Maxim Meyer-Horn

21 Jul

Charlotte Cardin: “I Felt Free While Making ‘Phoenix’ Because We Weren’t Limiting Ourselves”

Canadian singer Charlotte Cardin grew up in a bilingual environment, which explains why she’s fluent in French and English and explores both languages in her music. After touring through Europe, the US, and Canada with her first two EPs, she worked on her debut album. ‘Phoenix’ is a heartwarming and pure album that centers on Cardin’s main instrument: her voice. We had a chat with her a while ago to get to know her even better.

You released Phoenix last week, how have you experienced all these reactions from your fans and journalists?

I’m mostly really happy because I did it for myself. The album took so long to create, almost three years to write and record. Putting this out was a big relief for me, especially because I’m really proud of the album. I grew a lot personally and artistically during the period of creating the album, so I was really happy to put it out. I got amazing feedback so far, which has obviously been an incredible feeling. It’s something very nice to hear that other people can relate to all these personal things I’ve put on the album. I try not to read all the articles too much because negative things do affect me, but I’m super happy with the feedback I got so far.

The album debuted at number one on the Canadian album charts. How did you react to that milestone when you found out?

I was really grateful and excited. It was definitely beyond our expectations for that to happen and especially because it stayed on number one for two weeks in a row, which was super special because not a lot of Canadian artists have that with an album. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I am definitely super proud of the album.

Did the album really feel like your debut after all these years of making music?

It’s a little bit of both. We have toured a lot with the two EPs, and it helped me gain experience, but it definitely feels like a first album on a lot of levels. Whenever you release EPs or singles, you don’t have access to the same kind of media platforms as you would with an album. Ever since I released Phoenix and started promoting it, we had opportunities we couldn’t have with the previous singles and EPs.

On the creative and symbolic side, it feels like my debut album. The EPs are little groups of the few songs I’ve written in my teenage years and the beginning of adulthood. For this album, I wanted to make it from scratch. We wrote brand-new songs about the things I experienced, and it was an actual investment of three years of my life working on it. Even though this is my first album, I don’t feel like a new artist without any experience because I was lucky enough to tour a lot. I’m kind of in the middle, I’d say.

COVID definitely influenced the way you could promote Phoenix. What were the advantages and disadvantages of doing a lot online?

I found a lot of advantages this year. Just the fact that I can stay connected with my fans in a moment where I felt everything was on hold. My album was almost done, and we had to postpone the release date for almost a year. It felt so crazy but at least being able to stay connected with my fans was amazing. I took this year to practice playing guitar and piano; just do all the things I neglected a little bit because I simply didn’t have time when I was touring or writing the album.

Being able to do these little live sessions online and sharing what I’ve been working on, like these short covers, helped me to stay motivated to keep going forward. This year was actually super useful for my career, and I’m very grateful for that. Social media can be destructive in a lot of ways, but if you use it the right way, it can be amazing especially in times like these. It helps you to stay connected to people you wouldn’t be connected to otherwise, so that’s a huge advantage for sure.

Your biggest weapon is your incomparable voice. Have you discovered something new about your voice while making your album?

We worked very hard on the vocal production because it was very important for me to push myself and step outside my vocal comfort zone on a lot of songs. Some songs are technically a bit harder and in other songs, I’m talking and slightly rapping. Actually, taking the time to make this album has allowed me to explore things I wouldn’t have explored if I had nailed it super quickly. It was important to me because I do feel like my voice is my main instrument. It was so challenging and stimulating to be able to explore and try new things because I feel like I was able to improve that instrument that I have.

In what dimension were Montreal and its bilingual culture an inspiration to you?

Even for just the languages that I use in my music, it’s absolutely very representative of the place I grew up. Montreal is a super bilingual city, and so was my childhood. My family is Francophone, but I’ve had English-speaking friends. I was always surrounded by both, so that’s why it feels very natural for me to sing in both languages.

Montreal is not only super bilingual but also very multicultural and you have influences from everywhere. There are big Asian, Italian, Irish, etc. communities. Not only musically but also on the culinary, visual, or language-speaking aspect, everything cultural is influenced by tons of different things. I’ve always been exposed to different kinds of music, culture, and sources of inspiration in Montreal, so it definitely affected my musical taste and art in general.

Why are the majority of the songs in English?

I’m more comfortable writing in English. It has always been harder for me to write in French, but I do find it very important to write in both languages. I love singing in French, and I feel very close to my French songs because there’s this extra effort. Maybe there’s a little bit of an extra distance that I have with English, where I can just write without asking myself as many questions as I do in French. The distance to English helps me to be a bit more spontaneous, but I do work really hard on my French songs, I just don’t finish them super quickly.

The album has influences from a wide range of genres like electro or even reggaeton. Do these ideas come while experimenting or is it a conscious decision?

There’s a big part of just straight exploration to the project. Especially on this album, I allowed myself to do that even more. I co-wrote the entire album and that was something that really helped me explore all these different genres. When you co-write a song with someone, they have their personal stories, musical influences, and upbringing where they listened to different kinds of music. It allows you to get inspired by everyone’s personal influences.

I wrote Phoenix with Jason Brando, and he’s a huge rap fan with a great knowledge of the culture. He was also in a punk band as a teenager, so we even tried to make a few punk songs. It was just a fun process to explore these different things and allow ourselves to sometimes fool and joke around with all these genres. I felt free while making the album because we weren’t limiting ourselves.

Many people are very moved when they listen to your songs like “Oceans”. What do you feel when you listen to your album? Is it primarily happiness or sadness?

I feel happy because I genuinely like the album. On a very personal level, writing these songs has liberated me from a lot of things. I’m thankful for the process and the result because I like the songs and feel very excited to perform the songs live. I listen to the album with a very happy and warm feeling.

The album can be situated between being intimate and slightly bombastic. Was it difficult to find a good balance?

That was also something really fun to play with, and we really tried to integrate these things because I naturally write very sad downtempo songs. That’s how my soul expresses itself, so we actually did work on creating some uptempo songs to make the album coherent and dynamic. I really appreciate you noticing that.

You’re heading on the Phoenix tour in 2022. What are you planning for these shows?

All these songs were written thinking of how they would turn out in a live context. Music makes the most sense when it’s shared and happening in a live context, so this tour will revolve around the music and sharing these moments. We’re also going to try to explore new versions of the songs and playing around with them. I want to approach the live show like I did building the album. The main goal is to create something liberating and freeing because I miss performing and feeling the energy of a crowd so much. I’m going to rediscover my music, so that will be very special.

‘Phoenix’ is out on all platforms and tickets to her Phoenix Tour in 2022 are available on Charlotte Cardin’s website.

Pictures by Jean Pierrot and Gaëlle Leroyer.

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