Grammy Awards: 'Everything is Awesome' for Canadian songwriters stateside

Canadian songwriters seem to be doing better than ever stateside, including a number of nods at Sunday's music awards. Industry insiders explain why this boom is happening now.

Joshua Bartholomew, who co-wrote the Lego Movie ear-worm, is just one Canuck up for gold on Sunday

Grammys and Oscar nods for Josh Bartholomew

8 years ago
Duration 2:34
Canadian songwriter Josh Bartholomew tells CBC's Deana Sumanac-Johnson how he came to create Everything is Awesome for The Lego Movie.

When the Grammy Awards are handed out on Sunday, Arcade Fire and Drake will be among the performers taking a shot at pop music's biggest honour. But some Canadians on the Grammy nomination list are powerhouses behind the scenes.

Joshua Bartholomew co-wrote the ubiquitous ear-worm Everything is Awesome from The Lego Movie.

The tune, performed by fellow Canucks Tegan and Sara, is nominated for best song for visual media.

"The word I keep coming back to is surreal, that something I had worked on had achieved something so great," Bartholomew told CBC from his Los Angeles studio.

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Bartholomew is not the only Canadian songwriter with a Grammy connection this year.

Chin Injeti co-wrote many songs on Eminem's Grammy-nominated album The Marshall Mathers LP 2It's Injeti's second collaboration with the rapper (the first, Recovery, won a best rap album Grammy in 2011).

Injeti was primarily responsible for coming up with groovy melodic backdrops for Eminem to drop his aggressive lyrics onto.

He learned all about melodic grooves in the 1990s as one of the members of the Juno-winning R&B band Bass is Base.

"Writing for yourself, you just make music that you really wouldn't make for anyone else," said ​Injeti from his studio in Vancouver.

You are digging into your own heart and soul and experience. When you are writing for someone else, you do the same because that's when the best songs come out."

Golden age for Canadian songwriters 

Injeti and Bartholomew are in good company: Canadian songwriters appear to be going through a bit of a golden age.

While individual Canadian songwriters have found success south of the border throughout the decades, the current crop of songsmiths is especially voluminous and performing at a high level across various genres of music.

Ontario-born composer/producer Stephan Moccio co-wrote Miley Cyrus's mega-hit Wrecking Ball.

It was a Halifax-born songwriter, Henry "Cirkut" Walter, who helped Katy Perry write 2013's Roar. Walter is currently working with Anaconda rapper Nicki Minaj and Adam Levine's pop rock band Maroon 5.

Canadians are also churning out the country tunes in Nashville. Bracebridge​, Ont.'s Deric Ruttan, who is well-known for his own music within Canada, was nominated for a Grammy last year for co-writing Blake Shelton's songs.

Eric Baptiste, CEO of Canada's Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN), says this country's songwriters are particularly multi-skilled, making them indispensable in foreign markets.

"In Canada, we have a country that is huge in geographic terms but it's small in population and industries. 

''In order to be successful in Canada, you need to be able to do many things. You need to kind of be a jack-of-all-trades"- Eric Baptiste, SOCAN

And when you're able to cross over to a bigger market, like to a European market or a U.S. market, you stand out, because you are better at many things than people are in bigger markets, where people very quickly specialize."

SOCAN's statistics back this up.  In 2014, Canadian songwriters made $55 million in foreign royalties, more than in any other year of the organization's existence.

Canadians play well with others

Joshua Bartholomew partially attributes it to the legendary politeness and diplomacy of Canadians. In the pop world, where a hit song can have up to 10 songwriters, playing well with others is a key skill.

"We have such a great multicultural community in Canada and everyone gets along. Living in America now, and spending so much time with Americans, you get the old, 'Oh, you're so polite, you're from Canada, of course,'" says Bartholomew.  "I think it's true! We are open to so many different ideas and inspirations and that helps round out the final outcome."

Bartholomew says he and other Canadian songwriters working in Los Angeles are proud of the tradition they're representing. But maintaining that level of success means staying south of the border, and Bartholomew also has personal reasons.

His California-born wife, Lisa Harriton, is also one of the co-writers of Everything is Awesome.

"I met the love of my life here, I've been able to make music every day and do what I love–it's been great," says Bartholomew.

Harriton and Bartholomew will find out if their hard work pays off when the Grammy Awards are handed out on Sunday.

Everything is Awesome is also vying for the award for best original song in a motion picture at the 2015 Oscars.


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