Coeur de pirate’s universal appeal

Stereotypes can be hard to overcome, especially in the music business.

Stereotypes can be hard to overcome, especially in the music business. So, we see a 19-year-old woman covered in tattoos and expect her to strap on a guitar and start sneering, like any true punk.

“I really hope [audiences] do get the wrong idea,” Béatrice Martin says, smiling. “I wish I was in a punk band, but, fortunately or unfortunately it isn’t the case.”

In Martin’s case, it’s fortunate. Though she’s heavily painted, her music couldn’t be any further from what people might think upon first glance. Using the name Coeur de pirate, Martin writes piano-driven chanson française in a classic, romantic style akin to legendary Parisian crooner Jacques Brel.

But Coeur de pirate is far from old hat. A classically trained pianist, Martin has the songwriting chops to compete with stars like Adele and Feist, and a self-titled album brimming with teenage angst.

“(The album) is breaking up with myself as a teenager,” she says. “It’s breaking up with whatever’s left of the negativity I had to go through at the time.

“Those songs represent different stories, fragments from my teenage years, boys pissing me off, nothing more really... whatever counts when you’re 15, I guess.”

These songs have made her a sensation of sorts. Photographer Francis Vachon used Ensemble for a time-lapse video of his baby playing that became a YouTube hit and got mentions on Good Morning America and Perez Hilton.

They’ve also earned her a Juno nomination, as well as spots on the Polaris Music Prize long list and this weekend’s Virgin Festival Ontario line up.

Being a francophone artist has not proven to be a problem for the Quebec-based singer-songwriter, who has taken her music all over the world in the last year.

“I’ve had amazing experiences so far,” she says. “I feel like people really appreciate what I do, even if sometimes they don’t fully understand what I say. And that’s magic to me.”

While her schedule does focus a lot on Quebec and France, which are the obvious primary markets for her music, Martin says Coeur de pirate has universal appeal. “Like anywhere in the world, there’s no guaranteed success anywhere,” she says. “I think if people elsewhere like French music, they’ll hear about me somehow. I’ve sold CDs elsewhere, and I’ll play shows eventually as Coeur de pirate in countries where French doesn’t exist. I’m actually beyond excited to do so.”