Sometimes the cosmos provides a signpost of what road to take next. When it comes to Amy Eligh’s career journey, that’s the case. A combination of divine intervention, a health issue, and an inspirational lecture added up to her chosen vocation as a music publisher.

Flash back more than 12 years. Eligh, then a Humber College student majoring in jazz performance, dreamed of a professional music-making career. Her chosen instrument: the trombone. After graduating, she discovered she had TMJ Syndrome – a disorder that causes pain in the jaw joint, and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Her dream of a performing career no longer an option, she wanted to stay in the field of music. While she struggled with what path to choose next, she enrolled in the Music industry Arts Program at Fanshawe College.

“My first week at Fanshawe, Professor Terry McManus talked about publishing, telling me that it was all about the song; he explained that it’s the first step in a long career for an artist,” says Eligh. “I found that extremely attractive, because I get to be there right at the beginning – when it’s just an idea – and work closely with a songwriter to create something amazing.”

Following this epiphany, the second sign occurred when Fanshawe alumnus Angela Fex (now Manager, Client Services, at FACTOR) lectured at the college between Eligh’s first and second year. Says Eligh: “After this lecture I said to her, ‘I want to get into publishing, and want an internship. What do I need to do?’”

Fex suggested Eligh contact Ed Glinert at Casablanca Media Publishing. An internship followed, along with a full-time job after graduation in 2005. “Casablanca gave me a job offer in September,” says Eligh. “Right after my internship finished, and just as I was starting second year. But they said I could start in May, when I graduated. I felt fortunate that I had work in the field that I wanted to be in.”

About 12 years after graduating, Eligh has carved out a successful career in music publishing. She spent almost all of those years with Casablanca Media/Red Brick Songs, where she rose from working in copyright/royalties as a co-ordinator — handling data entry and dispute resolution — to the Director of Synch & Creative Services. Six months ago, she moved to the Arts & Crafts music label to head up their publishing and licensing. FACTOR also recently appointed Eligh to sit on its Board of Directors.

The move from Casablanca to Arts & Crafts was the hardest decision she’s had to make in her career to date, but the time felt right to move on. While at Casablanca, she learned the profession from Jana Cleland and owner Jennifer Mitchell (who currently sits on SOCAN’s Board of Directors).

“Jana and Jennifer were integral to mentoring me all the way up,” says Eligh. “I was fortunate to be in a company where I had a lot of freedom to challenge myself, and move freely… I didn’t have a lot of restrictions. There was a lot of fostering of new ideas and they allowed for a lot of growth.

“I got into this business to help artists grow and succeed, and to grow with them.”

“Switching jobs was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my life,” she adds. “Red Brick raised me, all my friends are there, and I love their roster, which I had a hand in growing. After 12 years with an amazing company, though, it was time to shift gears.”

While at Casablanca/Red Brick Songs, Eligh was involved in many rewarding TV synch placements. Highlights include an ad for Canadian Tire, one for Interac featuring AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” and a synch for the Boats song “Advice on Bears,” on the Cameron Crowe comedy-drama series Roadies.

Over the years, the music-publishing executive has also helped arrange showcases for artists in Los Angeles and New York, and hosted songwriting camps for her roster of stars.

An Amy Eligh success story
One of Eligh’s first signings while at Red Brick Songs was Dan Davidson. The former-rocker-turned-country-star found huge success in 2017 with the single “Found.” He shared this success with Eligh, since the pair had worked together for many years.  “Right before Christmas, Dan and his producer Jeff Dalziel chipped in and sent me a Certified Gold Single plaque with my name on it,” she says. “To see his success and growth was so exciting. That [a gold record] was something I never thought would happen. The plaque is now hanging at home over my fireplace.”

Part of the allure of Arts & Crafts was the unique opportunity it presented to see how the label and management sides of the industry work. One of the successful synchs she’s arranged in the first six months at her new workplace was for Lowell (“War Face” in Episode 1401 of Grey’s Anatomy). This past November, she also put on a private showcase in L.A. for Taylor Knox and Cold Specks for music supervisors, film directors, and movie editors.

As she reflects on her growing career, the reasons that Eligh became a music publisher following her graduation from Fanshawe haven’t changed. And she still loves every minute of it.

“I got into this business to help artists grow and succeed, and to grow with them,” she says. “Every time I work with a new songwriter I learn something new. My dad always said, the minute you stop learning in a job, or a field, is when you need to leave – because you never know everything about your job.

“I bounce out of bed every day at 6:30 for my one-and-a-half hour commute, and it doesn’t feel like work. I mean, we’re in the music industry. How much better can it get?”

Both in Québec and worldwide, there are too few female screen composers. Louise Tremblay’s professional path stems from a unique opportunity that she grabbed with equal parts passion and determination. The very tone of her voice, rapid-fire speech, and consistently generous answers to questions are obvious indicators that this musician cherishes her chosen path.

Tremblay, who holds a Master’s degree in piano performance from McGill University, was also, for many years, a piano instructor and accompanist. She often observed and commented on the work of her life partner, James Gelfand, himself a screen composer. “I’d hear music, rhythms, an instrument over what he presented to me,” says Tremblay. “One day, while he was overloaded with work, he asked me to come and write down what I was hearing. So, in 2006, we started simply with sound editing on the software Cubase. That’s how I learned to place music, entrances and exits, cutting and re-composing small sections so that the music would fit the images better.”

Louise TremblayHer first work as a composer came a few months later for the National Geographic show Naked Science. She started composing music banks after a discussion with the show’s producer and director. “I remember we hadn’t even seen any images, but still had to come up with music. We’d been given rather vague instructions, such as the fact that it would take place in the mountains, and there would be images of planes. The pieces needed to be two to three minutes long – which is comparatively long.” The result was very much appreciated, and confirmed Tremblay’s long-standing intuition that she was an able composer, who knew how to paint images with musical colours.

This cemented the birth of the all-star team known as Tremblay-Gelfand. For more than a decade now, the duo creates about six film or documentary scores per year. This uncommon productivity is apparent when one takes a look at their impressive resumé. Their recent work on the movie Swept Under earned the SOCAN Film Music Award at the 2017 Montréal Gala.

Although they’re united in composition, each of them has preserved their own sacred, personal creative territory. At the onset of any project, Louise and James each work separately with their copy of the scenario. They each carry out their own research for musical colour, harmonies, atmospheres and instruments in their own studio. Yes, the Tremblay-Gelfand team operates two separate studios on two different floors in order to provide each of them with their own composing space.

Following this solo stage, they pool their resources in preparation of the first creative meeting with the producer and director. That’s when all the various proposals are presented. “Then, we re-unite our creative intuitions,” says Tremblay. “We present them but don’t say who wrote what. We want that to remain neutral. We want to steer clear of any bias.”

Next to reading the script, Tremblay believes those meetings are essential to any film or documentary project. That’s when a direction is determined, a vision established. “As composers, we need to understand the expectations of the director and producer who don’t necessarily have a musical vocabulary to express what they want,” she says. “Our job is to clearly understand what they liked and didn’t like, and why. One needs to be a very good listener to do that.”

Once the direction is determined, the duo pools their strengths, and work as one, in the same direction. “From that point on, it doesn’t matter who composes what, and who does what,” says Tremblay. “All that matters is delivering what was asked, and we both check our egos to achieve that.” Tremblay admits having learned a lot from Gelfand, who had a considerable head-start in the field with his 30 years of experience as a screen composer.

But she says that she’s learned the most during those meetings with producers and directors. According to her, it’s not talent alone that brings in contracts for composers. It’s also their capacity to listen to their teams; their flexibility with regards to what is asked of them; and their detachment from their compositions. “I’m a bit of a teenager and James is super adult,” says Tremblay. “I learned a lot by watching him interact with people. He’s so adaptable, such a good listener and he never takes things personally.”

Despite all of her acquired experience, Louise Tremblay is still clearly motivated by a thirst for constantly learning new things, whether on her own, or in a team, because hers is a trade where one needs to endlessly re-invent oneself.

Galaxie“It’s fun to make people dance—it’s a welcome change from head-banging,” says songwriter, singer, guitarist and producer Olivier Langevin, the mastermind behind Galaxie. When it burst onto the scene in 2002, the band – then called Galaxie 500 – was dubbed a stoner-rock outfit; but no longer, as the bombshell album Super Lynx Deluxe confirms. It’s the boldest of the Galaxie albums so far, a collection of infectious grooves that tips its hat to The Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, and other such alternative music heroes of the ’90s.

Langevin will provide many a revelation during our long conversation in a second-hand vinyl record store in Montréal’s hip Plateau neighbourhood – where the axeman dug up an old LP of instrumental improvisations by Robert Fripp, Let the Power Fall, released in 1981, and containing a preface written in Montréal’s own Château Versailles hotel!

Here’s another shocking revelation: he’s a Rihanna fan.  “And I’ve always been a huge Prince fan,” he adds. “As a matter of fact, even if it’s not obvious, there are influences of James Brown [on the new album].” The Godfather of Soul is even quoted in album’s title track, in which James Brown and La danse à Saint-Dilon are juxtaposed in the same sentence, to underscore the urge to dance.

“I’ve always loved pop hits,” says Langevin. “I’m like a collector of hits that get on people’s nerves. Just like Rihanna’s songs – those tracks are superbly done! Then, my trip is to bring that pop nature into the Galaxie universe. It’s a universe with strict parameters, and by that I mean there are things I could never do with that band. Yet it’s very much a playground.”

And, oh what fun can be had in that playground! Over the course of 33 minutes and 10 tracks, Langevin and his partners in crime – Pierre Fortin on drums, François Lafontaine on keys, Karin Pion on back vocals, Fred Fortin on bass and Jonathan Bigras on percussion – explore new territories. Here, Galaxie’s usual shaggy “rawk” goes nuts, and flirts with techno and tribal rhythms, most notably in a collaboration with percussionist El Hadj Diouf, who guests on two of the album’s most exhilarating tracks.

Langevin agrees: “Super Lynx Deluxe is the boldest sonic leap forward that band has accomplished so far,” he says. As far as exploring new musical avenues, he says, “It was mostly with the integration of electronic sounds on Tigre et Diesel [2011] that we settled that. Some of our fans really had a bad trip when we came out with that album, by far our poppiest. But it was totally intentional. We had a blast from just daring to do it, and taking the measure of people’s reactions. From that point on, everything changed for us. All of a sudden, we could do whatever we pleased.” As long as it fits within the “galactic parameters,” of course. “I want Galaxie to make you want to Olivier Langevin of Galaxiedance and to be fun for us to play live,” he says.

Langevin says “we” a lot when talking about Galaxie, despite the fact that it’s his project, and he’s the main songwriter. When working on a new album, he’ll jot down a few sentences, come up with a beat, hit on a guitar riff, and record a minute-long demo in order to avoid, as he puts it, “demo-itis.” “It’s a disease that afflicts a lot of singer-songwriters when they get to the studio to record their album,” he says. “You can re-record it as many times as you want, there’s always something f___ing magical about the demo – pardon my language. Always something great in it that, even though you record it in the best possible conditions and with a ton of the best musicians around, and even though the session couldn’t go any better, there’s always that little something on that demo that you just can’t quite re-capture in the studio.” That’s why Langevin also keeps his demos as short as possible: to avoid the symptoms of “demo-itis.”

“I’ll come up with the songs, the melodies, and then we get together to flesh them out with arrangements,” Langevin says. “The groove will come first, then the melody – on the demos, I sing the melody without lyrics, like a lot of people do. As for the lyrics, I very often write without thinking of a specific song or melody, and later I’ll dip into my lyrics bank to match them to a song. Otherwise, most of the time, I write purely for the rhythm and the groove.

“On the first two albums in particular, I would come up with song skeletons and then call upon my hard core, as I like to call them, Frank [Lafontaine], Pierre Fortin and Pierre Girard on sound engineering. From that stage on, I give the guys a lot of latitude, so that they can come up with arrangement ideas, textures, even though it may take the song somewhere else entirely. “We work in a very instinctive way, but we always know when a song is on the right track, and once that happens, we dive right in. That way we do things is both very abstract and extremely precise.. I don’t know how to explain it any better…”

Alongside his hard core, Langevin plays ping-pong with ideas, because “we need to surprise ourselves, we need it to remain stimulating.” On Super Lynx Deluxe, the end result is striking: the guitars are juicy as ever and, this time around, drenched in the very particular flavour of the flange guitar effect, a bit like a wave coming to shore. “We dug up this old effect that happens to be ‘in’ at the moment,” Langevin admits. “We often record in blocks of three or four days. I think we recorded a lot of flanged guitars!”

This effect injects a dose of tension in the rhythmic, nearly techno tracks that Galaxie offers this time, and they turn into purely tribal affairs once Diouf’s djembe is added on top of it all. Another new addition to the Galaxie sound comes from the two opening tracks, reminiscent of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (from 1994’s Ill Communication) and its energy, edgy guitars and crunchy drums.

“I played that so much as a teen,” says Langevin. “‘Sabotage,’ ‘Check Your Head.’ It’s something I wanted to do for a long time, and hadn’t done yet. For a while, there, in the studio, we embarked on quite a hip-hop buzz, and then I said to myself: OK, this is when I get that out of my system! The ‘Sabotage’ sound is exactly what I wanted, that kind of hip-hop beat with fuzzed drums; that’s exactly where my mind was at.

“You know, Galaxie has always been a mix of dance music and blues. The songs on the new album may sound like they’ve been worked into something akin to techno, but when you boil it down, we play those songs as if we were an old blues trio. It reminds me of the Rolling Stones’ disco phase, you know, like ‘Miss You’? They were great, hooky songs, but it’s Mick’s thing, you can tell that Keith wasn’t into it so much… It’s disco, yet the guys play as they’ve always played. It’s like there’s something shady going behind those songs…”

Super Lynx Deluxe will be launched on Jan. 31, 2018, at Cabaret La Tulipe in Montréal.

The album comes out Feb. 2, 2018.