Published on February 2nd, 2016 | by Craig Silliphant0
Interview: Cœur de pirate
Craig Silliphant chats with Cœur de pirate (aka Béatrice Martin) after the release of her new album, Roses, on the eve of her cross-Canada tour.
Béatrice Martin is better known by her stage name Cœur de pirate (Heart of a pirate/Pirate’s Heart). For a francophone from Quebec that sang in French until recently, she has had a pretty good career thus far. She’s not only been popular in Quebec, but also France, and English-speaking parts of the world.
Martin is no stranger to evolving her sound, and her new album, Roses, finds her leaning into the English language to write and record. I had a chance to chat with Martin over the phone from her home last week as she embarks on a tour across Canada. We talked about how she’s changed over time, how her daughter has changed her outlook, and what the heck the press release means when it says her new album features a ‘Nordic’ sound (spoiler: she has no idea).
THE FEEDBACK SOCIETY: Why was it important to you to have a band identity instead of playing under your own name?
BEATRICE MARTIN (Coeur de pirate): Oh, that comes from a while ago. I dunno…all my favourite artists had band names for their solo projects, so it just came naturally to me. I didn’t want to do it under my name (laughs).
TFS: You have one daughter, correct?
BM: Yes, I do.
TFS: I have a kid that’s about the same age, I think. Two and a half?
BM: Oh yeah (laughs). Mine is three and a half.
TFS: Okay, so a year older than mine. It’s changed my life quite a bit, and I’m a busy guy, but I can only imagine how much it’s affected your life and career.
BM: Yeah, I mean, it changes everything. Obviously, it changes you as a person, but it does change your songwriting and your way of doing things, for sure. You can actually hear that on the album, and the last one. It’s a little more positive (laughs). Less negativity, for sure.
TFS: Do you think that your outlook is more positive after having brought a life into the world? Or is it more driven by the fact that in 20 years, your daughter will look back on your music to find clues as to who you were at this age?
BM: Oh, the second one, yeah. Well, everything, really. But yeah, I want to be an inspiration to her, to help her later on. I don’t know if she’ll listen to this music later, but I want the music to be there to help her, not to bring her down.
TFS: I know that the music scene in Quebec can be pretty insular in certain ways, self-contained, I guess. Someone can be a big star in Quebec, a household name, but unheard of anywhere else. You’re obviously popular in Quebec and beyond, but also in France, which I thought was interesting. How does being an artist doing well in France compare to doing well in Quebec?
BM: It’s kind of funny, because I started becoming a little bit more famous in France first, before making it in Quebec. I was playing these really small venues in Quebec versus what I was doing in France. It took awhile for me to get to a certain status here in my own hometown, my home province. I’m lucky, because I get to experience both, I get to play shows everywhere and it’s going great. But there’s not a lot of us that get to do that. That’s for sure. I guess I may even be the only one to do this here, from Quebec. I know like, Karkwa and some other bands, did try a little bit. There’s Celine Dion, but that’s something else. But from my generation, there’s not a lot.
TFS: And what’s also interesting is, here you are coming through Western Canada where it’s mostly English. We have a bit of a French population here, but you’re coming through predominantly English area. So, to have English-speaking fans that come out to the shows is also pretty unique and cool.
BM: For sure. I do sing in English now, so I think that helped a little bit. Just to get shows. A promoter will be less scared to book you in a town where people are speaking English if you have some English material. I think that really helped me. But I do remember playing in Folk Fests, just singing in French, and people were into it. I was like, ‘wow, okay. So maybe I can come back one day and play shows for real?’ But it’s been going great and it just shows that people are very open-minded now. I don’t think this would have been able to happen in an era pre-Spotify and pre-streaming, pre-Internet, really.
TFS: It seems like English people love to compare you to Jane Birkin. Is that annoying?
BM: I think they used to more. But not anymore.
TFS: There’s more than one woman singing in French in the world. Birkin is pretty kitschy. Was it annoying when they used to call you that?
BM: Not really (laughs). But you know, maybe the people who started listening to me first, they were into, I don’t know, like, Wes Anderson movies. And then they got to me, and my first album was very much like that. Then I kind of changed. But it’s nice to see that people follow me in my evolution are still listening to me now.
TFS: So, I know you were enrolled at the Music Conservatory of Quebec, infamously, at the age of nine. It’s funny, because in reading about you, some people liken this to you being a genius peer of Mozart. But I read something you had said, about it being more because you lacked concentration and needed a more structured environment.
BM: Yeah, that’s pretty much it (laughs). It did help me. It helped my ADD (laughs), more than anything. My mom pushed me to do this because, I think she saw something in me that I couldn’t see. When I quit piano and the Conservatory at age 14, I never thought that it would be of any use to me. I thought, ‘ah, maybe I’ll play piano later at Christmas parties or something.’ But it really helped me. It helped me when I needed to write songs and express whatever was going on inside of me. I’m grateful for that, for sure. It keeps me busy. I think that’s the main thing. It keeps me in line.
TFS: The new album is called Roses. I think you sort of answered this, but you obviously veer more into English on Roses. You mentioned that it opens up audiences, but are there also artistic reasons?
BM: Yeah, I mean, it was kind of a challenge for me, so I wanted to see if I could do it. I knew how to do it in French, I just didn’t know if I could do it in English. I didn’t know if it would be corny or stuff like that. So I just tried it, and it worked. I think.
TFS: (Laughs) Well, I think the grammar and that is pretty good. If you listen to the singer from Phoenix, the one that’s married to Sofia Coppola [Thomas Mars]…
BM: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah…
TFS: I always get a chuckle out of his broken English. It works for the songs, but he has this weird, broken English that’s kind of…cute. Did you have someone proof that stuff for you or do you just have very good English?
BM: I’m bilingual, but I did have to get it checked out. Mostly just because I’m not used to it. I also wanted it checked out to make sure that it made sense. If somebody that is English would be able to understand what I’m saying, like, the poetry, all of that. It ended up being okay.
TFS: The press release for Roses calls the music, “Nordic.” That is has a “Nordic sound.” I guess I just didn’t understand what that meant.
BM: I think they just meant, literally, because I recorded it in Sweden. I didn’t write it, so…(laughs).
TFS: (Laugh). Fair enough. Other than the language and where it was recorded, what has changed, musically?
BM: It’s a pop album. It has nothing to do with what I was doing before. It’s a progression. It makes sense with what I was doing before, but it’s so different. The piano is still there, but not really. I literally gave carte blanche to the producers. I was like, ‘you know what? Here are my songs. Do what you want to do with them.’ (laughs). I was still there, but it was their work, really. I was just confident enough in my songs and I trusted them. I was a fan of what they were doing.
TFS: The only other thing I really wanted to ask you about were your tattoos.
BM: It comes from me wanting to belong to a certain scene, back in, I dunno, 2005. I was part of a group of people that valued tattoos. I wanted to belong and it kind of stuck with me. Now I still get them. But it comes from more of a punk background.
TFS: But you said you still get them? You’re not regretful about them or anything?
BM: No, n-n-n-n-n-no. I’m married to a tattoo artist.
TFS: So how old will your daughter be when you let her get her first tattoo?
BM: Oh, she’ll wait. 18-years old like everybody (laughs).
TFS: Cool, okay, is there anything else I’ve missed that’s important, surrounding the tour or the album?
BM: I’m just excited to come to cities that I haven’t been. Or, you know, the last time I was in the prairies was like…ohhh…maybe 2010. 11? I can’t remember, but it was a long time ago.
TFS: Well, we can’t wait to have you back. Should be a good show. Thank you so much for taking the time.
BM: Cool! Thank you!