mind and something for the heart.

“On ‘Plus qu’une fable,” I wanted to revisit La Fontaine’s ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ and interpret it in the current context,” says Spear. “I like that’s there’s a morality at the end, a bit like my songs. Plus, the tortoise and the hare… I’m both at the same time: really slow and really fast!”

As for “Cœur malade,” the fifth song on Fabulations, “My Justin Bieber during that period was Baudelaire,” she says. “Now there’s a universe I can identify with: Taking what’s ugly in humans and making something beautiful with it.” Toxic love and hurt: “ton cœur malade autour d’une grenade,” (“Your sick heart wrapped around a hand grenade”), she sings repeatedly in the video (released in 2019).

Spear’s voice is judiciously served on the EP, by sonically multi-layered music. It’s neither dark nor stormy, and endlessly in pursuit of her obsessions with the human condition propelled by a bona fide pop temperament.

“The lyrics, my states of mind, a hint of neurosis, there’s something bubbling inside me,” she says. “It’s the result of a hyper-sensitivity that generates an overflow of emotions. That’s why I write songs.”

That’s the definitive affirmation of a strong character taking her place in the music landscape.


Trop à perdre, mais j’suis prêt à tout miser” (“I’ve got too much to lose, but I’m ready to go all-in”) proclaims Imposs at the very beginning of his third album, Élévaziiion (société distincte). Two decades after saying essentially the exact opposite as a member of Muzion (on the track Rien à perdre [nothing to lose]), the Québécois rap pioneer shares his revealing evolution in that single opening sentence.

Imposs “The difference between me then and me now is that I’m a more accomplished and balanced person. I have a family, I make a good living, I’m happy… In short, I have a lot more to lose than back then, but I’m still going all-in,” says the charismatic rapper. “I’m convinced of my potential and, above all, I don’t seek validation or approval from others. I have something to bring to the table.”

Eight years have gone by since this album’s predecessor, Peacetolet, was released to a lukewarm reception. But back then, Québec’s rap scene was barely poking its head out of the water after a dark period without anything remarkable. “Hip-hop was dead,” he says adamantly. “We were transitioning to streaming, and no one knew where that was going. I lacked the motivation [to carry on].”

Imposs decided to head back to New York City to work with his friend and colleague Wyclef Jean. He contributed to advertisements, as a rapper, lyricist and producer. “I was on a roll over there,” says the artist, who collaborated with The Fugees on the song “24 heures à vivre…” “In parallel to that, I had writing and directing contracts in Québec, notably for Vrak [a youth-oriented cable channel] and Ubisoft. For about three or four years, I simply didn’t see time go by. I got sucked into the machine, and I just accepted every contract that came my way. The problem was that I was working for others, not for myself. I was under the radar.”

Then came the birth of his daughter Nayla, which totally upended his career plans. “I had to make a choice,” says Imposs. “I carry on with this insane pace, or I try to be as present as possible for her. I tried juggling both for a while, but it was simply impossible. It was going to make me ill,” he admits.

“I didn’t have a plan to come back to music, but I could feel inspiration coming back to me, slowly. The fact that I had to slow down allowed me to do a little introspection. That’s when I realized that although sometimes you think you’re winning, in fact you’re losing. You’re so engaged in getting more that you lose your energy. Business is good, but you have no time for the people around you. Before she was born, I was fully invested and I lived to work. I didn’t sleep, I had anxiety… From that point on, I chose a more centred and effective path to channel my energy.”

It’s around 2016 that music found its way back to him and his ruminations. Québec’s rap scene was going through a renaissance, becoming more mainstream in the media and the industry. That’s when Imposs realized just how much water had flowed under the bridge since the “dark ages” during the turn of the millenium. “I was so surprised to see so much talent,” he says. “There weren’t just one or two good artists like in 2007, but dozens and dozens.”

But once again, the rapper was faced with a dilemma: “Either I do what everyone else is doing, but better… or I do something no one has done yet,” he says. Considering his rich musical and human baggage, Imposs didn’t have to dig very deep to bring something new to the table. All he had to do was write about his prolific career over the last 25 years, during which he represented and defended the scene he holds so dear. Like a bridge between two eras.

But the project ended up taking four years to come to fruition. “I wrote and recorded more than 100 tracks,” says Imposs. “It became the biggest jigsaw puzzle of my life.”

By his side since 2017, the Joy Ride Records team helped him sort through all these songs, just as they did with many of his longtime friends and peers such as Blaz, Dramatik, and his sister Jenny Salgado. “Everyone had their own opinion. I had to take some and leave some. Then I withdrew and meditated on all of that,” says the rapper. “I chose to get back to my roots and show my evolution, my elevation. There’s a lot of people, where I’m from, who don’t see any possibility for growth, or emancipation. I wanted to show them that it is possible to do it without losing one’s integrity.”

In order to perfectly synchronize form and content, Imposs collaborated with about two dozen talented producers, including Major, Banx & Ranx, Ruffsound, Odious Love, Farfadet, and Alain Legagneur – all of whom built a rich and vibrant backbone, with roots in New York’s boom-bap (“Daisy”) as much as in the most recent iterations of trap (“Gaillance”).

The result is an album that feels like the 40-year-old rapper is taking stock. “I’d say it’s more like a retrospection,” he says, dropping a portmanteau of his own that combines “retrospective” and “introspection.” It’s true that Élévaziiion (société distincte) isn’t simply a résumé of his accomplishments; it’s also bears sincere testimony of his emotion. “I didn’t want this to be only about my ego,” says Imposs. “I wanted to show my vulnerable side. I wanted to admit that I could’ve done better, sometimes. I wanted to admit I was wrong, sometimes.”

And through a few more “protest” tracks such as “Jaco” and “J’ai essayé,”, Imposs expressed his desire to be part of the social dialogue. The “distinct society” in the album title refers as much to Québec as the sole bastion of the Francophonie in North America, as it does to his Montréal neighbourhood of Saint-Michel as the incarnation of the marginalized position of the ghetto.

“I come from a completely distinct environment that people barely know,” he says. “As a marginalized person, it’s my right, even my duty, to speak up. But I do it my way, in a unifying manner. I’m speaking to the whole world, not just to the people of my neighbourhood.”


More than eight months have passed since self-isolation was first imposed by public health regulations, in necessary response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It’s been a hard time for music-makers, but a handful have applied their creativity to the challenge of presenting actual, safe, in-person shows during the pandemic, especially in the summer gap between the first and second waves.

Toronto R&B duo DVSN were among the most successful, bringing people together for seven concerts during the pandemic, at the newly-constructed CityView Drive-In, on the shore of Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto.  Daniel Daley and Anthony Paul “Nineteen85” Jefferies filled the parking lot five times in August and twice in October to give about 1,500 patron-filled vehicles live relief  from isolation. Online tickets for these performances were scooped up before one could exhale, as people chomped at the bit to hear selections from DVSN’s latest album, A Muse In Her Feelings.

“We’ve always been heavily recognized for what we do live,” Daley told The Toronto Star in an interview. “Live performance for me, as the singer, is a big part of the take-away and the take-home. We wanted to find a way to contribute to society. So, how can we give back? At the end of the day, our gift is music. So, if that’s the way we can make people feel good, even for a second, then let’s find a way.”

The shows were conducted with the requisite social distancing: vehicles were parked one car-width apart, and people stayed in their means of transport unless they needed concessions, or to use the washrooms at the Rebel nightclub across the street.

“The experience is a little different, because it’s not like there’s people standing next to each other with the kind of energy and synergy that that brings, said Daley. “People are  more spaced out – some  in their cars, some out, some sitting on the roofs of their cars. Some people are clapping, some are honking: you’re just getting a bunch of different reactions. It’s a different kind of fulfilment.“

DVSN wasn’t the first act to accomplish drive-in shows in Canada. Early on in the pandemic, July Talk were the first to announce their two-night stand in August at a Drive-In in Sharon, ON. The first to actually play one was country star Brett Kissel, who pulled off the feat at an Edmonton casino parking lot in June, with eight shows over a weekend. (Which were filmed for a recent CTV special, Brett Kissel at the Drive-In.) After getting approval from Alberta Health Services to perform the concerts, Kissel mobilized his band and a few corporate partners to assemble a makeshift  concert stage. He added a charity component, raising money for food banks, and ensuring that two of the shows were dedicated exclusively to local health officials who had been tirelessly treating pandemic victims.

“I wanted to make sure that we did something really good for those frontline workers, those health-care heroes,” Kissel told The Toronto Star. Kissel performed four shows a day, from noon through midnight, as his band members exercised physical distancing by performing behind plexiglass.

“Judging by my social media, it’s a memory that so many people will never forget,” he said. “They were honking so much that I burst into tears on a number of occasions. We built community and comfort and joy like I’ve never felt in my career.”

But drive-ins aren’t the only pivot points for live performance. Micro-Concerts, where musicians can safely play to one person, or household clusters of two or four people, at a time, have been thriving. The Festif! Festival in Charlevoix, Québec, undertook a “doorway tour” series where musicians play one song in front of someone’s home, then move on to the next house. Calgary’s Matt Masters booked curbside concerts for fans, played from the top of his mini-van to people in front of their homes. In Esquimalt, BC, Jeff Stevenson stood on the bank of the Gorge Waterway, and serenaded groups of boaters. Stéphanie Bédard, in Québec, did something similar with her “Lake Tour.” Montréal’s Dear Criminals played 72 one-song live shows in three days, at the Lion d’Or club, to two people at a time.

“Seeing live music is one way to stay healthy, alive and well, and spirited” – Chantal Kreviazuk

For the majority of last summer, singer-songwriter Michael Bernard Fitzgerald had been performing his current album Love Valley, first through micro-concerts in his Calgary backyard, then touring with his own outdoor venue called The Greenbriar, and playing farms – with the shows being announced the day-of, in the rural hinterlands just outside of major cities, fostering the sense of a spontaneous and exclusive event.

“It’s an event tent,” Fitzgerald tells us. “We load it up by truck, and we’ve been taking it to cities across Canada and doing about five shows a week.” The crowds are small – five socially distanced tables underneath the tent reserved for those who purchased tickets ahead of time – and the challenges can be unpredictable. Learning that the tent really does take three hours to put up,” he admits. “Or learning the first night that we’re going to need a heater… or two heaters… or the first night we ran into snow.”

But Fitzgerald feels he’s fulfilling a need, for both himself and his audience. “It felt to great to be doing it,” he says. “The shows went two hours, and I went out there and just spent that time with people – have a laugh, have a chat and play some songs – that’s what I bring to the table.”

Similar to Fitzgerald’s Greenbriar tent, The Io Project is a newly-designed “anti-COVID” mobile stage that can safely allow live shows for up to 250 people, watching in household clusters of two or four people, isolated by plexiglass.

Some music creators are still going the regular route: Chantal Kreviazuk recently completed 35 dates in Canadian soft-seater venues to support her new album Get To You. The shows were significantly scaled down – and, depending on location and provincial restrictions – her audiences totalled 50 to 150 patrons.

“I did everything myself, and mostly drove everywhere alone,” Kreviazuk said. “This tour is for my sanity, and in service to my country. We need this kind of normalcy and diversion away from the pandemic. It’s a wonderful thing that I can offer people, because I sit at the piano alone and I don’t move about much. I just kind of show up, walk onstage with my own microphone, walk out, and we’re done.”

Kreviazuk says she plans to return to Canada (from her home in Los Angeles) in the new year “for more of a residency,” and says her tour helps venues keep their connections with patrons. “This country has supported me. These venues have raised me,” she says. “We’re all hurting with our losses in terms of what we normally do, so seeing live music is one way to stay healthy, alive and well, and spirited.

“It’s incredibly rewarding and meaningful work.”