The least we can say about Simon Kingsbury’s creative process is that it’s slow.

Simon KingsburyHe started out busy, first appearing on the scene as a member of the indie-folk-prog band Lac Estion, which produced three recordings – EP (2008), Affranchi (2009) and XXIe siècle (2010). He then followed up with a solo solo EP, released in 2011, and played at the 2012 Francouvertes. In short, he made his mark on the local indie scene.

But over the past two-plus years, news from him has been few and far between. “In 2013, I recorded tracks that sounded way too much like those on the 2011 EP,” he explains, “so I scrapped all of them and decided to take a year off!”

Only during the course of the last year did Kingsbury start feeling like he was ready to get cracking again. He was already signed to a publishing deal with Ad Litteram (since 2013), so the company’s boss, Guillaume Lombart, offered Kingsbury a production deal for his new songs. “Luckily for me, he gave me carte blanche creatively,” says Kingsbury. “They took care of the financing, and all the paperwork, that can easily bog down an artist… They took care of that whole side of things, but kept me in the loop, which was quite helpful.”

The result was Pêcher rien, a slick affair launched in early February 2016, and whose first single, “Comédien,” sets the tone.

When asked about his protégé, Guillaume Lombart is quick to answer that he himself is “a lucky publisher and producer, right now.” Birds of a feather, as the saying goes…

The Constant Gardner

It goes without saying that it all started as love at first sight – or hearing, as it were: “There was the voice, I truly believe that an artist’s signature is their voice,” says Lombart. “It’s the very personality of any project.”

Lombart enjoys working with singer-songwriters. “I like when I deal with only one person, especially if that person is aware of what it means to make music nowadays,” says Lombart. “On top of that, I also believe that songwriters are people who constantly question themselves and best grasp what it means to be human, starting with themselves. I think they are less susceptible to fall prey to the whole ‘star ego’ thing.”

Lombart and Kinsgbury also share the same vision of their collaboration: teamwork first. “Everybody on this boat works very hard, and we’re all in sync when it comes to the activities involved in this project,” says the publisher-producer.

Things really got underway when all 10 songs were committed to tape. “We produced the album and sought a licencing deal with a record label,” says Lombart. “But the licence never came, so we looked for financing on our own. And things fell into place.”

Clearly, when this man gets involved in a project, his publishing feelers extend very far. “As a publisher, my goal is to take a project as far as I can by getting the right people involved to make sure it does,” says Lombart. “CDs have become a promotional tool for publishers. And I’m also the producer of the live show. And, through Livetoune (an Ad Litteram subsidiary), I also produce the audio-visual aspect of it all. In the end, the goal is to integrate all of these elements in order to prop up the songs themselves… I love the idea of a musical-visual publisher. I created that model in reaction to a specific situation. I often compare it to gardening, how one needs to sow the seeds and ensure his produce thrives and grows.”

You Reap What You Sow

Simon KingsburyQuébec radio stations have clearly confirmed the publisher-producer’s flair: At the time of this writing, Kingsbury’s “Comédien” was named buzz ÉNERGIE for the month of February, thus ensuring the song quite a heavy rotation over most of the network’s stations.

And if the artist’s ambitions are any indication of what’s to come, things are looking good. “Guillaume and I are on the same wavelength most of the time,” says Kingsbury. Ultimately, what I want is for my songs to be as widely heard as possible.” Add that to the positive critical reception of Pêcher rien, and what you have is a duo that thoroughly enjoys reaping what it has slowly and carefully sown.




From his first timid steps at Café Sarajevo to his recent world tours, Patrick Watson has always made sure that he preserved a freedom of thought that has enabled him to build bridges between Québec’s Franco and Anglo cultures.

The walls inside Montréal’s Café Sarajevo might have been made of stone, everyone knew they had a soul of their own. For years and years, they had vibed to the rhythm of the clientele’s bohemian lifestyle. These stone walls hosted gypsy swing bands, poetry readings and even tears of joy when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted. But on this particular evening of the winter of 2003, it was a ball-cap-wearing kid that was serenading them while tickling the ivories.

The now-closed dive, located on Clark Street, just below Sherbrooke, was packed for an unplugged” concert by Patrick Watson – a regular there by now. Watson had just released his second album, Just Another Ordinary Day. People were barely beginning to grasp the extent of his musical talent.

Thirteen years later, he’s been around the world many times, on the heels of his four subsequent albums, the latest of which is Love Songs for Robots, launched in May of 2015. Ethereal and refined, this collection of songs rises above the melée. The piano chords, electro-tinged rhythms and Watson’s dulcet tones define the edges of an enticing musical landscape.

“You know, when you think about it, my approach to music hasn’t really changed,” according to the singer’s own analysis. “The Sarajevo was a place to go crazy and have fun. Back then I was still trying to figure out what to do with my compositions. I didn’t even know if I really wanted to sing, or if I was going to keep my stuff instrumental. It’s still true today: I still wonder what direction to give my music.”

“We don’t need to put red or blue hats on people’s heads. It’s completely stupid. Dividing Anglophones and Francophones is totally pointless.”

Just before our meeting, Watson had spent several hours composing music for a string quartet. “Am I going to use it on one of my records, or a film score? No Idea. What matters to me is that I constantly progress as a composer,” says the artist, who has consistently done one movie score per year. Last year it was for the movie The 9th Life of Louis Drax, a British/Canadian co-production that will come out in 2016. “Next week, I’m leaving for California to work on a film development project,” he says. “That’s what I love about my career. I don’t feel any kind of pressure to constantly be Patrick Watson the singer-songwriter. Just being a musician is perfect, too.”

Patrick WatsonThis aversion for labels is quite representative of Watson’s mentality. He’s neither Anglo nor Franco, but simply Québécois. Born in the United States, he rapidly built ties with the local culture through his many collaborations with Karkwa, Marie-Pierre Arthur and Lhasa, to name just a few. “When my family moved to Hudson (a small Québec town about halfway between Montréal and Ottawa), I chose to attend a Francophone primary school,” he says. “Despite the initial language barrier, I immediately identified with the joie de vivre and open-mindedness of Francophone culture, even at such a young age. As a matter of fact, all of my girlfriends were Francophones,” he says grinning. “That must be a sign!”

The political aspect of the Anglo/Franco relationship is of no interest to this man, who believes human beings are more important than any of their allegiances. “We don’t need to put red or blue hats on people’s heads,” he says. “It’s completely stupid. Dividing Anglophones and Francophones is totally pointless. The idea that you don’t belong in Québec if you don’t speak French is negative, and has nothing in common with the true nature of Francophones. I think the best way to convince Anglos to learn French is to explain to them how, if they don’t, they will miss out on some of the most beautiful women in the world and a much more vibrant and relaxed way of life! One can be proud of their culture without having to divide and put down others.”

At the same time, Watson is quick to confirm that this pride is what allowed Québec to evolve culturally. “Québécois have a special kind of love for the music produced in Québec, and all musicians here benefit from that, even those who sing in English like I do,” he says. “For Québec artists, it’s an unbelievable gift to be able to count on such popular support for their creators. Elsewhere, you always feel like you are competing against the whole wide world, but not in Québec; you don’t feel that here.”

According to him, it’s much easier for a Montréal musician to be famous in Québec than for a Toronto musician to be famous in Ontario. “Many artists in Québec manage to earn a living through their art, something that wouldn’t be true elsewhere,” says Watson. “And I don’t say that to mean that they aren’t good, but because their creations have nothing to do with current pop trends. And that, culturally, is an invaluable treasure,” explains the musician, whose 2016 winter-spring tour is still ongoing at press time.

“That’s what I mean when I talk about open-mindedness,” says Watson. “You can stop in the smallest, 100% Francophone hamlet and still be welcomed with open arms and a ton of love. That, for an artist who sings in English, is amazing!”

So far, 2016 hasn’t been kind to artists from the classic rock era. We’ve mourned the notable losses of David Bowie and Glenn Frey of the Eagles, whose songs, each in their own way, captured the 1970s zeitgeist as well as any, and better than most.

When one thinks of that era, it brings to mind elaborate albums, monster tours, jet-setting bands and the excesses of rock and roll legends. Those were also days when big record companies invested in developing the artists on their rosters. Their monster sellers helped subsidize the costs of supporting and developing emerging artists with potential. For artists and labels, these were the “Golden Years” Bowie sang about.

I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years
Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years

But the industry sings a different tune today. These days, artist development seems like a quaint notion. Major label artists that don’t hit it out of the park the first time don’t often get a second chance.

Recognizing that the industry landscape has changed substantially, three Canadian music biz veterans started a conversation about how they could do more to help artists. Eric Lawrence and Rob Lanni have been artist managers since the late ’80s and early ’90s, and are the co-founders and co-owners of the artist management company Coalition Music. Coalition represents such acts as Simple Plan, USS, Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Andee, and The Balconies.

“What can we do to elevate these artists that deserve a chance to be developed?” – Vel Omazic of Canada’s Music Incubator

The third man, Vel Omazic, had been a Sony Music executive for about 10 years but had been out of the biz for some time when Lawrence and Lanni sought him out.

“What was clear to the three of us was essentially that the major labels had been downsized and merged, obviously, and so the depth of their resources to invest the time to find talent, to develop that talent, was not the same,” Omazic says. “But yet, there’s all this great talent that continued to present itself to the companies, and it’s, like, ‘What can we do to elevate these artists that deserve a chance to be developed?’”

Out of that conversation came the idea for Canada’s Music Incubator, for which Omazic signed on as Executive Director. Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI) is a not-for-profit initiative that Coalition Music launched in Toronto in 2012. Its purpose is to help emerging artists, managers and other music industry professionals grow their careers into viable and sustainable businesses through networking, workshops, hands-on mentoring and collaboration with established professionals.

The Artist Entrepreneur Program is one of three incubation programs offered through CMI (the others being Tour & Tech and Artist Management) that bring participants to the Coalition Music headquarters at Victoria Park and Lawrence in Toronto. There, they interact with, and learn from, an array of experienced music industry experts on topics including marketing, management, promotion, publicity, social media, funding, touring, music law, accounting, publishing, booking, talent buying, music supervision, sound, songwriting, radio, performing rights organizations, funding bodies and more.

The program runs for 10 weeks, twice a year, in February and August. Participants are on-site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. All musical styles and genres are welcome, and artists have come from as far as Whitehorse and Newfoundland. For example, such award-winning artists as Ben Caplan and The Fortunate Ones have already benefitted from the program.

Although CMI is run as a not-for-profit, there is a $7,500 fee to enrol in the program, but each applicant is automatically eligible for scholarships of up to $5,000 thanks to CMI’s sponsors and patrons. No artist has ever had to pay the full cost, and some have been fully sponsored.

The purpose of the fee, Omazic explains, is to attract artists who have skin in the game. “It’s a cliché, but we want artists who are invested,” he says. “You have to be doing this already as your career, as your business. So we’re looking for people who are actively touring, actively releasing singles or albums.”

Omazic is also quick to point out that the program is not modeled after an academic program. This isn’t School of Rock, with Jack Black holding forth in a mortarboard cap.

“We’ve modeled ourselves on the concept of incubation – small business incubation specifically,” says Omazic. “We’re helping starter companies get their feet on the ground, and giving them some focus, giving them some direction, some guidance and some motivation. You’re coming here to work, and to move your career.

“We really emphasize the importance of songs. We can help them get their business together, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything unless they’ve put the time into their craft and have songs that are going to help them advance their career. It’s all driven by the song.”

Universal Music recording artist Andee has been driven by song since she was a youngster. Originally from the town of Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, just south of Québec City, the pop singer-songwriter burst onto the scene in 2012 as a finalist on the province’s popular singing competition TV show, Star Académie.

At the urging of her manager, she moved to Toronto in 2014 to take part in CMI’s Artist Entrepreneur program. She started in February of that year while she was in the process of getting signed to Universal Music.

“It really helped me make really important decisions for my career, especially since I was signing with a major label.” Andee says. “I didn’t know anything about a label and they helped me understand how it was going to work, and what my responsibility was in this.”

She’d been trying to stay on top of the business side of her burgeoning music career, working with an accountant and organizing a budget. “But I wasn’t really good at it,” she says, laughing. “So meeting a lot of professionals in the music industry really helped me get more organized in my business, and helped me get more confidence, too. Even if you don’t like the business side and the financial side of it, you can’t ignore it. You have to become your own boss. If you’re planning on doing this as a career, you have to know all these things.”

As for the future direction of the program, Omazic says that one of the things they’re planning to implement this year, though they’ve yet to announce it, is a way to help artists get funding to make top-notch professional recordings that can compete in the marketplace. He also foresees the program evolving with further initiatives for helping artists with marketing and promotion.

But the success of the program’s artists won’t necessarily be measured in platinum sales or top spots on the Billboard charts.

“The whole long-term goal is to develop sustainable careers and businesses,” says Omazic. “When we screen them, we talk to them and we say, ‘What is it that you’re trying to achieve here? What’s your end goal?’ And nine times out of 10 the answer is, ‘I just want to make a living doing what I love: writing, playing and performing music.’ And so that’s really the goal, is to help them achieve that.”

The Golden Years are over. These days, whether it’s marketing or developing their craft, or navigating through all the revenue stream options for their music, artists need to be more hands-on in the careers. Maybe armed with the knowledge gained from CMI’s Artist Entrepreneur program, today’s music-makers will be able to forge the best path possible within present-day circumstances.

“Nowadays, it’s a different reality,” Andee says. “So when you know what you’re doing, where the money’s going, where the money’s coming from, you have so much more confidence and freedom in what you do, because you’re on top of everything. I think that’s necessary today.”

Who will go the distance? We’ll find out in the long run. But thanks to Canada’s Music Incubator, today’s music artists can learn what they need to take it to the limit.