Charlotte Cardin on the Junos, songwriting and why losing Quebec's biggest singing show was a 'blessing'

Charlotte Cardin is the most-nominated artist at this year’s Juno Awards. The Montreal singer-songwriter spoke with Q’s Tom Power about the honour, her early life and her artistry.

Cardin is the most-nominated artist at the 2022 Juno Awards

Charlotte Cardin sat down for an interview with Q’s Tom Power in her hometown of Montreal. (CBC)

Click the play button below to listen to Tom Power's full conversation with Charlotte Cardin on The Q Interview podcast.

Charlotte Cardin’s journey to becoming the most-nominated artist at this year’s Juno Awards wasn’t a typical one. She grew up in a family of scientists and started writing songs when she was young. Eventually, she made it onto La Voix, the biggest reality singing show in Quebec. Spoiler alert: she didn’t win. But she’d be the first to tell you that losing La Voix was a blessing in disguise. As a former model, Cardin also had a lot to say about the lack of control you can feel in that industry, versus being able to tell your own story through music. While her path to becoming the most celebrated artist at this year’s Junos wasn’t always linear, it says a lot about the persistence it takes to find your audience in 2022.

Charlotte Cardin tops the list of nominees for the 2022 Juno Awards with six nods, beating out the Weeknd and Justin Bieber — but her journey to this point wasn't a typical one.

In an interview with Q's Tom Power, the Montreal singer-songwriter reflected on the honour, her early life and relationship with music, and why it took nearly four years to finish her debut album, Phoenix.

Here are some highlights from their conversation.

She grew up in a family of scientists with a musical side

For as long as Cardin can remember, music has been an important part of her life. Although her parents are both scientists with a number of advanced degrees, she told Power they also have a musical side and encouraged her to develop her passion by enrolling her in singing lessons at age seven or eight.

But when Cardin decided to pursue music instead of going to college, she was nervous to tell her parents because "studying was really important for them" and she thought they would be disappointed.

"When I told them, they were like, 'Well, yeah, obviously. Like, you need to pursue this. Like, this is too special,'" she recalled. "They were super supportive of it the whole time. And I thought it was going to be, like, a big announcement."

WATCH | Charlotte Cardin's full interview with Tom Power:

Losing La Voix was better for her career than winning

When she was 18, Cardin rose to fame as a contestant on La Voix, Quebec's version of the reality singing show The Voice. While she didn't win the competition, she said landing in the top four finalists was a much better outcome for her.

"In my case … I think it was an absolute blessing not to win," she said. "When you sign up for a show like that … you sign a contract before you've even been on TV for the first time…. You sign the exact same contract that ties you with a certain label for a certain number of years. And it's a standard contract, but it's really aggressive."

Competing on La Voix gave Cardin valuable exposure and a small fanbase. Losing meant she was free to discover her own voice and develop her artistry on her own terms.

She took a few years off before releasing her first project

After completing La Voix, Cardin didn't rush into signing a contract with a record label. Instead, she took a year off to go back to school, and in 2016 she released her debut EP, Big Boy.

That break was essential for Cardin to redefine herself as a songwriter.

"When you're on [La Voix], you only sing covers," she said. "So I was like, 'OK, I, like, built a small fanbase of people that discovered me for the covers that I've been doing. And they like my style and they like my voice, but they — I don't even know who I am as an artist.'"

Songwriting gave her creative control she had never had before

In her previous work as a model, Cardin said she felt like an object and was frustrated about having other people decide everything for her. In contrast, songwriting gave her the opportunity to tell her own story through music.

"Modeling was never for me," she said. "I just felt like, you're never, like, valued for what you have to say, or how smart you are, or how creative and kind you are…. And that's why I think I wasn't a very good model, because I was, like, resisting a lot of these things."

She told Power modeling not only influenced the way she values herself now but how she expresses herself as well.

"I think [modeling] has made me a better songwriter because I'm hungrier for those things, for that, like, honesty that I wasn't able to have for so long when I was just, you know, used for parts of me that I didn't even really like."

Her Juno-nominated album, Phoenix, took nearly four years to complete

Cardin said it's wonderful to be recognized with six Juno nominations for her debut album, Phoenix, because it's her most personal project to date.

"It's an honour because, truly, like, we worked on the album for almost four years," she said. "It took forever for us to find the direction of the album. Also, I needed to explore very, like, personal parts of me to be able to write those songs. And so it's been a process of, like, rollercoasters and ups and downs."

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Vanessa Nigro.

Wherever you are in the world, you can tune in to the 2022 Juno Awards on Sunday, May 15. You can watch live on CBC-TV and CBC Gem, listen on CBC Radio One and CBC Music and stream globally at CBCMusic.ca/junos.


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