How Coeur de pirate Found Her Voice After Vocal Cord Surgery

Béatrice Martin surprise-releases her new piano instrumental album, 'Perséides,' and reflects on her new "dream job" of label boss
How Coeur de pirate Found Her Voice After Vocal Cord Surgery
Photo: Judith Cossette
The past year has brought major change to many, including Béatrice Martin, also known as Coeur de pirate. She purchased her longtime record label after another artist faced assault allegations, and recently underwent vocal cord surgery that left her without a speaking voice for several weeks. But, per usual, the Montréal-based singer-songwriter has emerged stronger than ever, ready to shine through her latest album, Perséides — announced and released today — and to give a fresh start to her label, Bravo musique, formerly Dare to Care.

The new album features 10 solo piano compositions that find Martin going back to her first musical love. When she is Coeur de pirate, the instrument is an intimate part of her act, almost like she has a collaborator with her onstage. After surgery to treat a hemorrhagic polyp on her vocal cords left her completely silent for a few weeks, Martin was stuck with melodies in her head, just ready to come out. Perséides is her laying it all down to the piano and rekindling the melancholic spark that made her who she is.

"They just came to me," she says. "I always have music in my head and just the fact that I couldn't, you know, actually put it in a real song was super frustrating. For me to just make it with a piano was so, so liberating and it came pretty instantly. It wasn't brewing over a long period of time."

The album's name comes from the famous annual meteor shower, the Perseids, that rain down every summer. Martin explains the concept behind the name is intricately defined by the short but magical time in which the shower usually happens. Even if it doesn't last more than a few days, it still imprints itself in one's mind. All the compositions are named after Quebec cities that had an impact on Martin's childhood. From "Frelighsburg" to "Isle-aux-Coudres," Martin reminisces on long-lost memories.

"Everything was in my mind. Usually, for a pop album, you start with the skeleton of the song, so the lyrics and the melody, and then you build around it. For this one, it was like, 'How do I make it the most interesting possible with just piano?' It's funny because you can almost hear me sing the right-hand movements. You can still hear the melody, it still always is interesting that way," she explains.

The past year was a challenging one for Martin, and she's grateful for the quiet period that took place as she recovered from surgery. She processed everything, decided to assess her needs, and think about how she could help people. "This album is kind of my way to help people a little bit too, you know, in my own way to do it," she adds shyly.

Perséides was one answer, but it wasn't the only answer. Last fall, Martin bought Dare to Care, the Montreal-based music label that has put out all of her albums since 2014. During a reckoning against prominent figures in Quebec's entertainment and arts scene, multiple abuse allegations were made against Bernard Adamus, one of the label's longtime artists. The label's management was accused of having turned a blind eye regarding the behaviour of Adamus and other artists, resulting in president Éli Bissonnette stepping down from his role. When the opportunity arose for Martin to acquire the label, she jumped in, thinking about all of the artists' careers that were impacted by the problematic behaviours of others.

"[Dare to Care] was a great label. I mean, first and foremost, it had been there for, like, 20 years. When it happened, I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, what happens if somebody else buys it?' We were all thinking what was gonna happen to the artists, what was going to happen to the catalogue. I was in a good position to acquire it. I could have either told everybody to fuck off or I could have decided to think things through and maybe make an offer. But, you know, I wasn't sure I was going to get it either. But I managed to get it and so that is good. Now we're making the best out of it. I'm very happy that I did it because, honestly, it's a great job that I have. I'm so, so happy."

Martin's acquisition of the label was saluted by Quebec's music scene and the media. She changed the name to Bravo musique, heralding a new chapter that had begun for everyone involved with the label. She mentions that now that she wanted to change things around — not just for her, but for the whole team. They all deserved a fresh start. The name Bravo was also a way to acknowledge the success and achievements of artists.

"It's a way to say, 'Great job! You did it! Bravo!' and that's kind of how I've been feeling and how I wanted the artists to feel as well," says Martin. "We are here, we trust you guys, and I want you guys to trust me. Congrats, you're here now! Let's do this."

Martin has always been open about her past abuse and her struggles. She wants to change things around for everyone. Her main goal with Bravo musique is to have clear, open, honest communication with every member of her team. She mentions that in the past, people used to pressure her to stay silent in the name of her career. She doesn't want this to ever happen to anyone at Bravo.

She says, "A lot of stuff was swept under the rug or nobody did anything about it. I want people to come to me and say, 'This is happening,' and I want to be able to do something about it. It's about respect and decency. Our work extends everywhere: it extends to how we behave like artists and elsewhere. It wasn't clear to everyone where work started and ended, and now it's clearer. So that's good. Boundaries are important."

Béatrice and her team at Bravo are currently working on Bonjour Bravo, a series of virtual shows that will feature collaborative performances between the label's artists. Martin is excited that this project will put the artists she's been working with at the forefront and present the global vision behind Bravo musique to everyone.

"When we had the idea, we didn't know if we were going to be able to do shows or not. So we came with the concept of artists playing as duos or trios. We all have played together and with each other — like, sang each other's songs. We've decided to also film everything in a special place. You know, it's kind of like a dreamlike sequence, where we don't really know where they are and where they're performing. We don't know where they are, but they're just performing and they're with each other. And it's beautiful."

She mentions that artists will interview one another during the performance. Some names have already been confirmed, including Jérôme 50, Émile Bilodeau, Maude Audet, the Blaze Velluto Collection, Thierry Larose and recent signee Thaïs.

As for Martin, her future seems to be filled with anticipation and eagerness, but with a focus on healing. She is taking the time to heal her voice completely from her surgery, and plans on hopefully doing only a couple of shows. She mentions loving her new role at Bravo, where she is mostly in charge of scouting and recruiting new artists.

"It's like my dream job," she exclaims. "I get to listen to music and guide people. It's amazing. I love it. That's great. That's what I've always wanted to do in the end. What's the point in having privilege if you can't help others?"

Martin's voice is full of light and hope. Her laugh resonates. As much as the Perseids are a beautiful but brief experience, she is quite the opposite: Béatrice is a star that shines bright through the darkness, sharing light with those around her.

Listen to Perséides below.