Béatrice Martin may record as Coeur de Pirate (aka, heart of a pirate), but her new album, Blonde, could be subtitled "Heart on Her Sleeve." At first listen, it's sunny-sounding, '60s-influenced, piano-based pop that builds on the winning formula of her 2008 eponymous debut: hooky keys, winking vocals and catchy choruses. But even her non-French speaking fans can't help but pick up on a few lyrical cues that something has made the 22-year-old blonde more than a little blue. "I was kind of invisible when I was a teenager," Martin says. "I didn't really have a lot of friends. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. Then all of a sudden I was releasing a record and everybody knew who I was, especially in Quebec. Suddenly everyone knows your story and it's so weird!"
That sudden fame brought its own strange loneliness, Martin says. On top of the innate learning curve of growing up from an 18-year-old into a 22-year-old, she says she didn't have a clue about boys or managing friendships. And then she had to deal with falling in and out of love in the public eye. "I started getting attached to people who could understand where I was coming from, and the bad part was I was falling in love with these people and I wanted to learn everything from them, and that pretty much set the tone for Blonde."
Martin's reluctant to name her heartbreak, but concedes that it's pretty obvious to whom she's referring: Jay Malinowski, the singer/guitarist for reggae-rock outfit Bedouin Soundclash, and Martin's collaborator on their short-lived indie pop band Armistice. "It's really just a tribute to him," Martin muses. "It was really complicated and I was just pushing him away all the time because I was so scared of being lonely. I really talk about that in the songs."
She laughingly says she's her own worst enemy, but she's working through her insecurities. "I cope with it through writing and that's really what happened [with Blonde]."
News Nov 11 2011
Three years ago, Coeur de Pirate's eponymous debut became one of the few French-language albums in Canada to become a crossover hit with English speakers, thanks in part to singer-songwriter Béatrice Martin's modern, youthful twist on the timeless art of piano-driven pop. Her follow-up album, the recently released Blonde, finds 22-year-old Martin all grown up, delving deep into the '60s for influences from the Beatles and the Beach Boys, crafting sunny-sounding tunes about heartbreak and loneliness.
"I was thrown into an adult world quite quickly," Martin tells Exclaim! from her home base of Montreal. "I was kind of invisible when I was a teenager. I didn't really have a lot of friends. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. Then all of a sudden I was releasing a record and everybody knew who I was, especially in Quebec. And suddenly everyone knows your story and it's so weird."
She admits that on the surface it would seem as if she had it all after Coeur de Pirate came out. She wanted to fit in and please people, so she attended everything and in return everyone told her she was wonderful.
"I felt really lonely at times," she laughs, ruefully. "Not a lot of people understand that, because they're all like, 'This is so great! You should be livin' the life!' And it was more complicated than that. Through all of it, I didn't really know how to act with boys and keep friends because I was always away. I started getting attached to people who could understand where I was coming from, and the bad part was when I was falling in love with these people and I wanted to learn everything from them, and that pretty much set the tone for Blonde."
The main person she fell in love with was Bedouin Soundclash's Jay Malinowski, with whom she briefly collaborated with as Armistice. She declines to talk specifics about the breakup, but says that the relationship acts as Blonde's throughline, and at first, the songs were written just for her to vent and try to move on, though it took a couple of tries to make it stick.
"There was an angry moving on," Martin laughs. "There's a trying to win back the other person moving on, which is not really moving on, but still. I've been through a couple of phases, especially with this one. I'm really not bitter when it comes to what happened between -- it's fine. It's really just a tribute to him, or how I love too much, maybe? I love too much, but I wasn't even there. It was really complicated and I was just pushing him away all the time because I was so scared of being lonely. I really talk about that in the songs."
Well, if you can understand them. But even if you're not fluent in French, there's a melancholy that lingers just beneath the surface of many of the songs, even though sonically the album is arguably one of the happiest, swingy-iest, warmest kiss-offs yet. Particularly since the album ends on an emotional high note: a song inspired by her current boyfriend and a welcome forecast to the future. Martin is actively working to make sure her romantic past doesn't repeat itself.
"I was my own worst enemy, it was terrible!" she laughs. "Now how I deal with it is I ask, 'Is this what I want for myself?' Do I want something that will make me feel uncomfortable and insecure, or do I want something that will make me feel better and good and wanted and loved? I think that's just something you have to deal with on your own. But I like to cope with it through writing and that's really what happened [with Blonde]."
Blonde is out now on Grosse Boite, and Coeur de Pirate plays Toronto's Mod Club tonight (November 11).