Last November, I migrated to Montreal. It was a seasonal voyage, yet unlike swans or swallows, I chose to fly straight into the snow instead of escaping it. As my new single with Montreal-native JF Robitaille suggests: We survived the winter...

I could pretend that my decision came as a weary reaction to world politics. Between Brexit and Trump Canada certainly stood out as a sane destination of choice. Or I could pretend the move was a pious pilgrimage following the death of Leonard Cohen. The last thing I did before leaving London was put together a memorial concert for the great Montreal hero. As it happened, Cohen's landmarks proved a perfect way into the city - I was led down to Our Lady Of The Harbour to watch the boats go by, I was walked up the mountain to the bench by the tennis courts where he was taught to play flamenco guitar, and I was of course taken for breakfast at Bagels Etc where he used to eat each morning.

The truth is, finding myself in Montreal was just a lucky roll of life's dice. There's always a love story to blame; the details of mine are irrelevant here, other than that they set up the framework of expectation for my relationship with the city. Of course nothing is ever quite as random as the dice would have us believe. Would I have allowed myself to follow my heart to Moscow right now? Probably not. Was there a pre-existing attraction to the bilingual city in a country with a legendary musical reputation and a smiling immigration policy? Probably, yes.

It dawned on me over the first few weeks of exploring, that as with any new love affair, a new place can only be experienced in relation to your history and hopes. I knew I had set Montreal up for failure: it was to be my refuge following a very rough year; it was a fantasy I'd built up to counter reality; a secret escape; a future full of promise. I didn't know quite what to expect, but my expectations were dangerously high. It was bound to disappoint - it was supposed to disappoint. Instead, it held its ground - surprising me in ways I could never had predicted - just as soon as I began to let it.

I see great symbolism in the fact that I arrived just as winter was digging its heels in. I was welcomed by the first snow, and it continued to fall, on and off, for four months. I was assured by everyone I met that I mustn't jump ship, that it's a different city in summer, that I was brave. In fact, the cold itself didn't bother me. Turns out even body temperature boils down to expectations. As someone who spends most of the London winter shivering, I was prepared for the worst. I'm not sure any cold could have been as cold as the one I'd imagined. Somewhere between my one million layers and hefty new snow boots I soon heard myself uttering ludicrous sentences: "Why don't we walk there? It's only minus 10 outside today!".

What I didn't account for, were the paralysing consequences of the weather - the delayed trains and cancelled plans, the dangerous roads and slippery pavements, the exhaustion of trying to get anywhere at all. I wasn't mentally prepared for the long hibernation. Don't let me exaggerate - life goes on: people go to work and to Christmas parties and even to the park (with toboggans). Yet there was a definite relinquishing of control, a fluidity to any rendezvous. It was only once I accepted that I was at the mercy of the elements that I could fully appreciate the romance of another forced evening by the fire. And in fact, perhaps winter knew better than me what I really needed: Time to process, to stay still, to curl up, to recharge, to watch movies, to fall in love. I wrote more songs in January than in the whole of 2016.

With any distance from home your perspective inevitably shifts. The weather, the slowing down, the time difference - there were various factors which added to the sensation that I was zooming out. I began to think in terms of seasons rather than abide by the precise hours and minutes that London life demands. And my world map began to shift. For the first time Europe looked like one entity - a small neighbourhood across the pond: "I'll be home in the spring. Might as well go to Spain whilst I'm in England!" The soon-to-be-lost luxury of the EU hit me even harder. Maybe I needed the emotional distance in order to record a song I wrote soon after the referendum.

Right now I'm back in Montreal for the summer. The ice has melted and romance has taken to the streets. I have to admit at first I felt a little nostalgic for the deep freeze and sparkling snow. However, the ice-cream parlours have re-opened, the parks are strewn with people, the city is celebrating its 375th birthday, and barbecue season has officially begun. There's a lot to celebrate. I've promised myself this is the summer I'll finally learn to ride a bicycle. Or at least improve my French...

'We Got It Coming', the new single from JF Robitaille & Lail Arad, is out now on Sparks Music / Universal.