RFI Musique: You chose the same producer as Alain Chamfort, Jean-Philippe Verdin, for your new album…
Dani: Alain started working with him a long time ago – four years ago. But he’s like family, and when you get ideas, it’s nice to be able to work on them with people you know. Even if it’s also interesting to see what people you don’t know think about what you’re doing. I’ve tended to work with old associates, for the most part. It’s not just that it’s comfortable, it’s also about loyalty and shared moments. That creates very different emotions. But I’d also love to make an album with people I don’t know.
But everyone knows you!
I’m not so sure! I’m curious about what’s going on these days, the people who are starting out in the business. I work with people who are old associates and who know how to do the job. But there are a lot of interesting younger artists out there. I love Olivia Ruiz, Julien Doré, Cœur de Pirate, and plenty of others. I’m very aware of them, they’re making today’s history. Not that that means I’m making yesterday’s!
You need people who know how to write…
You need to have a certain outlook on life. I’ve always thought writing is important, words are the best weapon in the world. Gainsbourg called it a “minor art”. But I like songs. They’re difficult to write, and I have a lot of respect for people who can do it, even a simple pop song.
In the sixties you were doing light-hearted variety, but since then you’ve become something of a muse to a generation of musical aesthetes. Have you in some way reconciled them to a kind of French chanson that has also understood the rock attitude?
I don’t know if I’ve reconciled them to anything, but along the way I’ve had composers and writers like Jacques Datin, Maurice Vidalin, Frédéric Botton, Pascal Jardin and Sagan, very strong writers. I’ve never had a career plan, I’ve made albums when I thought I had enough wonderful songs to record. Not because I wanted to be in the hit parade, because I’m on the margins of all that. I’m very sensitive to music, to words that stretch meaning, I’ve been lucky enough to meet the likes of Gainsbourg or Botton, who had something special, a real gift with words. To be a performer is also about hiding behind lyrics that mean a lot to you.
Why a concept album about Paris?
I asked Cali, who like me is from Perpignan, for a song which looks at Paris from the perspective of the provinces. I asked Jean-Jacques Burnel how he saw Paris from London. Jacques Duvall lives in Brussels, but we get on very well together, and people like him and Jean Fauque mean a lot to me right now. I’m from the provinces, and Paris is a massive source of inspiration. I have my own relationship with the city, everyone has a different one. Paris is not just a fairytale city, it’s also powerful, it’s sorrowful, it’s magic. It’s something you have to experience in your everyday life. You have to live there, listen to the city, detest it, want to come back. It’s because I’m not Parisian that I have this passion for the city and it’s evolving all the time. I’ll always be from Perpignan, from the provinces, it’s in my genes. My childhood is there, the sky there is different… Like so many people, I went up to Paris to make new, more artistic discoveries. But I don’t look back much, I adapt to the current circumstances. I don’t live in my own past, because it’s sad to always be looking back. The only framework I gave myself for this album is Paris. Everyone told me I was mad, that I should do it with a single lyricist and composer, but I wanted to coordinate these songs with different sounds, encompassing rock, folk, pop, variety. It was a wonderful experience that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Will you be taking this concept on the road?
I’ve started rehearsing for a series of concerts, and I’ll be doing these songs on stage. I obviously can’t have everyone up there on stage, though. It will be stripped down, but also more electric. Not like the piano-and-vocals shows that I did for a year at the Hôtel Lutécia. There’s a lot of energy and intensity in the new tour. In Paris, we’ll be choosing more out-of-the-way, unexpected venues. The concerts will take place in May.
Translation : Hugo Wilcken