Coeur de Pirate Seeks to Capture American Fans - in English and French
There have been a handful of French-Canadian musicians who have successfully made the transition from French-language recording artist to singing in English. Celine Dion, say.
But when Dion - who was immensely popular as a Francophone musician - made the leap, it came with huge controversy in her native Quebec, where language is often a politically charged issue. Montreal native Béatrice Martin hopes that in her transition, she gathers many new fans in the United States, while holding onto the loyal listeners she's earned while singing in French.
Martin sings as Coeur de pirate ("Pirate's Heart" in English). Her new album, "Roses," features nine songs in English and four in French. "I was scared at first," she says, "are [my fans] going to call me a sell-out? And I think it's going well. Nobody turned their back on me."
"Roses" came out late last year in Canada. It was due for a wider release in the United States, but Coeur de pirate was among the collateral damage caused when a partnership between two American record companies came to an abrupt end.
Nevertheless, the album still has the strong support of its Canadian label and is finding its way into this country. And Coeur de pirate's February tour brought her to the Midwest for the first time.
She played to large crowds in both Chicago and Minneapolis - crowds that included many Americans who found Martin through her past, French-only records. "I remember [years ago] playing shows in New York with no one backing me, no promotion," she says. "And the show would be sold out. I really owe that to the people who - even if they didn't understand what I was talking about - would still show up."
"Roses" also adds some new, more electronic, dimensions to Martin's music, expanding on her strengths as a writer and pianist. The changes parallel changes in Martin's life. The 26-year old had some stormy, tumultuous years early in her career. Today, she's married and the mother of a three-year old daughter.
And while the album does not ignore the past conflicts in her life, Martin says having a child leads her to view those difficult times through a different lens. "She's making me the songwriter that I wasn't before," she contends.
"I have a way of seeing things that is so different - very introspective and still positive. I used to be very vengeful - taking jabs at my ex-boyfriends and being so angry all the time. And I guess I needed to do that at the time. And now, [my daughter] has brought this whole inner-search theme out in me, and I think it's great."
One thing that hasn't changed - and won't - is the name Coeur de pirate, which she originally chose as, yes, a jab at an ex-boyfriend. But Martin says the name will stay, despite the calmer times in her personal life. "I asked myself, is that still relevant? But you know what? It's what makes me - when people in America say, 'You know, I like Coeur de pirate,' it sounds pretty cool and I think it adds to the mystery of it all."