Leon Bridges seems completely overwhelmed by the attention he’s been receiving—and for good reason. Just two years ago, the singer was crooning for co-workers while working part-time at two restaurants in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dancing across the stage, long blonde hair twirling, and barefooted no less, Joss Stone is a mesmerizing presence at Montreal’s Métropolis club.

Audiences clearly adore Ludovico Einaudi, if the demands for encores and multiple standing ovations—which greeted him on his most recent North American tour—are any indication. Accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra, the Italian pianist and composer is expanding his popularity everywhere he goes.

On the strength of his appeal to a largely French-speaking audience, Roch Voisine has sold an incredible 12 million records since his career began in 1986 and delighted audiences globally with his sophisticated pop music.

It would be easy to dismiss Gotye as just another contemporary pop star appearing out of nowhere before quickly vanishing—but his career has a foundation. The ubiquitous “Somebody That I Used to Know” certainly propelled him upward.

Hello Paul, this is Julio,” a voice on the phone announces in an unmistakably Spanish accent. “What can I tell you about me that people will want to know?” It’s a most unusual introduction and quite unexpected. For one thing, Julio Iglesias has dialed Canada 10 minutes earlier than planned, almost as if 1, a double CD released August 28 in Canada, is launching his career.

The rain’s pouring down as Susan Tedeschi walks along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue holding an umbrella aloft. Three middle-aged men spot her from the shelter of a nearby sports bar, dash out onto the street requesting autographs and are delighted when she happily obliges.

John Butler spent years busking on the streets of Fremantle in Western Australia, which helped refine his guitar technique and taught him the art of performance. “It taught me a lot about the music industry,” he says. “You are the performer, you are the writer, you record it, and then you are the producer. You do the whole thing.”

As Joss Stone tells it, 2011 was meant to be a year filled with road trips across Europe in her 1966 Volkswagen camper van, leisurely strolls through the hills near her home in Devon County in southwestern England, and time spent baking coconut and lime cupcakes. So much for the best-laid plans. Instead, the Grammy Award–winning soul singer released her fifth studio album, entitled LP1.

Plummeting sales have beset the music industry, yet American pop singer Josh Groban retains a loyal worldwide following. The 30-year-old is anything but complacent. “It’s sobering to say the least. It’s a song-by-song industry now,” says Groban. “People aren’t really buying whole albums. I am really lucky that I have a fan base that is still interested in the whole record.”