Coeur de Pirate discusses her new album Roses, her soundtrack work and her love for television during a chat before a show in New York.
In 2014 and 2015, I filtered through my Playstation backlog and tackled a few critically acclaimed games that were sitting on my console's hard drive -- some big budget and some indie. Many of the titles featured outstanding musical scores rivaling anything in Hollywood. Last of Us featured yearning musical cues composed by Gustavo Santaolalla (and the score was released on vinyl exclusively from Mondo). Austin Wintory created a magnificent score for the wordless quest in Journey.
Then there was Child of Light with a score composed by Coeur de Pirate ("Aurora's Theme" is the beautiful, tranquil standout) whom I presumed strictly composed the soundtrack and background music. But I was mistaken. Coeur de Pirate is the alias for Canadian musician Béatrice Martin, a singer-songwriter who has done tours throughout Europe and North America. Martin's original pop songs were primarily in the French language before Child of Light's developers hired her for the instrumental score.
In the latter half of 2015, Martin released her third proper full length album, Roses, before touring again. I unfortunately missed her New York show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, but when she returned to the city in 2016 for a show at the Highline Ballroom, I made sure I was there.
We had a chance to talk with Martin before her show to discuss her work on Child of Light, her songcraft in French and English, and her newest album Roses. You'll find the interview below followed by a few photos from Martin's performance.
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How did you get involved in Child of Light?
Child of Light happened at a point in my life where it was nice because I didn’t have much going on. It’s a very long process. Ubisoft is based in Montreal. They had a few artists in mind to do the music for the game and when I said I was interested they picked me. That was fun; I had just given birth, I had a lot of free time on hand, and I was really happy that they recognized my talent as a composer -- not just a singer/songwriter or somebody that does pop songs.
I was really there from the beginning; when they contacted me they only had blue boards, you know, and they were, like, we need four main theme songs for the four worlds, we need three declamations -- because we need a battle theme, a boss theme, a walk theme – a different declamation for a different world. It was a lot of work, but I’m really glad I got do it, and it’s very moving when you get to see your work on – especially in that video game.
Some fans found changes in the game and the released versions of the "Boss Battle Theme", could you clarify?
I didn’t like the choir. They added that, I guess, for the game. They wanted that – I… it wasn’t part of my plan and so that’s probably why in the CD it’s not there.
They wanted to release the soundtrack. I mean, it wasn’t really my intention either, they wanted to do it just for people to have something. It’s been doing really well, especially in streaming and on Internet radio. For that I’m super happy about it. I think you needed the object just to say you have the music on the CD.
Did Romy [her daughter] impact the music for the character Aurora?
Yeah, of course. I think that’s what was awesome about it. [Aurora] grows up throughout the game and she’s on this personal quest and the lead character is a girl -- all of the that kind of resonated with what I was going through; the fact that I had just given birth to a girl. Obviously what I do now, I always think about her, my daughter. I want to do a project that will empower her. It’s either Coeur de Pirate or the stuff I do on the side -- it has to mean something for her.
You previously released a soundtrack for Trauma with covers in English, was that your first attempt to sing in English?
I did an EP before, too, with a band called The Bronx. Do you know them at all? They’re kind of a hardcore band. They do this thing called Mariachi El Bronx, which is really cool.
So I did an EP with them, a project called Armistice, and it was very short lived. I did that with my ex-boyfriend and that was my first English adventure. I don’t think I was confident back then to be okay, I’ll do this now: sing in English. But the Trauma thing did help me and it helped me place my voice to see what I was able to do.
Do you have a favorite cover on Trauma?
I like the “Slow Show” cover from The National. It’s one of my favorite songs anyways. I mean, to do that and to do my own version of it… I was really happy to do that.
Roses is both in French and English. Does English help broaden your potential audience?
I don’t know, I think it has something to do with the fact that I was playing shows in the States a little bit and I had all these people coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, we love what you do but we have to go to Google Translate to understand what you’re saying.’ And I was like, okay, that’s great that you love what I do in French but I wanted to give them something more direct and it’s easier to book shows in other countries if you can defend your project in a language that people will understand. Promoters won’t get like, ehh, you know?
I understand that completely. It did help me, I got to play shows in cities where I didn’t think I could play before. So, it’s fun; it’s good.
"Carry On" was my first song in English. I had a lot of stuff written in English before the French stuff, for sure. But I’m very proud of the French songs on that record, too. It comes from a different place; I’m a completely different person. It’s nice to see that evolution. I think the fans like it, too. I hope so. (laughs)
Oceans and water are notable themes on Roses, could you please explain?
It’s not the ocean but there’s a river. There’s a river that eventually becomes the ocean. For me, the comparison to water… it’s such a beautiful thing, right? It can be so destructive but so peaceful at the same time. Montreal’s an island, so basically we’re surrounded by water anyways, I kind of grew up with that feeling: being stuck on an island in a certain sense. I love the fact that the movement of water defines who we are as well. It’s something continuous and always inside of us.
"Oceans Brawl" -- I like the idea of oceans colliding. It only happens in one spot, too, which is Cape Horn. That song talks about… I was dating somebody on the West Coast and I’m very East Coast. He was always saying how he wanted to go back to the Pacific Ocean and I was like, 'but I live on the opposite side of the country. You can’t do this to me'. Both of our worlds were colliding.
I remember facing the Pacific Ocean not knowing where I was going to be; and then I wrote this song. I mean, it’s a stretch but it makes sense.
Of course relationship themes are also featured prominently.
Roses is basically the transition between who I was before and the person I am now. I think it’s very much an album about growing up and how we’re not nostalgic anymore; we don’t care about anything anymore. We move on from one thing to another and forget all the time. I talk a lot about forgetting and how we forget each other’s names and we don’t mind; we’ll move on anyways.
It’s a very different mindset compared to the bands I was listening to -- like somebody broke up with you and it’s the end of the world (laughs). I feel like now we’re so different. People listen to EDM -- that’s our thing now. Which is fine, you know, I like EDM, too. But I hope one day we’ll have PJ Harveys again and stuff like that.
How does Roses empower Romy?
[Romy will] be four in September. I think confidence is the hardest thing to build when you’re a girl. It starts from your parents and everything you do. I can see how it’ll be hard for her later on. You can be strong willed but it’ll still be a battle constantly… you’ll see that, too! (laughs)
I wrote this song called "Crier Tout Bas" a while back. Like everybody, I think I’ve been dealing with depression. Sometimes, especially when you’re doing this kind of job and you’re very lonely at times. I wanted to write a song that was basically a lending hand.
So I wrote this song… what do I say? I say, 'Et si la terre est sombre, et si la pluie te noie' which is, 'If the earth gets dark and if you feel like the rain is drowning you, you know you can always talk to me'. That was my song to her. I felt like I needed to write something that would reassure her later. Not just sad stuff; so she’ll be like 'what’s wrong with you, Mom? Were you sad?' (laughs). No, she changed everything.
In other interviews, you've expressed fondness for television.
I love TV. I watch everything. I’m a huge fan of Mad Men and I really like The Walking Dead but I feel like right now it’s not as good as it could be. They have really strong moments in the TV series. I really liked the first season of The Affair. I thought it was so well written. What else? Obviously The Wire, it was a big part of my life. And The Sopranos as well.
I watch a lot of TV because we’re on tour but it’s really what I love. If I could write for TV, I would do it.
Are there more soundtracks in your future?
I hope so. It’s great when TV series and movies associate with one composer and one singer/songwriter. I was watching Tarzan with my daughter and the soundtrack with Phil Collins is really good. It’s nice when they don’t make the animals sing and they make him sing the whole time.