Emily Loizeau: Nature Girl

Those in the know – visitors to Rockfort – will have seen Emily play London’s Institute Français earlier this month. Devoted to songs from ‘Pays Sauvage’, the show was a taster for what should be a fertile autumn for Emily. Rockfort got a British exclusive on the new album.
Emily Loizeau’s debut album, ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’, was an enviably seamless modern-world overhaul of chanson. With reflective backdrops of swooning strings and dripping acoustic guitars that evoked late nights, forgotten bars and empty streets, ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’ was utterly striking.
France agreed and, after its February 2006 release, ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’ was nominated for the Prix Constantin in November 2006. The same month, Emily was awarded the Prix Adami-Coquatrix. A UK release of ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’ received good reviews in early 2008 and a few British live shows followed, but les rosbifs didn’t seem to be becoming instant converts. The British release of Emily’s second album, ‘Pays Sauvage’, should have the right effect. ‘Pays Sauvage’ hit the shops in France in February and will be out here this autumn on Bella Union.
Although she’s spent most of her life in France, Emily Loizeau is half English on her mother’s side. Her grandmother was actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft. Both ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’ and ‘Pays Sauvage’ feature songs in French and English. “I feel both French and English,” she confesses. “But I have spent more time in France. Sometimes I dream in English. It’s very odd, I don’t know where I belong. Being both French and English, and having lived in France most of my life of course I’m close to chanson Française. On the other hand my mother was in love with Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Nina Simone and Paul Robeson. I listened to Police and The Beatles, Kim Wilde, Julien Clerc when I was five or six. I was in love with Julien Clerc, he’s so sweet. I like Simon and Garfunkel a lot.”
The musical stew was further complicated by Emily having learnt piano from age four. Up to 19, she says her ambition was to be a classical pianist. The theatrical line of her family was another influence “The cabaret side of the theatre and Kurt Weill inspired me a lot,” she says. “I don’t know if I’m part of any kind of tradition, but I feed myself from them.”
All this surfaced on ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’, which Emily says “was very linked to my piano, it was very much piano and voice surrounded by other instruments. ‘Pays Sauvage’ has been written in a more primitive, brutal and wild way with rhythmics and vocals. The piano was added with other instruments. It’s much more baroque. There’s a folk side to it, this 70s music that’s still very much an inspiration. There’s a live atmosphere – other bands like Moriarty and David Herman Dune joined in. It was like a village singing together. I wanted people to come and join, and have a live sound.”
It’s clear that Emily draws on whatever is most appropriate for the songs. Equally, the narrative themes are given the same level of consideration. Amongst the characters on the album’s cover is a bearded lady, reflecting the song ‘La Femme A Barbe’. “It’s a friend of mine, she’s not always like that,” laughs Emily. “The song talks about something that is not as joyful as the imagery of the bearded lady or a circus. It’s more about exclusion and what one doesn’t want to see in the big city: men and women who have lost contact with society and themselves, talking to themselves. You feel it can happen to you any time. I wanted to tell this story about this girl who’s aggressive and says all the things you wouldn’t dare say. Growing older, you’re closer to people who can’t manage in life.”
Emily says “the voice expresses emotions. It can be soft and surrounding, and also aggressive and violent, because that is what life is about. The voice expresses that to me.” The language Emily sings in doesn’t matter – emotion shines through. Britain will easily succumb to ‘Pays Sauvage’.
© Kieron Tyler, June 2009