I’ll start by confirming everything you probably already knew about Lou Doillon. Yes, her mother is Jane Birkin, her sister Charlotte Gainsbourg, her father director Jacques Doillon and yes there are ties to Serge Gainsborg, etc. Her long lineage of French fame could easily overshadow her own accomplishments but with Places it’s her turn to shine. Besides her being the face of Givenchy, an acclaimed actor, successful model, the Best Female Artist at Les Victoires de la Musique, there is a fascination about her that stems from more than her looks (she has the bone structure of someone that comes from that mix of heritage, royalty, money and food fresh from the earth) and bloodlines. She seems strong enough to succeed in any industry she chose, even with no advantage. Whatever the obvious things you want to think about her, this woman as an individual surpasses all rumors and chatter through her music.
Places in an album that can easily fit into the genre of a classic. The songs are heavy throughout, sung with her velvet coated voice, strung together like beautiful poems that inspire as well as educate. The whole album is best listened to while reminiscing about a broken heart or while in love with someone who is quite difficult. “Devil or Angel” is the song that I have most on repeat. The lyrics and the chords hit a special note for anyone who has ever had a conflicted lover and wanted to yell things like:
“And I wish you’d stop claiming you surrender / Lay down the gun if you do/ You accuse me of standing guard / But wouldn’t you/ Honey you are so quick to skip from praise to slender / Devil or angel, I’m not one or the other / And I’m sorry if I, if I disappoint you…”
I have to admit I was a bit surprised about the honesty of the record, it’s rare this day in age for an artist to bare such parts of their souls in an organized way for mass consumption.
I sat down with Lou after she performed “Devil or Angel” for LADYGUNN TV in her cozy room at the Bowery Hotel. By a window, we chatted about her new album, being viscous and changes.
Why is your album called Places?
It was actually for a very stupid reason. Once I had written the songs, I really didn’t care about giving them titles, so they used to have the title of the first sentence of the song, then I was asked to name them and name the album. I thought it was so bloody tedious that I just couldn’t get around it and my producer quite fondly told me ‘The last song you record will be the title of the album’, so I said alright. The last song we recorded was Places. It was originally “Places No One Can Find”, and I thought that’s a bit long and depressing so let’s cut it to Places. (Laughs). It’s this kind of ongoing quest that we are always running after something, running after a place.
On Places, it kind of has this spoken word feel to it. Do you ever write poetry?
Do you do spoken word poetry too?
Absolutely, and I started off acting when I was around six or seven, and around the age of twenty I started doing a lot of lectures so I was reading a lot. I was doing a lot of readings, so I found it was actually quite popular to be reading in theatres, so I was doing a lot of that.
I love words. I love the rhythm of words and so I’ve always been very, very obsessed with literature. I read out loud for example which is super strange by myself, but I love to hear the music of words.
I read you were kind of hesitant to start recording and putting out your music. Were you hesitant to put out Places after it was finished?
I guess once it was done it was alright. In France, I had this weird thing of being an actress and model whatever, and daughter of an ancestral, and all that kind of stuff. I was very, very resistant because I knew that people were going to bash me then for doing an album, so I really didn’t want to record it at first and those songs were in a way never meant to be heard. They were really my love songs in my kitchen. I would perform for my girlfriends and stuff so that was about it. So it’s true that it was prior to recording that I really freaked out about it and I told my friend, ‘I’m so scared people are going to hate me.’ And he said, ‘Well darling, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but people already do so they will now hate you for a reason or like you for a reason, but go for it.’ So once it was finished, it was actually alright and I didn’t mind anymore. (laughs)
Do you have any songs that you’ve written that you haven’t put out because you’re too nervous to put them out?
Yeah the vicious songs. I don’t like to be vicious and of course there are some moments where we need to be vicious so there are a couple of songs I’m not very proud of. That’s why I love Lenard Cohen, because there’s this huge generosity in his music. I don’t like bashing people that much and sometimes you need to write the song to get it out, especially nasty songs about girls. (laughs) Then you think, ‘Actually no, I don’t want to get it out.’ Yeah there is one that nearly made it to the album, then at the last moment I cut it out because it was pretty nasty.
Wow, haha. I.C.U got a lot of attention and I know people are always asking like, who’s it about? Did the guy ever ask if it was about him or find out about the song? What’s the update on that?
He is a really odd fellow so I literally never saw him again which was strange, and he must have emotion one way or another that this song was about him, but I’ve never been more precise about it. I had a really funny incident in London, where a girl asked me if I was the French….this girl who keeps writing songs about her ex-boyfriends?
Oh, Taylor Swift?
Yeah if I was the new French Taylor Swift which kind of freaked me out. Then she asked me something that I thought was even weirder— actually I had never thought about it— if from now on boys were going to be scared of me because they would be scared that I would write a song about them (laughs). I was like, I don’t think I’m that precise and I’ve never said who they were about so hopefully people won’t be scared.
Your music is so emotional in some places, do you ever get emotional while you’re performing? Have you ever cried on stage while performing a song?
I do quite often actually and it’s true that maybe that comes from years of acting. You just go back to the moment when you wrote it.
So it’s true that with I.C.U and Real Smart, nearly half the time I start crying, but you gotta really fight against it because otherwise the voice completely leaves. At the end of “Places”, sometimes where the energy drops because we play it at the end of the gig, it all comes out but it’s beautiful how generous people are in the audience, so in France we’ve had huge gigs that were lovely because it’s true that you send out an energy and it all comes back at you. It’s a beautiful kind of meeting point with people, to meet on emotion
Did you sing with the choir on “Real Smart”?
Yeah it was really sweet, with boys between the age of 6 and 12. They couldn’t be sweeter. What was funny was that the little ones 6, or 7, or 8 have the perfect voice and couldn’t care less about it so they were kind of like scratching themselves and yawning while they were doing it and then the twelve year olds was super sad because they were the ones who were the most into it and their voice was starting to change, so they were put in the back and you could see this kind of strange thing that as soon as they had mastered an instrument their voices had already changed which is a real drama for boys. We never think about it, but what an odd thing to have your voice change that much.
#8 Issue of LADYGUNN
transcription / Ileana De Hoyos