Safia Nolin broke onto the scene in no time flat, last fall, with a debut album that didn’t go unnoticed. Limoilou landed on many a year-end “Best of 2015” list and was even rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by the influential French music mag Les Inrockuptibles French chanteuse Lou Doillon so fell in love with the “young, fragile and deeply moving songwritrice” — as Les Inrocks called Nolin — that she invited her to open for her for 10 dates on her December 2015 tour. “It was always packed and we had a few sold-out dates,” says Nolin. “We played on big-ass stages, as well as small bars and a few showcases. It was nice all around and Lou is f__king cool.”

Safia NolinA whole ocean separates Montréal’s Le Lion d’Or and the Casino de Paris, an ocean that Nolin courageously flew over for the first time flanked by her cosmic twin, guitarist Joseph Marchand, and soundman Francis Beaulieu. “The first time I played in a big venue was at the Paloma, in Nîmes, a brand new magnificent and impressive venue; I was floored,” says Nolin. “That’s when I realized it was a major gig. But once you’ve played a couple of those, it’s OK. Whether there are 800 or 2,000 people, it doesn’t change much.”

It was also Nolin’s first time on a plane. “I was scared, the whole city knew about it, but in the end it was fine!,” she says. “The takeoff is even one of my fondest memories. I slept a whole five minutes on the plane. Joseph woke me up because the sun was coming up. I played that Beach House track, PPP, and I wept. When we took off to fly back home, I was listening to Gila Now, when I hear those songs again, I relive super-intense emotions.”

It was, obviously, her first visit to the continent. Was it a shock? “I didn’t expect it to be so different and yet so similar!,” says Nolin. “We could learn a ton of stuff from them, but they could also learn a ton of stuff from us. I don’t eat meat… I had a f__king hard time! I didn’t eat any vegetables for three weeks.” What did you eat? “Brie and f__kin’ bread!”

On Dec. 21, a few days after she returned from Europe, the following post appeared on Nolin’s Facebook page:

“Playing “Igloo,” that mother__kin’ sad song that saved my life, in front of 1,200 people on another continent, thousands of kilometres from that goddam end-of-time black hole that inhabited me, that was the biggest emotion I’ve ever felt.”

Nolin poured all of her mal de vivre into her debut album, and especially into that song, her most powerful emotional and melodic statement. “When I wrote that song, I was really deeply in my shit, my life sucked, big-time,” says Nolin. “It’s different now: my life sucks, but differently. I have problems, but they’re not the same anymore. It’s always very special when I play it. It’s bizarre and fun at the same time.”

Her songs are pure and very melancholy, her voice is pristine, and her guts on the table. It could easily become unbearable, but Nolin’s dazzling charisma and sense of humour balance everything out. She can’t even begin to imagine writing anything but “sad songs. But you never know, maybe if I smoke a big fat spliff… I’m just starting to like music that is not extra-down. That’s a huge step for me.”

Safia NolinThis contrast between the melancholy songs and the fun girl with an endearing persona, is exactly how Nolin immediately and unfailingly got everyone in her back pocket. She’s all too aware of this paradox, “but it’s not done consciously.” Live, she addresses her crowd with uncanny ease. “At first, I wondered what the hell I was going to tell the crowd — it happened to me in France, too —, but I just stayed true to who I am, I said the same stupid stuff I say here, and it f__king worked,” she says. “They laughed a lot… Now, I have no idea if it was because of my accent or because my jokes were funny. We’ll never know, I guess.”

Nolin began 2016 pedal to the metal: Her schedule is booked solid until May, either opening for Louis-Jean Cormier, or doing solo gigs. And what about France again? Any offers on the table, yet? “No idea,” she says, “but I’m pretty sure I’ll go back.”

Red Brick Songs may be a newish player among Canada’s indie music publishers, but the company is stacked with administrative and A&R talent and is well positioned to compete in the international market.

Red Brick is an offshoot of Casablanca Media Publishing; the custom imprint was formed in 2011 following the death of Casablanca co-founder Ed Glinert. “Red Brick has a different strategic focus,” explains company President Jennifer Mitchell, “and more actively signs songwriters directly to worldwide deals than was the case with Casablanca.”

In five short years, Red Brick has built up an impressive roster of emerging talents, including artists PS I Love You, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Andy Shauf, Cuff The Duke, Library Voices and You Say Party, among others.

“We love working with songwriters that are willing to take risks and to work out of their comfort zone for the right opportunities.” – Jennifer Mitchell of Red Brick Songs

“We sign songwriters based on a combination of talent, ambition, and attitude,” explains Mitchell. “First and foremost they need to be talented, but they also need to be motivated to continue to grow as a songwriter and to push their creative boundaries. We love working with songwriters that are willing to take risks and to work out of their comfort zone for the right opportunities. Our A&R team consists of Jana Cleland (Vice President), Amy Eligh (Creative Director), and Chris Robinson (Creative Manager), each of whom brings a different perspective to our discussions.

“We’ve made it our goal to help songwriters achieve new levels of success through multi-media song placement, royalty administration and career/creative development,” continues Mitchell. “From landing national and international placements, to creating opportunities for songwriters to collaborate, to promoting songs to the world, our dedicated staff are here to support our songwriters through mentorship, networking and promotion. We help songwriters fully realize their potential and connect them to the industry in a way that ensures their future growth and creative integrity”

And how is the strategy paying off? “We worked closely with Joshua Robinson, a young songwriter/artist from the U.S., to market his independently released singles, including in-house promotion to blogs,” says Mitchell. “This resulted in a No. 1 on the Hype Machine charts. Not long after, he had offers from all the major labels and large indies, and ultimately signed to Republic Records in the U.S.

“We also worked with another songwriter, Jeen O’Brien, to help her break into another market. We thought she had the talent to write outside of her usual style and take on the lucrative Japanese market. We found the right partner in Japan and gave some key input into her writing style that allowed her to write a single that’s been cut by a new Japanese girl band being released on Avex.”

And while it’s a long way from Toronto to Tokyo, Mitchell says the Red Brick team believes “our relationships with other publishers, labels, music supervisors, and other creative partners around the world are the key to our success, and allow us to foster meaningful connections between songwriters within the global creative community.”

Welcome to the new year of 2016! And welcome to SOCAN’s Group of Six – six of the many SOCAN-member artists that we, and especially our A&R Department, believe will be among the ones to watch as they strongly emerge, or even break through, this year. In alphabetical order…

Charlotte CardinIt’s incredibly rare to find all the right ingredients in a single artist. Yet that’s the case with Charlotte Cardin, a musician who clearly has the talent, the voice, the charm and the bona fide potential for an international career. Emerging front and centre in a big way, via her very popular stint on talent show La Voix (Québec’s version of The Voice), Cardin has since taken time to carefully develop her songs, her sound and her marketing strategy in order to maximize her impact when the time came. If what’s to come is true to what she’s offered us so far – “Big Boy,” “Les Échardes” – this year will definitely be the one where she makes it big, and shares her distinctive songs with the whole world. Cardin’s pop sensibility has that rare quality of being simultaneously intimate and grandiose, and sung with stunning maturity despite her young age. Charlotte has been added to Spotify Canada’s list of artists to watch in 2016 and will release a few more singles in both English and French until the launch of her first full-length album in the Fall of 2016 on the Cult Nation imprint (Iris, Dear Frederic). But we’re already convinced…

– Toronto-bred singer-songwriter/producer Jahkoy Palmer has coined a label to describe his way of switching musical styles – from mellow R&B to fluent rap to energetic dance grooves – as the “Bipolar” sound, now also the name of his new collective. Whether it’s the bold lyric and warm sound of “Still in Love” (which has reached more than 450,000 Soundcloud plays) or the dancefloor-filling beats of “Hold Your Hand” (almost 400,000 plays), he’s clearly got a knack for creating songs that captivate listeners. Jahkoy gained a wide range of musical experience in various projects (he started rapping at the age of 11 under the name of Raheem), then moved to L.A. a few years ago, where he managed to collaborate with siblings Willow and Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s children) as part of their 1234 Creations crew. He was recently granted the opportunity to work in a Grammy Songwriting Camp put together by 1916 Management – who also manage hot Toronto-based songwriter/producers Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans – and he’s working on a possible publishing deal with the company. Jahkoy is now also supported by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Apple star DJ Zane Lowe, as he prepares his debut album for 2016.

– Bowmanville, Ontario’s Meghan Patrick has been steadily rising on the Canadian country music scene for the past few years. In 2013, she won Durham, Ontario radio station KX96’s Super Star Search, landing a recording session with Canadian Country Music Association Award-winning producer Mike Francis, and feature airplay on the station. In 2015, she opened for international star Wyclef Jean at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square as part of the Panamania arts and culture festival during the Pan Am games. In between, she’s played songwriter circles, hosted open stages, headed West to record songs, showcased at Canadian Music Week, and made regular songwriting trips to Nashville. The daughter of a DJ mom and a guitar-playing father, Patrick studied opera and jazz at McGill University in Montréal, and then became the lead singer of roots/bluegrass group The Stone Sparrows before going solo. She writes, co-writes, and sings honest, sometimes gritty country songs about life, love and relationships – like “I Don’t Drink Anymore” and “The Moments That Matter” – while deftly avoiding cliché. Now that she’s signed with The Agency Group for bookings, and inked a record deal with Warner Music Canada, she’s busy recording for her debut solo album in 2016.

PomoEven though 2015 wasn’t a walk in the park for David Pimentel (a.k.a. Pomo), the new year is revving u to be a rocket ride for the young Montrealer, now based in Vancouver. In 2016, he’ll release the sum of the creative work he’s been toiling on since the release of 2014’s EP, Distant Lover. The first part of the year will be devoted to opening for British house music sensations Disclosure on the European leg of their tour in February. His work with British singer Frances – recently picked in the BBC’s Sound of 2016 survey, as well as nominated in the Critic’s Choice category at the Brit Awards – will come out as she releases her first full-length album containing their collaboration, “I Care.” His work with California R&B singer Anderson Paak on the song “Am I Wrong,” featuring acclaimed rapper Schoolboy Q, will also be released in 2016. Also slated for release is his own debut album, which should prove interesting, coming from a young creator who says he’s disappointed in a lot of productions he hears from his peers. In Pomo’s words, they’re content with just reproducing what they hear, instead of creating something new by stepping outside of their comfort zones. His album promises to be made in the spirit if a beat-maker who’s not only interested in sounds, but also in meticulously crafted songs.

– This Mozambique-born polyglot moved to Montréal 10 years ago. After studying music at McGill University, he’s collaborated with Radio Radio, and was featured on Pierre Kwenders’ recent album. Samuel Carlos Matsinhe (a.k.a. Samito) decided that the time had come to spread his wings and fly on his own, with his distinctive hybrid of world and electronic music. Samito was chosen as one of the 2015-2016 Révélation Radio-Canada (breakout artists), and doesn’t hesitate to mix unlikely influences. His songs match typically African melodies and chants to digital rhythms – which he doesn’t use simply to spice things up, but manages to perfectly integrate while creating a truly unique sound. Samito should take the modernized world music scene by storm very soon; more precisely, on Jan. 18, 2016, when the single (and companion video) for his massive song “Tiku La Hina” will be released by OkayAfrica, an influential website whose backers include The Roots’ ?uestlove. He’ll also embark on a tour of Québec in February, and release three more singles before the launch of his album (on the Costume Records imprint) in the spring. Everything points to the fact that Samito will be fine-tuned and ready to take on the world by the time the summer sun shines on us once more.

– Tennyson is Luke and Tess Pretty, two teenage siblings from Edmonton who create delicate, intimate, electronic music that’s earned a recommendation by like-minded, JUNO Award-winning EDM artist Ryan Hemsworth – who’s released their music before via his Secret Songs online imprint. Tennyson’s unique songs – sometimes ambient, sometimes whimsical, always captivating – may seem breezy and supple, but except for the occasional happy accident, are often painstakingly crafted for months on end. The brother-and-sister duo like to include real-life sounds in their recordings, like dial tones, alarms, doors, and breathing, that usually sound like they’re coming from inside the listener’s own home. Oddly, their musical education actually came from busking, small gigs, and playing jazz covers while touring across Canada – in the summers between school years – in a band with their father (who’s also a drummer). So far, their singular, playful-but-mature sound has garnered them praise from such thoughtful media outlets as The Atlantic, The Guardian and NPR; a loyal online following (“With You” has now received more than 930,000 plays on Soundcloud, “Lay-by” more than 740,000); and a management deal with Matthew Langille, who also represents Hemsworth, BadBadNotGood and Holy Fuck. It’s only going to get bigger and better in 2016.