Charlotte Cardin

Photo by Norman Wong

Charlotte Cardin spreads her wings with her debut album Phoenix

A feature interview with the Quebec chanteuse.

For the past half-decade, Charlotte Cardin has held it down as Quebec’s golden child. From her humble beginnings as a finalist on La Voix, to accumulating a strong fanbase province-wide with the releases of her Big Boy and Main Girl EPs, Cardin is royalty in la belle province without even releasing a full-length album.

On April 23, Cardin’s ceiling will grow taller with the release of Phoenix, her debut album. “The album was actually made before the pandemic. When the first wave hit us, the album was getting mastered, it was already 99% done,” the singer reveals. “We basically pushed back the release date by almost a year.”

Cardin felt like releasing the album at such a time would be like “throwing away years of work. Nobody really had the headspace or even the media space to talk about music.”

Through the process of creating Phoenix, Cardin feels as if she gained a greater sense of self. “One thing that I realized is that I had always kind of lived my life thinking about how others would receive my actions, or what people expected of me.

“Sex to Me” from Phoenix

“When I started writing this album, it took me a full six months of doing the same thing that I had been doing before; writing on my own, trying to figure things out. At one point, I just realized that the album wasn’t going anywhere because I was trying to write it thinking about what other people were expecting. I thought to myself, ‘This is the wrong approach. This album really needs to be transparent and this album is going to be much more liberating if I just write it for myself.’”

Interestingly enough, Cardin was able to get more in tune with herself through co-writing, a first for the artist.

“I had only ever written stuff by myself before. I decided to just surround myself with my small team and to really collaborate on this album, to co-write everything. This album was kind of a conversational process, to really be able to talk to my team about things I wanted to express. This album feels even more personal to me than things that I have released so far. I guess I was a little scared of co-writing at first because I want this album to be super personal and 100% me. In reality, co-writing has been able to get me to speak about even more personal things.”

Phoenix works swimmingly as both a grand introduction to those who are new to Cardin’s music and a fresh new chapter for already established fans. On the project, the singer prioritized a “less is more” creative process.

“The whole direction for the album was to keep it as minimalistic as possible. We really focused on vocal melodies and putting forward my voice, rather than tons of crazy different productions.”

cult mtl april 2021 issue magazine cover charlotte cardin montreal
Charlotte Cardin on the cover of Cult MTL April 2021

Despite completing the album long before the pandemic, there are many lyrics that are sure to resonate with her core fans of a young age, who feel as if a formative era of their lives is being stripped away by the state of the world.

“In the song ‘Meaningless,’ I say, ‘I’ve been wasting my twenties.’ The connection with the pandemic was crazy because a lot of people have been feeling that way for many different reasons. This album was such a long process that I feel like a large portion of my twenties was included in the process. The line was a coincidence.”

As we all wait for the world to open up, Charlotte is eager to return to the stage. She hopes that Phoenix will be a tipping point to accumulating a larger U.S. audience, especially once touring is allowed once again.

“My career has been very fun and stimulating for me because I have always been super supported in Montreal and Quebec. I’ve been able to play amazing venues with big crowds, big festivals and stuff like that. At the same time, I still feel like an ‘emerging artist’ everywhere other than Quebec. I have been dealing with all of these really fun challenges, playing big shows in Montreal and then literally playing to three people sleeping at a bar in Denver. It’s just kind of adapting to all of these things at the same time which is really exciting. I hope that this album will at least have me be a little bit more well-known elsewhere. I just want my career to expand as much as it can and I want people to hear my music all over. I’m looking forward to that.” ■

“Anyone Who Loves Me” by Charlotte Cardin, premiering today at 11 a.m.

This feature originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Cult MTL. Charlotte Cardin will perform live during a virtual album launch, The Phoenix Experience, on April 29/30. To buy tickets ($23.67) and for more, please visit her website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.