Human connection is at the heart of Charlotte Cardin’s soulful, evocative songs. The singer draws inspiration from everything around her, but it’s usually the people in her life who urge her songs forth. Whether she's affected by a stranger or someone she knows, Charlotte centers her lyrics on relationships and the emotions they generate. She’s interested in uncovering how we connect and relate to one another, and each track resonates with palpable, human feeling.
It’s always been that way for Charlotte, although she hasn’t always known she wanted to be a musician. The singer, who grew up in Montreal, spent her childhood learning piano and taking singing lessons. Her parents introduced Charlotte and her older sister to rock ‘n’ roll on car rides and around the house. Charlotte was inspired by everyone from Radiohead to Etta James to Celine Dion, and as a teenager she started writing her own songs for fun.
“Music has always been a big part of my life,” Charlotte says. “But I never really thought I would do it for a living. Eventually, as I wrote more songs, it became clear to me that’s what I wanted to do. I discovered my own style through trial and error. I tried writing songs in almost every genre and I mixed all that together to finally create the style I have now, which is a hybrid.”
Charlotte first release was a track called “Big Boy,” a sultry, piano-laced ballad. She enlisted musicians Matt Sénéchal and Ben Courcy on bass and drums, both in the studio and live, and worked with Montreal production company Cult Nation. Her latest effort is Main Girl, an EP featuring three songs from last year’s Canadian EP release, Big Boy – including standout tracks: “Big Boy,” “Dirty Dirty,” and “Like It Doesn’t Hurt (Feat. Husser),” as well as three new songs: “Main Girl,” “Paradise Motion” and “The Kids.” The title track “Main Girl” exemplifies Charlotte’s songwriting sensibility. “Main Girl” is the empowerment of knowing that you deserve a good relationship. It’s the realization that you're better off alone than not being someone else’s priority, it’s never accepting to come second,” she notes. Each song is based on relationships, whether romantic or personal, and it’s a theme that Charlotte finds herself repeatedly returning.
“Human beings, in general, inspire me,” she says. “I find them quite intriguing. If I meet someone new and they make me feel a certain way I’m going to write about it and it’s going to transform into a story that may have not necessarily happened. It’s that initial feeling that inspires me. I find it very interesting that human relationships have been going on for thousands and thousands of years, and no one has really figured out how to make them work. With the new songs I wanted to talk about really intense things and try writing songs that were engaged in the subject I was talking about. I always write in a passionate way, but these are especially intense, both in the lyrics and production-wise.”
The songs are simple and sparse, focusing on the lyrics and Charlotte’s emotionally driven vocals. The production is purposefully minimal, which means you really feel each note and each word deeply. “That’s the way I like to do it,” the singer notes. “Clear vocals, a few instruments, a few modern touches and that’s pretty much it. It’s important to me to keep it very simple.”
That sort of emotional clarity is evidenced in the live show, as well. Over the past year, Charlotte and her band have toured extensively in Quebec, performing nearly 70 shows there alone, and played in Los Angeles and New York. She’s appeared onstage at Osheaga and Bonnaroo, and hopes to discover ever more new audiences this year. No matter where she goes, though, Charlotte always comes back to Montreal, where she still lives. It’s a city that has deeply influenced the sort of music she makes and one that continues to inspire her.
“Montreal is a very culturally active place to live,” Charlotte says. “There’s so much going on. There are a lot of different cultures in the same city and it makes it very creative. I went to school in French and my parents are French speaking, but I was brought up with so many English speaking friends so I was always immersed in both worlds. It’s really fun because you get to learn from both. Montreal has really opened my mind to diversity and to artistic fields I might not have discovered elsewhere.”
For Charlotte, music is a way to uncover how we interact in the world. Main Girl EP reveals Charlotte's obsession with human relationships, as well as her ability to craft an emotionally wrought tune that will linger in the listener's head. It's the first important step in her evolution as a musician.
“I can hear how my songwriting has grown when I listen to it,” she says. “That’s been really cool. The EP is the first real proof of what I’ve done and I can see my whole journey of what I went through to get there. It’s amazing to hear how I evolved throughout the songs and I hope to continue to do so.”