Ride the wave
by ERIK LEIJON
Nineteen-year-old francophone pianist-singer-songwriter Béatrice Martin, aka Coeur de Pirate, could be the most talked about swashbuckler outside of Somalia. Beloved as a de facto torchbearer, bringing la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youth, and equally reviled due to her shocking ascent from Sing Sing employee and Bonjour Brumaire keyboardist to one of the province’s hottest acts, Martin remains your typical girl in her late teens—still thinking about her adolescent years but ready to move on to adulthood.
“I felt it was important to talk about my teenage years on the album because I needed to get that weight off my shoulders and my heart,” says Martin. “I never knew I could write [personal songs] until I started, but it came very easily to me.”
The Coeur de Pirate project loosely began in March 2007, when the classically trained pianist took up playing again after quitting conservatory lessons at 14. Her temporary gig as a hired keyboardist with another current hot property of the Quebec music scene, Bonjour Brumaire, started later that year and ended last April when it was clear Coeur de Pirate had a future. “I asked my boss at Sing Sing if I could do a show because they had a piano, and I couldn’t believe it when 150 people showed up,” she recalls. After that inaugural January ’08 show, the buzz surrounding her debut record has been eclipsed in volume only by the number of tattoos Martin has added to her now-covered arms.
She’s already performed at Francofolies, Osheaga and as the opener for the recent M for Metropolis local showcase. Her eponymous debut has been a fixture on the francophone top 10 list since its launch in September. Even though, at first listen, it’s not a huge leap from the distinctly French-influenced songwriter fare out there, Martin represents the young Québécoise who listened to anglo-dominated emo and punk music only a few short years ago, yet decided to stick with her roots instead of emulating her peers.
“I’m doing my part to keep the language alive for a little bit longer,” she says about singing in French. “Even in Quebec and France, not a lot of people sing in French anymore, even if their English sucks. I didn’t even listen to French music when I was a teenager, because at 14, you’re rebelling and you think it’s lame.”
Success has come at such a rapid clip. Martin is still finishing off her DEC at CEGEP Jean-de-Brébeuf and is thinking about attending university, although she admits her blossoming music career has put a temporary halt to those plans. Becoming the hot-button issue among Quebec’s hyperbolic music mavens has also led to some pretty scathing criticisms from those expecting her simple music to match the impossible hype. “It was really hard at first, because I got thrown into this and I really didn’t know to react to people who said bad things about me or my music. I had given my all to my music, only to have people shit on it.”
Although the music may be personal, Martin stills prefers working under the Coeur de Pirate pseudonym, saying the name was an inside joke that developed meaning later on. “A pirate is someone who doesn’t care about anything, and I think that’s similar to musicians in general. They write about what they feel and don’t expect anything in return.”
AT THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF
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