Right from the start, Patrick Lavoie dove into music with urgency and versatility. Those qualities drive his entire career as a multi-instrumentalist whose love for all musical genres knows no bounds. Animated by a desire to write songs – and throughout his university degree in classical cello – Lavoie was looking for a vocation. “It rapidly became about earning a living through my music,” he says. “I even busked in the metro. I wanted my income to stem from that passion, not even from teaching music. If that didn’t pan out, I was going to abandon the idea and study biology.”

Thanks to his friendship with screen director Yves Christian Fournier, Lavoie was able to delve in composing music for TV ads during the first decade of the 2000s. That’s when he realized how much joy he derived from composing music. “The toughest contracts are the first ones,” he says. “In that domain, no on asks about your diploma. They want to hear what you’ve done before. I can’t even count the number of demos I produced during that period.”

A special work relationship began to develop between the composer and director. Early on, Fournier picked up the habit of sharing his thoughts and desires concerning each of the projects he’s working on. Lavoie decided to create temporary demos ahead of Fournier’s shootings. “Music is a big source of inspiration for him. It opens the way,” says Lavoie. Such was the case for the feature film Tout est parfait, in 2008, and for the 2015 TV series Blue Moon – during which Fournier juggled 37 different temporary soundtracks throughout the shoot. The movie adventure carried on with Fournier for Noir (2015) as well as with director Martin Talbot on Henri Henri (2014), a soundtrack that earned Lavoie a nomination at the Canadian Screens Awards.

Nowadays, Lavoie also scores the music for TV series such as Feux (directed by Claude Desroriser) and the aforementioned Blue Moon. It’s a demanding mandate that requires the composer to be highly organized. Well aware of the value of time, Lavoie has stuck to his method of composing based on the script, even before seeing the first few episodes. This head-start, he believes, gives him more efficiency and more sensitivity when he delivers the final product.

“Time is of the essence with series,” he says. “It takes me a week to compose for a 52-minute episode. That’s a total of 30 minutes of music per episode. One needs to be super-organized and methodical to achieve quality in such a short time. If I haven’t finished composing by noon, I know I’m going to run out of time to produce that music over the course of that day.” Every morning, Lavoie enters his home studio with a tight, efficient work plan. For Blue Moon, he came up with an ambitious, string-based orchestral score that requires him to record up to 50 instrumental tracks on his own. And not a second goes by where efficiency doesn’t also include emotion and beauty.

As for Feux, he began composing without knowing what the conclusion of the series would be. This time, the composer didn’t want the the main musical themes to be tainted by the psychological thriller’s ending. Instead, to guide him, he relied on a very fine understanding of the characters’ psychology. Lavoie is the first to admit that a series like that, which forces us to look at our own dark inner workings, is quite demanding for him. “The music for Feux came easily, but it was very hard on a personal level,” he says. “I was exhausted at the end of each day. I was going through so many emotions… A soundtrack that works is a soundtrack that carries strong emotions. And to achieve that, I had to live every moment of it, from composition to delivery. Music doesn’t deceive. You need to be true, because it’s the language of emotion.”

One thing is undeniable for Lavoie: Music expresses our emotions without a single word. And to achieve this, music uses the composer, their life and their emotions as the path to its true nature.


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It was in his hometown of Mont-Laurier, Québec, a small municipality of less than 15,000 people in the Laurentian Mountains just north of Montréal, that singer-songwriter Bobby Bazini – born Bobby Bazinet – spent his charmed summer of 2007 and the week, he says, that changed his life.

It’s an idyllic region, once enchantingly described as a place where “a muse is keeping watch somewhere in the silence of a Laurentian forest glen, attracting artists and writers in search of inspiration.” It’s a time and place wistfully recalled in the title track of his recently-released third album, Summer is Gone. The recording marks a measured step into the future for Bazini as a songwriter and performer with global ambitions, but also takes a moment to look back at his small town roots.

Bazini was 18 that summer. He’d performed outside of the local radio station CFLO-FM for crowds attending the Festival international de théâtre de Mont-Laurier, and had become friends with Hugo Sabourin from the station – who’d shown up one day with a set of drums and asked to jam. In that same week, he not only met singer-songwriter Odessa Page, his girlfriend of nine years, but also forged a working relationship with Sabourin, with whom he wrote the song “Turn Me On.” That became the calling card for a management deal in Montréal, which helped to kick-start his career.

With the release of the single “I Wonder” in 2009 from his platinum debut album Better in Time, the music world was formally introduced to Bazini. He’s an artist who likes to keep things authentic when it comes to instrumentation – no computers or synthesizers. He also takes a great deal of inspiration from legends like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Cash, but has found a contemporary style and voice of his own. And he can sing with the compelling voice of one whose affinity for the iconic performers of Deep-South roots music runs soul deep.

“The first two albums I wrote on my own and I felt like I needed to do something else with this third album.”

Between the first and second album, Where I Belong, there was a dispute with his ex-manager that prevented Bazini from recording for an extended period. It was a frustrating time. When the smoke had finally cleared, he was signed to Universal Music and on his way to Los Angeles for sessions at Village Recorder, the legendary studio which has played host to many of the icons of contemporary music, with producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock) at the helm. The musicians included Booker T (organ), Jack Ashford (percussion) and Jay Bellerose (drums).

Where I Belong proved to be a huge success. It topped the Canadian Album chart in June of 2014, the year in which Bazini was the only Canadian artist to sell more than 100,000 units. He also spent a lot of time on the road, playing to capacity crowds – including a free concert at the Montreal International Jazz Festival which drew close to 60,000 people.

As Bazini contemplated the writing of Summer is Gone, he knew that it was time to try a new approach. “The first two albums I wrote on my own and I felt like I needed to do something else with this third album,” he says. “I needed to travel and get out of my comfort zone. I first went to Nashville, then to L.A., and finally to London, where I found the direction of the album.

“I had an amazing time in Nashville, but what I did there felt too close to the last album,” says Bazini,  who worked there with producer/songwriter/musician Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). “I wanted something a little different, but at the same time I didn’t want a drastic change in sound. It was a smooth transition, I think. There’s a good balance of having songs like ‘Leonard Cohen’ or ‘Summer Is Gone’ for something different, but then you recognize Bobby Bazini in songs like ‘Where the Sun Shines.’ It was important to keep that balance.”

Given Leonard Cohen’s recent ascension to the Tower of Song, the track on the album which bears his name, written in Nashville with Angelo Petraglia (Kings of Leon), makes you wonder if Bazini is somewhat psychic. “Coincidence,” he laughs. The line “She loves me like a Leonard Cohen song” will give you the general drift of its meaning.

“My first session in the U.K. was with Jake Gosling [Ed Sheeran], who works outside of London in Surrey,” says Bazini. “We sat down and wrote ‘Blood Is Thicker Than Water,’ and I remember coming back to the hotel, playing it for my girlfriend, and telling her that I thought I had the direction of the album. It was exactly what I had in mind, more of a soul feel, with a touch of rock – a little more contemporary. I wrote four songs with Jake, but there are only two on the album – ‘Bird Has Flown’ is on the 13-song deluxe version of the album.

“It’s funny, my all-time favourite records are all from the States – the soul stuff. Lately the music I listen to – my favourite music – has been coming from London, artists like James Morrison. I also like the first James Bay album. People used to compare me to Paolo Nutini, but I hear it much less now. I actually got to write with some of the writers who were involved with his first album including Jimmy Hogarth [Amy Winehouse, James Morrison, James Bay], who had written a few songs with Paolo and had co-produced the James Morrison debut album.”

Bazini’s initial reason for wanting to record in London was to work with Grammy Award- winning producer Martin Terefe (James Blunt, Jason Mraz, Ron Sexsmith), who’d worked with aforementioned British blue-eyed soul singer James Morrison in the early 2000s. Morrison’s debut album Undiscovered, released in 2006, was one of Bazini’s favourite albums at the time.

“I didn’t know if Martin would be the producer or not, but I knew I wanted to work with him,” he says. “I also knew that he was a songwriter. We booked a writing trip to London for three weeks and every session was great. Not every song from every writer I collaborated with was album material, but most of them were. I remember coming back from London with all these songs and I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for people to hear them.”

But arriving home, Bazini decided that one more trip to London was in the cards. “We had more than 30 songs, but I felt that something was missing,” he explains. “I came back with ‘C’est la vie,’ the first single from this album, which I wrote with Martin Terefe. I remember my managers and the label getting very excited about that song. When I heard it the first time produced by Martin, I felt we had not only the album finished but also the first single. I love the song because it has a nice message and it’s simple. There’s a bit of a bluesy progression but it sounds contemporary, and it’s what I had in mind.”

In the studio, Bazini says that Terefe pushed him to do more, not only with his voice but as a musician. “Martin is a very creative producer and I loved working with him,” says the singer. “I’m used to playing acoustic guitar on my records but he didn’t hire a guitar player. He suggested I play electric guitar on the sessions, which was a first for me. I play on all the tracks and I actually did my first guitar solo. That was fun, and it was pretty amazing to have that kind of support from the producer. The guitar parts are also important in terms of my sound. I write my songs with my guitar, and the fact that you can hear me play on it is part of my sound. That’s what people will hear when they come to see me live.

“The fear is, even for me, in trying something new. You never know where you’re going to end up. You want people to follow you. I know when I first released ‘C’est la vie’ as a single, there was great response, but some people were like, ‘Oh, this sounds different!’ You want to push the envelope and some fans want you to stay where you are. It takes awhile for them to get used to the change.”

Véronique Labbé

Photo by/par Lynn Gosselin

Véronique Labbé was 16 when she started singing country alongside her mom, Lise Roy, in Thetford Mines, Québec. Now 35, she celebrates her 20 years on the music scene with the launch of her fifth album, Mon Noël Country, released a few weeks ago. She’s also nominated no less than seven(!) times at this year’s Gala Country (Québec’s premier country music awards), taking place on Nov. 19, 2016.

“Nowadays, I’m doing more of an American-style country-pop, I’ve become a kind of flavour of the month, but it wasn’t easy; people used to want to hear more traditional songs,” says Labbé, whose tour includes a tribute to Shania Twain.

In other words, Renée Martel isn’t a model for her, no more than Patrick Norman – both demi-gods on the Québec country scene. “There are so many niche markets in country music; Renée Martel and Patrick Norman are more country-folk. I’m more on the pop side,” says Labbé.

Our own country girl tis closer to a Terri Clark, a Travis Tritt, or even a Sheryl Crow, for whom she’s been an opening act. “In my teens, I’d watch CMT (Country Music Television) and I dreamt of a big career like theirs,” she says. “And even though I’m not Anglophone, I managed to share a stage with them.”

So how do you stand out from the rest when you sing country music, in French, in Québec? “Country music is about spilling your guts,” she says bluntly. “The words you sing need to be understood by the listener right away, regardless of their education level. Especially if you’re singing about heartbreak! On my first album, I sang using a normative French, and people didn’t get my country because it was a tad too sophisticated.”

The first award she won was a SOCAN Prize at the St-Tite festival in 2005. “That opened up my eyes on the whole universe of copyright and royalties, and luckily, didn’t change my musical personality,” she says. Labbé has played in St-Tite, Québec’s country Mecca, n less than 19 times. The songwriter was once more saluted by SOCAN during the 2015 Montréal Gala, in the Country Music category, of course.

“When I write a song, it’s the music, first and foremost,” says Labbé. “Melodies come easy to me. It’s the lyrics that demand a lot of work, the thing I find the hardest. So this is what I do: I record my music tracks in the studio; at that point no more than 25% of the lyrics are written. It’s after that, when I listen to the instrumental tracks, that words begin to flow. It’s not necessarily a method I’m fond of, but I have to give myself an ultimatum for words to finally come, so I can finalize the creative process.”

However, the song “Du côté bleu du ciel,” the title track of fourth album, (with lyrics by Nelson Minville, music by Marc Dupré), is an exception – and is nominated as Song of the Year at the Nov. 19 Country Gala. “It was at the very limit of what I do, but I like that type of writing!” says Labbé. “I need to be really moved to accept a song from someone else. That one did me some good, even though it’s a lot more commercial and less country.”

Véronique Labbé is also a TV and radio host for En route vers l’ouest, and she believes SOCAN played an important role in her musical career. “A lot of country artists kick-start their careers with covers to get better sales,” she says. “But to stand out, they need to write their own hits. That’s what my show is there for: getting them known. Without new songs, there’s no evolution. Otherwise we’ll end up singing only hits, just like in a karaoke bar.

“Being a SOCAN member to me is like a protection of me as a creator. They collect and distribute the royalties, but with the kind of music I do, I don’t get as much radio play as other musical styles. It would be nice to have a country music Soundscan.”

Year in, year out, Labbé gets on stage about 50 times. With 2016 drawing to a close, Mon Noël Country caps things off nicely. “The music is country, but with Christmas songs,” she says. “The tough part is knowing where to accentuate. I consciously avoided certain country riffs and punches, so things didn’t get too redundant. Luckily, there are a lot of chord progressions in the Christmas repertoire that totally harmonize with country music.”

The Nov. 19 Gala has been circled on Labbé’s calendar for a long time. And it’s not hard to understand why: her seven nominations at the Gala are for Album, Songwriter, Female Singer, and  Concert of the Year, as well as Radio and TV Show of the Year for En route vers l’ouest, and the SOCAN Song of the Year for “Du côté bleu du ciel.”

“It’s the SOCAN Award that I covet the most!” she says.