Béatrice Martin released her debut album as Coeur de Pirate at the bitter end of adolescence. Eighteen is a vulnerable year at the best of times, nevermind spending it handing your life in part over to the public, but with the success of the self-titled album at home and abroad in places like France and Switzerland, that’s exactly what the Quebec singer/songwriter did.
Three years later, Martin is back with Blonde, an album rich in growth both personally and musically, and the title certainly speaks to the former—Blonde, more than a sly nod to the superficiality of appearance, translates to ‘girlfriend’ in English, covering much of the subject matter on the record. Inspired not only by relationships come and gone (including her higher-profile one with Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski), but figuring them out in the first place, especially in the face of a swelling career, Martin admits the raw material makes it harder to distance yourself from what others think.
“You want it to do well, especially this album. It’s so close to me,” she says via phone from Montreal. “These are stories that are very, very fresh. I want people to relate, and sometimes you’re wondering, ‘I hope people will find themselves in those songs.’”
It’s worth the effort for English-language fans to do a bit of translating of the French lyrics, but much like other Quebec acts to transcend those borders in the past few years (Malajube, Karkwa), Martin hopes her music, the tone, or voice can help people relate or engage in some way. Even once you’re into the words, Martin’s sorrows are easily hidden in the detailed, colourful piano pop of Blonde, a sound rooted in 1960s French pop and revitalized here with the help of acclaimed producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Wooden Sky). While his resume might have been a no-brainer, Martin also says his experience came in handy during some of the more unexpected moments.
“To have a solid follow up, you need someone who knows what they’re actually doing, and who calms me down, because I was freaking out,” she laughs. “Recording a second album is a really hard task, I’m not going to lie. It was a lot of pressure. From having the success I had with the first one, you know…it was bigger than I had expected, that’s what I’m trying to say.”
While recent collaborations include a standout track with Bedouin Soundclash on their most recent album, the collaborative Armistice EP (again with Malinoswki), and a duet with Sam Roberts on Blonde‘s “Loin d’ici,” Martin has also dabbled much further outside of her current sonic sphere—she played keyboards for a post-hardcore band, December Strikes First, as a teenager. Her punk roots may not have a place in her music anymore, but she maintains that they certainly put her on the right path.
“People are not shredding their guitars on my songs and I’m not screaming now,” she laughs, “but I remember when I was 15, 16, listening to the bands that were part of our scene, like Cancer Bats, and Comeback Kid—that’s really one of the first times I felt like I belonged somewhere. I think that really sets the tone to your musical identity afterwards.”
If anything, that room to grow is what Martin might need most of all. “You want people to accept your changes. I’ve changed a lot in the past three years,” she says. “I’m not the same girl.”