He was determined to pass his passion on to his daughter and made sure that Marie-Christine was able to take advantage of schooling in Montreal where she spent fourteen years from the age of 5 in classical piano training. “Studying classical piano allowed me to explore and escape in a field where I felt at home, where I could be myself,” says Marie-Christine. “It helped me to feel confident in who I was.” While it was generally classical music that filled the house, Marie-Christine secretly harboured a love for pop music, sneaking listens to the likes of Whitney Houston,. En Vogue and Michael Jackson.
“I just loved the sound of the voices, especially the harmonies of En Vogue.” she says. “I would spend as much time as I could with the radio pressed to my ear.” Though painfully shy, Marie-Christine made her public debut at the tender age of 12 years old. She was taking singing lessons by that point and along with her sister, Marie-Alice, she would entertain at the hospital where their mother worked. MC found solace in her music and confidence in performing.
She would often appear in high school productions though she was sure that the audience didn’t even know she was a fellow student. “I didn’t have many friends,” she says without lament. “I just escaped in my music. No one could ever take that away from me.” After high school Marie-Christine joined Gregory Charles’ Laval Gospel Choir.
Before long it was clear that her voice processed the ineffable qualities of a soloist and she was moved from the background ensemble to the front lines. Almost immediately she was flooded with offers and by age 20 she had landed her first musical, Generation Motown, which had a successful five year run in Montreal. In 2007, Marie-Christine was doing double duty, touring with the popular Alternative artist DJ Champion as well as performing with the house band on the popular Quebec revue Soul City. The show’s musical director, Michael Litresits had long collaborated with Canadian Rock Star Corey Hart who, in 2000, had traded in his own recording career as a performer to raise the four children he has with his wife and long time partner, singer Julie Masse.
Hart has focused on songwriting and producing in recent years contributing hits for fellow Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion. In late 2002 Corey was offered his own label, Siena Records with distribution through Warner Music Canada. The partnership was the brainchild of legendary Sire record executive Seymour Stein. Their priority was to find a world class female vocalist to launch as the label’s first signing.
“I had a hard time finding the right artist for Siena. Michael Litresits had mentioned casually one day in an e-mail that he knew of a terrific young Haitian Canadian singer,” Corey recalls. “Within a few minutes I had received an MP3 of her singing Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman. That was all I needed to take things to the next level.” A meeting was arranged and Marie-Christine flew Miami bound to meet Corey Hart.
“I’m, very shy and I definitely knew he was a big star, so I was pretty nervous,” she says recalling that first meeting. “He wanted to hear me sing in person so he quickly taught me a song called ‘Silence’ which he had originally written for Celine Dion. I learned it fast and sang it for him a cappella right in his kitchen!” “Marie-Christine had my four children gathered around spying at some point curious to discover what the big voice was emanating from near the oven,” chuckles Corey. “If you can sound great in a family kitchen ‘so goes the world.’” With that nerve-racking audition out of the way, an agreement was reached and recording began on De Pestre’s debut album, Walk In Beauty.
“On the morning that we were recording vocals for ‘Walk In Beauty,’ MC strode in to Compass Point Studios repeating the phrase ‘Nam Myho Renge Kyo,’” Corey recalls. “She explained to us that it was a famous Tibetan saying she had first heard in a film about the life of Tina Turner. It is referred to as the Law of Life. Coincidentally I wrote the song to embody many of the essential principles of Buddhist thinking.
‘Nam Myho Renge Kyo’ was the perfect lyrical mantra spontaneously spoken by MC in the intro of our song.” Acting as Executive Producer on the overall project, Corey also produced several tracks on the album and wrote six songs including “In Your Sweater,” “Take Me There,” “Walk In Beauty” and the gorgeous “Port Au Prince.” “The Haitians are a very resilient, spirited and passionate people,” says Corey. “Often the subject matter of songs or films about Haiti depict the extreme suffering that has befallen the small impoverished nation. I chose to focus on a more positive lyric for this song, a tale of two sensual lovers. We were fortunate to have Luck Mervil feature on the track singing in his native Creole.” Though classically trained as a pianist, Marie-Christine had never written a song before and Hart felt that it was very important to her evolution and growth as an artist “to explore this undeveloped dimension of her talents.” To help MC develop her creative side, Corey paired her with the extraordinary guitarist Sylvain Quesnel.
The two had worked together on Corey’s own albums in the past and he felt that the depth and sensitivity of Sylvain’s artistry would inspire great results as producer and writing partner for MC. The collaboration was everything he had hoped for and led to the creation of several key tracks including “Get Out,” Let Yourself Go” as well as Marie-Christine’s self-penned “A Little Grey On A Sunny Side.” One of the album’s most intriguing songs is the smoldering cover of Prince’s “Wanna Be Your Lover.” Corey, Sylvain and Marie-Christine had been racking their brains looking for the perfect cover that MC could call her own when the idea of doing this obscure Prince song was broached. “Sure I am a huge Prince fan, who isn’t” asks Marie-Christine, rhetorically. “But I would never have thought to cover one of his songs.
That was completely Corey’s genius.” “One day I was driving in my car when the song came on,” remembers Hart. “At first I was listening to it with a nostalgic smile and then I had an epiphany ‘This is the cover song we had all been looking for.’ After listening closely to the lyrics, I believed layered within was a poignant, melancholy melodic song just begging to be re-born.” Even with that clear vision in sight, it still took several creative drafts until they were able to record what Corey heard in his head. Marie-Christine was somewhat hesitant at first to take on this song choice because of the very disco pop 70’s production on the original version. The first demo rendition was more rock-oriented and didn’t sound right.
Corey asked Sylvain to take another run at the song but with a completely different aesthetic palette this time round. They discussed slowing down the tempo significantly and creating a moodier, introspective production with strings and piano a la Coldplay. With this new production and arrangement wrapped around Marie-Christine’s stylized vocal delivery “Wanna Be Your Lover” became a standout track on the CD and one all her own. In addition to proving herself as a songwriter, Marie-Christine was able to bring her years as a vocalist in a variety of bands to the table and offer innovative harmonies and layering ideas for her vocals on “Walk In Beauty.” “I had the pleasure of working with Terence Trent D’Arby back in 1992,” says Corey.
“Marie-Christine reminds me of Terence in this fashion of creating original harmonics and ideas for background vocal parts.” With the release of the album Walk In Beauty a new exciting artistic voice and talent has emerged on to the world stage. “It already feels like a dream to have recorded this first album and to have this wonderful opportunity,” says Marie-Christine, reflecting making her world-wide debut. “I think this album has a positive vibe and goes through many emotions that I believe people can relate to. Mainly I want to share my voice and my music with the world and hope to touch them with it.” Read more on Last.fm.
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