ABOVE: CHARLOTTE CARDIN. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN CIAMILLO.
From nationally televised karaoke to winking diary entry confessions, French-Canadian chanteuse Charlotte Cardin has come into her own since a fourth-place run on La Voix (Montreal’s incarnation of The Voice) in 2013. Despite the smoky, jazz-tinged alto’s vocal sophistication and adept wordplay, one may first recognize her for her unfettered beauty, which brought her into the spotlight as a teen model. (She’s even appeared in an Interview editorial.) But she quickly asserts that modeling was “not me at all” and was a successful gig by happenstance. “Music is my main passion and drives me so much,” she says. “I feel so connected to it, and I never had that connection with modeling.”
It’s no wonder why Cardin puts musicianship at the forefront; she sings confidently in both English and French over minimalist R&B productions and minor piano tickling. Cardin debuted her slinky, suave EP Big Boy (Cult Nation) earlier this year and has a full album expected in 2017. We’re pleased to exclusively premiere the video for her latest single, “Dirty, Dirty,” below.
We caught up with Cardin after a recent show at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg.
NAME: Charlotte Cardin.
BORN & BASED: Montreal, Canada.
“DIRTY, DIRTY”: The song is pretty intense. It talks about jealousy and lust and desire and everything, and we didn’t want to go in that direction with the image. We actually wanted to tone it down. So we figured we would do something that’s lifestyle-oriented—that’s just raw and real and really represents my life. Basically, the video is me and a bunch of my actual friends hanging out in the spots where we usually hang out in the Mile-End—that’s the neighborhood where all my friends are in Montreal. My studio is in Mile-End as well. We wanted to give another version of the song because I think most people, when they hear the song, they get this very dramatic feeling from it but really, it does have a bit of a lighter side. I wrote the song sarcastically a little bit, even.
HEY, BIG BOY: Even the fact that [Big Boy is] the title of the EP, it was an ironic choice because I sort of wanted people to think that the whole EP is about this one asshole that ruined my life. But really, “Big Boy” doesn’t exist. He’s an image of different people that made me feel a different way.
MODEL TRAINING: It was like a student job for me. I thought, “I’ll do this temporarily and make a couple bucks on the side and be free to do my music in the meantime.” It wasn’t really a conscious decision, but it’s been a cool experience because it’s taught me a lot … I started modeling when I was 15, but I wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera back then. It took me a few years, so I’m glad that I had that. I gained that knowledge doing modeling rather than starting my career and being super awkward in front of the camera as a musician.
WRITING AUTOBIOGRAPHICALLY: It’s not like I’ll live something or experience a certain thing and then write exactly about it. I definitely get inspired by my emotions. I get inspired by the people I hang out with, the people I have relationships with, and things like that. But I usually start off with an emotion and then build a story from that emotion, so sometimes it’s going to be 50 percent true or 75 percent true. For “Dirty, Dirty,” it’s a very real song. It’s definitely based on true experiences, but my songs are never 100 percent real. Sometimes I’ll talk about someone and the person doesn’t really exist, or that person in the song is just an accumulation of people that I know, and I build a character out of all these people.
LANGUAGE BARRIERS: I don’t want to limit myself and decide what language it’s going to be in. I write a lot more in English for some reason, even though French is my first language. But I just sort of let the inspiration flow, and if it comes in French, then it comes in French, and if it comes in English, then it comes in English. I don’t want to stop myself with anything like that.
MUSICAL ROOTS: It’s always been a huge part of my life because my parents wanted both my sister and I to take music lessons from a really young age, but it was just for fun. It was just to gain a certain knowledge and to be implicated in a certain artistic field. But I took singing lessons for 10 years from seven to 17, and that was definitely a big part of my life, but I didn’t necessarily want to be a singer. Both my parents are scientists, but they love music and they’ve always exposed my sister and I to all sorts of music. My dad is a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan, so we’ve been listening to music our whole life, but I started doing it more seriously and knowing that I wanted to do that when I was 18. I started writing more serious songs at that time, because I figured that I wanted to do my own stuff, and I didn’t have as much fun when I was singing other people’s lyrics. I just wanted my project to be really personal.
LA VOIX: It definitely taught me how to deal with huge amounts of pressure. I had never been exposed to anything like that. I was in school. I wanted to be a doctor. I was just doing my thing and I ended up there in a very coincidental way. And I was, like, “Okay, I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.” I didn’t have any expectations. But I ended up there and there’s cameras filming all the time and there’s makeup and styling and interviews all the time. Then you perform and there’s 2,000,000 people or 3,000,000 people that watch you and comment and Twitter and all of those things, so it taught me in the fastest way. And now I feel I sort of did the whole music thing the opposite way because I started singing in front of two million people and now I play venues with 100 people. Now I feel like I’m not stressed as much. It’s more intimate. I feel like it prepared me for what I’m doing now.
FINDING FULFILLMENT: [La Voix] was great in so many ways, but it wasn’t 100 percent me. You don’t sing your own songs; you sing covers and it’s … All the glamour that surrounds it—the very “instant fame” kind of thing. There’s something that’s unnatural about that, even if it’s awesome and it brought me to where I am now, there’s something that’s not super organic about those shows. I definitely feel like I’m more fulfilled as an artist now because I get to share my own stuff with an audience where they’re there to share that with me specifically. It’s awesome to share that music with people and to have them really see through me, and see who I am as an artist and as a person.
FOR MORE ON CHARLOTTE CARDIN, VISIT HER FACEBOOK.