Béatrice Martin’s favourite tarot card is the Three of Swords. A couple of months ago the Coeur de Pirate singer posted an illustration of the card to her Instagram amid the promotional photos and video sneak peeks in anticipation of her fourth album, en cas de tempete, ce jardin sera fermé, out June 1 via Dare to Care Records. The image of a heart surrounded by clouds and rain punctured by three swords is, in a word, jarring. It is sadness, grief, and separation. But it isn’t wholly gloomy or a premonition of everlasting heartache. The Three of Swords is suffering one has overcome; guidance, illuminated by past aches and trauma, of where to go in the future. Of all the cards to provide a summary of Martin’s experiences, and the themes of her forthcoming record, the Three of Swords is certainly it.
Martin has had a whirlwind few years since the release of her last record, the bilingual Roses, in 2015. Professionally, she toured relentlessly; clocking in over 200 shows over a year-and-a-half period. Running parallel to all that, Martin’s personal life was under scrutiny and, in a sense, became overwhelming. In 2016, she wrote an open letter coming out as queer, which appeared here on Noisey. That caused ripples, both positive (Martin appeared in Vogue talking about her decision to be open about her sexuality, not only with herself but her fans and the public at large) and some painfully negative, calling into question the validity of her choice to go public. She also had a brief relationship with Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace, which, too, caused a stir, often negatively, and her personal life was up for minute dissection by people online who did so with vitriol. By 2017, when she did her last show in Toronto, Martin was exhausted. She was creatively spent in the weeks and months after, partly because she started drinking more during this break, filling an emotional void, and that obscured her writing. Martin was unsure if she would ever do original music or performance again.
Martin and I are in the taupe soaked lobby of Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel on an especially bright March morning talking about her creative drought. “I wrote one song in January last year,” she explains, “and then I stopped writing because I was done with tour and I got really depressed. When a tour ends, there is this hole—this gaping hole. It creates itself. I started drinking heavily. I explained it in the columns. I was just not inspired anymore.” Yet, while she was on a brief break of sorts, Martin would feel a pullback by her fans— whom she says she’s proud of, watching them grow up with her music. But it would be one fan in particular to bring her all the way back.
In 2017, Martin was a judge for Nouvelle Star, which is the French equivalent to American Idol or Pop Idol. Yadam, a contestant from Venezuela, appeared on the program, singing Coeur de Pirate’s “Crier Tout Bas.” Martin wept almost immediately and for most of his performance. “He explained his story and was like, ‘I won this contest by singing this exact song that got me to France. And now I’m singing this song in front of you. I learned French because of you. And thank you.’ And I was like, whoa. Oh, okay. Oh! That’s what I do . All of this puts everything back into perspective.”
En cas de tempete, ce jardin sera fermé is the result of someone who did an immense amount of work to pull out and examine their experiences and traumas. “I got myself into thinking, ‘why do I always repeat the same stuff over and over and over again?’ And I dug deeper. ‘Well, it’s true this happened to me, and this happened when I was a kid, and this happened in past relationships,’” she says. “All of this creates a comfort where you’re like, I need certain things to happen in my life in order to feel in control. Some of these things are not good. But they make me feel safe because I’m used to it.”
Translated, the album’s title means: In case of a storm, this garden will be closed. This sign is all over Paris, appearing in the often huge public gardens that punctuate the city’s creamy coloured centuries old stacked buildings and arrondissements. Martin recorded the album in Paris, which she tells me is basically her second home, her first for any project. Rooted in an actual panic attack she had on the streets of Paris in 2011, she tells me she focused on this sign with these words, and began to feel the anxiety wash away. She uses these words as a mantra even now whenever she feels she is panicked.
“I had a lot of things to say for this album,” she says, “and it’s all stuff I kind of tucked away because I thought I wasn’t ready to talk about it. And now I did.” Martin credits the #MeToo movement in part for helping her feel more comfortable sharing these experiences, many tackling emotional, physical, and psychological abuse, more publicly. “Je Veux Rentrer” she tells me is a song about conjugal rape. Even then, she broaches the subjects gingerly; discussing the meanings of certain songs vaguely or quickly before moving on to pull the lens out much wider.
This record is similarly in line with the sound she has crafted over a decade into her career; airy, pop, upbeat. She was more influenced by Air and 70s and 80s pop music this time around. This juxtaposition of dark and light in her music, she says, was important for her when tackling sensitive and immensely personal experiences. “For me, the production and the music has to be happy to show the depth of the lyrics to understand how fucking terrible a situation can be,” she says. The line of pop songs sounding happy and breezy with much more difficult subject matter goes back to the 60s, she says. (Immediately, I think of The Supremes’ “Baby Love,” and how joyously one can sing the devastatingly real lyrics “But all you do is treat me bad/ Break my heart and leave me sad” because of how jaunty the music is.) Martin cites lead single “Premonition” as an example of how, if stripped down to simply a piano, sounds morose, but the bubbly sonics make the song more interesting and upbeat. “Carte Blanche,” too, is a dream-pop synth tune where she sings about solitude and revenge.
To her, placing these topics into pop music will hopefully allow for more dialogue; believing that pop makes it more accessible. It also allows Martin to remove herself from these experiences and move forward. “If the music is upbeat, I can get over this,” Martin says. And that is sort of the point for her. Music is therapeutic, much in the same way as she does tarot or yoga or meditation. Being able to work out publicly the things she hadn’t the language or concepts of before is a gift. “All of my anxieties are in this album. All of my biggest fears and the most traumatic experience I’ve ever received, experienced, are in this album and... you know, up until now, who knows what will happen after? And so for me to let them go, to give them to the public, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”
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This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.