In The Making

Why big artists like Drake and Daft Punk love working with Chilly Gonzales

The Montreal musician says the power of harmony is the key to taking his collaborations in intriguing directions.

The musician says the power of harmony is the key to taking his collaborations in intriguing directions

(CBC Arts)

For years, the Montreal-born, self-proclaimed musical genius Chilly Gonzales has been dissecting the secret ingredients of pop hits through his famous masterclasses, while his talents as a producer, arranger and composer have led him to work with superstars such as Drake, Daft Punk, Feist and Jarvis Cocker. So what is it about Chilly Gonzales that makes him such an in-demand collaborator? Why do artists love working with him?

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Why big artists love working with Chilly Gonzales

3 years ago
2:06
"I'm able to take a very small and precise role which has to do probably with my harmonic knowledge." 2:06

Gonzales tells In the Making's Sean O'Neill that he brings a specific kind of skill to the table. "Working with people like Drake or Daft Punk or Jarvis Cocker who are sort of pre-established as icons with a clear universe...there, I'm just able to take a very small and precise role which has to do probably with my harmonic knowledge."

In music, harmony is when multiple pitches are played together, combining to create countless moods and feelings not attainable through playing one note at a time. Gonzales sees this aspect of music as something that comes less naturally than other aspects such as rhythm and melody.

In this clip from the show, Gonzales plays Bryan Adams's "Summer of 69" on the piano as an example, adding harmony to it that takes the original song in a direction more shaded with nostalgic emotion. "Harmony has so much power. It multiplies the emotional heft of the music."

In Gonzales's episode of In the Making — which you can stream now or watch Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC TV — the musician steps away from centre stage, starting his own musical school in Paris, France. The school, called The Gonzervatory, is an eight-day, all expenses paid musical training camp for emerging musicians and counts Peaches among its faculty.

What is In the Making?

In the Making is an immersive journey inside the creative process. The documentary series follows host Sean O'Neill across the country and around the world alongside some of Canada's leading artists as they bring new work to life and face pivotal moments of risk and reward. All eight episodes are available to stream online now, with individual episodes broadcasting weekly each Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC.

Each episode follows an artist from across the creative spectrum — visual art, film, music, dance, theatre — with a unique approach to art-making and something to say about the world. Sean visits artists at home, in studio, backstage, and in the field, giving viewers rare access to intimate creative spaces and inspiring moments of realization.

Watch the trailer:

Stream every episode of In the Making now, or watch Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC TV.

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