Canadian Songwriters Without Borders

Making their mark on the world map
By Vince Degiorgio

The day and age of the Canadian songwriter being a stay-at-home troubadour going from coast-to-coast has changed over the years. Far from the strictly self-contained writer atmosphere that once dominated domestic releases, tunesmiths here in Canada are writing more and more for artists outside our shores.

Here are three inspiring examples:

Andy Stochansky
Andy Stochansky

Andy Stochansky: Los Angeles

Some have followed the global exodus to Los Angeles or elsewhere to pursue their dreams of becoming fulltime writers. Such is the case with Andy Stochansky. The Toronto-born Stochansky was originally signed to RCA Victor Records in Los Angeles as an artist.

“Signing direct with a U.S. label was the farthest thing from my mind,” says Stochansky from his Los Angeles area home. “I’d done so many shows in Canada – so many people were interested. But nobody bit.  I wasn’t making any dents where the major labels in Canada were concerned.” So, he signed with RCA Victor Records in Los Angeles as an artist. And then landed with Chrysalis Music Publishing as a full time writer.

His move to LA was imminent: “I quickly realized that it would be great if I moved here. This way they would think of me and send me artists and other writers to work with. Being in the same place would help cement that relationship.”

When the follow up to his critically acclaimed debut Five Star Motel album 100 was set to be released, he suddenly found himself without a label. But his undeniable knack for a great song did not desert him. Two of the songs from 100 ended up connecting with Australian Idol winner Shannon Noll. “Shine”, culled from that ill-fated sophomore effort, ended up striking gold and beyond for Andy — when the song rocketed to No.1 on their airplay chart. It stayed there for 11 weeks. How it got there was a classic case of “they had finished the record and they were looking for THE single”

Andy recalls: “Ross Fraser from Sony Music Australia was in town looking for songs. Matthew Gerrard, my Canadian co-writer on “Shine”, pitched the song to Ross. And that’s how it happened! It overlapped into a cut with Aussie belter, Vanessa Amarosi.

With his artist career now part of his creative tenure and not the dominating force, Andy parlayed his writing efforts into songs for feature films such as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, TV shows such as Hawaii 5-0, and cuts with America’s Lee Dewyze, boy band icon Ronan Keating of Boyzone and an ongoing collaboration with the Goo Goo Dolls.


Amalia Townsend: Sweden

While some transition into writing, the electric Amalia Townsend combined and chased her writing and performing dreams instead.

Her first domestic steps were with the jazzy fusionistas, Sekoya.

“We just networked ourselves,” recalled Amalia on her B.C. beginnings. “Our debut album scored a Juno nomination in contemporary jazz category in 2004. We didn’t win, but it got us a lot of attention.”

But fate wouldn’t twist her and her bandmates in the right direction. “We had everyone knocking on our doors but instead of opening them up for us, they told us we didn’t fit into a box they knew how to market.”

So international markets beckoned instead. And so did Townsend’s solo career. “The band moved to different places around the world after two albums. We didn’t split up — everybody just moved. So I did too,” she says laughing.

Her next move was to bolt from her native Vancouver for an equally hockey mad locale: Stockholm. And she connected with DJ/house producer, Opolopo, working with him on his second album, blitzing through a South East Asian tour and staying in the Swedish capital for five years. Described as the love child of Parliament Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell and legendary superstar Chaka Khan, her artistic, fusion-dripping videos are not just songs, but four-minute events. Munich based Tokyo Dawn Records has released two albums for her.

And then Canada called her home.

“When I came back, I felt like I had to start from scratch again. I almost turned my back on music. But I reconnected with so many organizations and foundations that supported me from the beginning. It’s been mind blowing that I finally have come home to a different Canada. It’s far more of a global industry because the Internet has made the music world truly, a world.”

James Bryan
James Bryan

James Bryan: London

Cementing his love for British music, James Bryan ended up in London.

“It was one of those random things that I ended up here. It was always in my mind that I had to get to London and make some music,” says James. “When the retro soul came up with Amy Winehouse and Duffy it seemed the right thing to do.”

He met with music impresario Michael Dixon at a party at the Feldman Agency. And then he got on a plane and an initial visit to London followed.

“Within an hour, it felt like home. Mike had signed Rita Ora to a production deal at the time. We wrote a song with her. It worked out great, and because of that, Michael kept inviting me back.”

After a number of visits, the inevitable happened. He also retained the support of Sony ATV Music Publishing Canada who have supported and published him, in his words “for half of my life.”

Known first and foremost as a member of the Philosopher Kings and Prozzak, along with collaborator of Nelly Furtado, Bryan landed in London and had to be ready to work. “I was definitely starting from scratch. I was a newbie. But the fact that I walked into the community at Kensal Town Studios helped me make that giant leap. There are 10 studios here. I’m now based in Paul Epworth’s old room.  And if you recognize the name, it’s because he’s the collaborator of Adele’s blockbuster hits.”

Bryan’s most recent cuts with Lisa-Marie Presley, Japanese superstar Bonnie Pink and Yuna have added even more visibility to his career as one of Canada’s key writing exports. James has also written for Syco’s global pop darling Olly Murs, co-penning “Sophie” for him and also landing two cuts on the latest album by the come-backing Backstreet Boys, with fellow Canadians Justin Nozuka and Kyle Riabko collaborating on the songs “Try” and “Trust Me”, respectively

Like L.A., many Canadians see London as a possible destination.

A little free advice from Bryan will surprise you. “Do your homework first,” he says with a laugh. “I came here five or six times before I moved here and it’s easy enough to do that these days — you can meet people online.”    One other rule for Canadians? “Hold on to that accent! It’s exotic here, and it works! We’ve been here four years and it feels great.”

Vince Degiorgio is a hit songwriter and owns both Chapter 2 Music Productions Inc., and The Cymba Music Publishing Company.