Cœur de Pirate: Brave Heart

The Quebecois singer/songwriter worked on Child of Light shortly after giving birth to her own child.

When Ubisoft Montreal was looking for a local artist to score the soundtrack for their stunning new RPG release, Child of Light, it didn’t take much thinking before they decided on singer Beatrice Martin, better known as Cœur de pirate (that’s "Pirate Heart" for those who flunked French class). Classically trained as a child and raised on Pokémon and Final Fantasy games, it wasn't too hard for her to make the jump from indie pop songwriting to hack-and-slash fantasy game scoring. It also makes sense in a very sweet way, since she gave birth to a very real child around the time when she was working on Child of Light.

She has also recently released a soundtrack for a Quebecois TV hospital drama “Trauma,", and is currently working on ideas for her next project, which promises to be bilingual. And if you catch any of her Montreal International Jazz Festival shows this year, you may be treated to her new work. Noisey caught up with Beatrice "Cœur de pirate" to talk about music, video games, and the French.

Noisey: Hi, how are you?
Cœur de pirate:
I just got off from shooting, “Penelope Mcquade” a popular late night talk show like Letterman. I was with a bunch of other celebrities who are only famous in Québéc.

Did it go well?
Yeah, It’s a big show here; we talked about the game and the jazz fest this summer. I’m doing 3 shows! I’m quite pumped but stressed. It’s like, Elvis Costello, Oliver Jones. And me! I feel so relevant! I played a song from the Trauma soundtrack, which was my cover of Patrick Watson’s “The Great Escape”

What is that exactly?
Well it was for a Québécois hospital procedural show, like a more dramatic version of “Grey’s Anatomy”. It was a cover album, they wanted them to match the feeling of the TV show. I thought that was a brilliant idea.

How did you choose the songs?
I got to do whatever I wanted. There were a couple that they really wanted me to do. One was a Kenny Rogers song, and they really wanted me to do an Alice Cooper one, but I wasn’t feeling it. I recorded for two weeks and they approved the rough mixes and gave me full control, it was awesome.

So tell me about working on Ubisoft’s new Child of Light game.
My daughter Romie had just been born and I got an email from my manager saying I was shortlisted by Ubisoft to score a soundtrack for this Japanese-style role-playing game they were working on. They were at the first stages and I didn’t have much more than ideas and inspirations to work with. The illustrations based off of Kay Nielson’s style [from the golden age of fairy tale illustration in the early 20th century] were beautiful, but there was no game! They gave me some pointers and I just kept on composing with their direction for over a year before I got into the studio to record.

What was it like to compose for a video game when you’ve been writing your own pop and rock songs for most of your music career?
Well I’ve actually played a lot of Final Fantasy and Pokémon so I’m not unused to the RPG style. They needed battle music, boss fight music, jingles, victory sounds, and themes for every world. I was like, I can do this! I still play a lot of Pokémon today! The music in the different worlds has to be based off of the main theme for the game, so it has to be the same but still very different. I was not used to that, but you manage and you do it. It’s one of the projects I’m most proud of because I worked so much on it.

What sort of instruments did you use?
They just wanted piano and some cello at first but the more we talked, the more intense references they gave me for battles and boss fights, and we wound up with rearranging them [with help from composer Anthony Rosancovic]. They had all these references to Zelda, and Lord of the Rings and Danny Elfman styles. Like I knew I needed cello, organ, some glockenspiel, but it really came to life when we went into studio.

How do you like the game?
I’ve been playing Pokémon for so long, so I’m not used to these types of RPGs where you approach monsters to engage in battle and find objects to enhance skills. I was a bit stressed out when they said it was 2D and basing it on the old Rayman games. I was like, ohhh my god, what is this? But it’s so beautiful, there’s so much depth. I didn’t expect it at all. The Reviews are great too! IGN gave it like a 9.3. I really like that they were building the game around my demos, it was very flattering.

Did you connect with the child elements of Aurora, the main character, now that you’re a mother?
I sing on the main theme that I wrote and was totally inspired by my daughter. It’s tough to talk to Aurora because I don’t physically know her per se, but I projected my daughter onto her character for that piece, as if I were the White Queen talking to her through her dreams in the game. Aurora’s whole quest is to find herself, grow up while battling all these things on her own. I think that’s amazing for kids.

What would you tell her, if she were your daughter?
Aurora has everything figured out, she needs to get the black queen, destroy everything and establish light back in the world, but I think I would tell everyone that while it’s good to have backup, you don’t always need it. It’s a tough world out there, I know it was tough for me as a kid, but now it’s awful and they need all the help they can get. Confidence is a very important thing.

Will you let her play video games?
Yeah probably! My parents wouldn’t let me so I would try to play them by any means necessary. My sister played World of Warcraft until she was 19 even, and she’s a real girly girl. When I was 8 or 9 in fifth grade, Pokémon Gold came out in Japan and I somehow managed to get the all-Japanese version on a floppy disk and played it through an emulator on my computer. This was all because my parents wouldn’t let me have a freaking Gameboy. Maybe we would have been less obsessed if they let us play. I finally bought my own DS when I was 18 and had made money from music for the first time, and I played it for 24 hours straight.

So I hear you’re working on a new album? Where is your music going stylistically?
Yeah, I’m still writing it, and would like to go into studio in the summer and we’re looking for a realizateur/producer, someone to make the songs happen, but it’s going to be bilingual. That’s a lot of stress and excitement but hopefully it should be ok. I might bring back the piano as I let it go for the last album, Blonde. I really got into Nina Simone, random percussion, and using other voices to use as instruments. I'd love to get into mixing folk and traditional chants.

How's the Quebec music scene?
It's very tight-knit, but I’m not really friends with musicians, it’s sad now that I think of it. I admire everyone though. They’re all doing such a great job and it’s tough because you have to sing and do thing sin French, but I am so grateful the whole province is backing us up. I got a lucky break outside of Quebec (in France) which is awesome too.

You said in a past interview when you were 18 that “I always write because I don’t want to lose that impulse.” Does that still hold true?
Yes, it’s true! It sounds a bit condescending but I always have music in my head from being in the conservatory early on and playing a lot of classical music. I have a lot of melodies that are just there and I record them all the time on my iPhone, so I have all these songs with no lyrics.

Do you hum them?
Yeah, I totally hum them and then people look at me funny, haha! My husband saw me working on a song that took me 10 minutes. He said ‘It's a good thing you’re so good at what you do, because you put so little effort into it” I guess he was just trying to be nice. But it’s true, I put so little effort into things, you should see me fold clothes, it’s the worst!

That sounds like it ties in well with writing for a video game.
Yeah it does. I feel like these songs were in my head for a long time because I have watched a lot of movies and played a lot of video games. I feel like my brain records that. I hate talking about that! It sounds so condescending, it’s awful!

Why’s that?
I don’t know, I don’t like people who talk about what they can do. It’s so tough being a musician these days, you have to be original and stay on point all the time. It’s like, ‘Who does she think she is? How can she write all these melodies?’ I don’t know, it’s just my job!

Jesse Ship is a writer living in Toronto - @jesse_ship