Even if Lisa Lavie hadn't racked up 1.5 million YouTube views of her song "Angel," in just a week, it would still be clear that the Internet phenomenon was born to sing.
Growing up in a suburb of Montréal called LaSalle, Lisa loved music so much that she would spend hours holed up in her room listening to her favorite singer, Mariah Carey, as well as Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight.
Lisa didn't have to go far to find musical heroes; they were right at home. Her brother Danny built a strong following in Montreal as DJ Devious, and Michael was a respected hip hop dancer on the streets.
Lisa had her aha! moment as a child. She was 10. "The teacher wanted everyone to audition for our school play. Everybody was supposed to sing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' I was hiding because I did not want to sing. I started singing and when I stopped, the teacher said, 'Continue.' I did, and when I finished he said, 'You got the part.' I ran home saying, 'Mom, I can sing!'"
Fueled by encouragement and her passion for music, Lisa landed her first real music gig at 15. Danny got her an audition to perform as a backup vocalist on the tour of the landmark French-Canadian hip hop group Dubmatique. She nailed it, and spent months touring Canada with one the country's most popular groups.
"It was amazing," she says of the experience. "Every night, we're playing for thousands and thousands of people." She was hooked. "I knew this was what I wanted to do full time, however I didn't know what avenues to take to make that happen."
Lisa was out of a job when the tour ended, but it wasn't enough to keep her away from her true love. She recorded a demo with the $5,000 she'd saved from working as a cashier. Then, at just 19, Lisa became co-owner of Montreal's then-biggest karaoke company "Harmony Karaoke," even supervising a staff of 12. "I loved it! I loved the great singers and the terrible singers and the what-the-hell singers."
And here's where the fairy tale gets good.
A copy of Lisa's demo exchanged hands until it landed in the palms of songwriter and producer Ben Margulies. Margulies is well-known for his contributions to the debut project of a Mariah Carey, who – yup – just happened to be Lisa's musical idol. Impressed with Lisa's emotional, smoky voice, Margulies began reaching out to her, but she figured it had to be a hoax. "I ignored the phone calls. Everybody knew I grew up listening to Mariah, and now somebody is calling me saying Mariah's producer wants to work with you? I thought it was bull." Three months later, Ben – calling from a private number – finally got through. She sang her song "Guys Are All The Same" from her demo over the phone to him while at a mall; when she was done, asked her to come to California so they could record. "I Googled him to make sure he was legit. Then I looked up my cousin Lyne and said, 'Pack your bags – we're going to California tomorrow."
That was roughly three years ago – Lisa has been in Santa Barbara ever since, immersing herself in the crafts of songwriting, singing and recording. Early reaction has been so favorable that two songs have appeared in major motion pictures: "Mockingbird" and "If I Only Knew," were in "The Guardian" with Kevin Costner and "Stick It" with Jeff Bridges, respectively. In spring of 2007, Lisa began posting videos online. She got 1.5 million hits in a week. Today, her videos have received over 3.5 million hits.
Armed with a stimulating album, the Internet phenomenon is plotting her next musical move.
"The great thing about MySpace and YouTube is that it's kind of a test. We know people like it. People are recording versions of my song back to me, and when that happens, you know you've got something."
So if you think you overhear someone say "C'est la vie" – listen closely. He or she may not be speaking French, but telling you about the Internet's breakout new star. Say Lavie!
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