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Charlotte Cardin

Feb 16/2018
INTERVIEW Leslie Ken Chu PHOTOGRAPHY Alex Evans STYLING Sara Vaughan Roberts P1M HAIR Kirsten Klontz P1M MAKEUP Caroline Levin P1M

Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates.

Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own music, something she’s invested in, something much more personal and honest. “It feels much more like I’m showing a real part of myself rather than just singing in front of a lot of people.” Cardin emphasises, though: “I don’t pressure myself that much, and I love what I’m doing, and I enjoy it so much that I don’t really feel a lot of stress.”

Modelling came with another perk: the opportunity to travel. Although Cardin travels more often as a musician, modelling frequently took her to one of her favourite places. “Paris is my favourite city after Montréal. When I was modelling—and with music—I got to go to Paris a lot. And so I think Paris is the most inspiring place. For me, at least.”

Fiction plays an integral part in Cardin’s music. As much as she enjoys romanticizing biographical details or at least narrative details she can relate to, she also enjoys making listeners wonder about the truth. “I think there’s always something real and something that’s very close to me in whatever I write. There’s always a part of truth in the lyrics even if it’s not necessarily a story about me.” But she takes greater inspiration from the quiet moments of life than from specific works of art. “I’ll get inspired by someone sitting alone on a bench in a park eating a sandwich, and I’ll invent a life for this person.”

Cardin has become known for her music videos—for the stories they tell and for their exquisite cinematography. For “Main Girl”, she and her film team travelled to Iceland where they shot every day for six to seven days. “We saw the most breathtaking landscapes I had ever seen.” The YouTube credits for “The Kids” show just how much human power was involved. Director Kristof Brandl envisioned something of a short film. “He really wanted it to be a full story with different periods in this kid’s life. It’s the whole process of [the kid] growing up in a super poisonous environment,” Cardin explains. The result is the most extensively produced video in her catalogue. “We’re so happy with how it turned out, and we’ve gotten really nice feedback about it.”

Despite the complementary titles, Big Boy and Main Girl were written during different stages in her life. Yet upon Big Boy’s release, she had already recorded a few songs for Main Girl. “They sort of follow the same themes, and they have the same kind of vibes, so in that regard, they’re for sure maybe siblings.” Think of them as varying perspectives.

An air of coolness pervades Charlotte Cardin’s music and videos, whether they’re shot in chilly Iceland or depict her and her friends hanging out in Montréal’s hip, creative Mile End neighbourhood. How well she can keep her cool if she wins at the Junos remains to be seen, but now that she’s doing what’s true to her, she’s more ready than ever to take on the pressure.

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