Lou Doillon – about a new record, a need for change and being an outsider [INTERVIEW]

Lou Doillon

There are such interviews that we don’t plan. The opportunities to make them appear unexpectedly and we are very eager to take the chance. From our experience, it appears that these unexpected conversations provide great experience, sometimes even better that the ones we’ve been dreaming of fo a very long time. They give us a lot of satisfaction and let us meet extraordinary people. One of them would be Lou Doillon with whom I spoke on the phone one day. After this conversation I could say I was definitely unsatisfied – because of the very short time and the form of the interview.  Lou is definitely that type of person who I’d love to meet personally. What was our conversation about? You’ll find out from the interview below.

TDGM: You’ve just released your third album, „Soliloquy”, but before we talk about it I’d like to ask about the feelings related to writing the next record. Usually with the second one there is some kind of pressure as the audience has some expectations after the debut. Is it easier with recording the third one?

Lou Doillon: Well, there’s still a time you get the pressure on the third one. And I do love a little bit of pressure so I’m getting very worried for the fourth one. That there are no more stories about it. With the first one they say: „Ohh, it’s the first one!”, with the second: „Ohh, it’s the second one!” and with the third… Well, usually if you manage to make the third, normally you can make the fifth. That’s the kind of story going on around.

I’ve always loved the idea of starting back from scratch. So when I did “Places” the fun to go to “Lay Low” was to actually break the mould and do something new. So for „Soliloquy” was the same thing. I was thinking how do I break the mould and I had two options. I could go even further in the direction in which I was with “Lay Low”. It was to literally make music – it was just my voice and the guitar. And I thought that this I could do by myself so maybe it’s more exciting to collaborate. And maybe it’s exciting to collaborate with different people. So that I confront my ideas to the other points of view, other energies and other ways of working.

It was very dangerous and very frightening to work with more than one producer. Because mostly I was always working with one person, with one energy and in one studio. It was a bit schizophrenic and slightly dangerous to be working with different people and in different studios, all at the same time and letting them do some of the work and trusting loads of new people in a way. That was a challenge, but the challenge that I chose.  

TDGM: So what exactly stood behind this change in approach and what impact did it have for the process and the final shape of the record?

Lou Doillon: Normally what I do is I write the song with acoustic guitar, I do a demo where I record the acoustic guitar, my song, the melody, the lyrics and then I give it to someone so that they can kind of change it the way they want to or destroy it a bit. With this album once I had written all the songs I realised that I wanted to go to the studio by myself and to understand all of the songs before even giving them to a producer.

II thought I want every song to stand by itself in a way. So I went to the studio just with Nicolas Subrechicot – one of my producers and with François Poggio, my guitarist and I decided to work around every song like if it was a song by itself. Not as a part of an album. I wanted every song to have its own heartbeat and be its own person. And once I had all those demos they were so different one from the other that I realised that it was going to be hard to find a producer who would like all of those songs. That actually it was maybe gonna be a bit like a menu à la carte where suddenly someone’s gonna pick some songs.

I started meeting producers and every producer I met liked the different song and I thought: „Shit, how am I gonna find one who’s gonna like them all?!”. And I thought that maybe because I am the creature of extremes and in me there is a dark side and a sunshine side, I should ask every person I want to work with to choose a song and work on it. That’s how I started to work on a couple of songs with Benjamin Lebeau and on a couple of songs with Dan Levy. And then I realised I had some songs that I didn’t want to be for Dan or for Benjamin so I gave them to Nicolas and myself for us to move on. Then there was “It’s you” that I wanted to give to Cat Power for her to do the production she wanted to do.

It actually happened kind of by itself without me having a real reflection about it. But this album is maybe the closest album I’ve ever done to me in a sense that it’s all of my paradoxes put together. I don’t think there was one producer who could understand all of the different sides that I can have.

TDGM: After releasing your second album you said that you had to create a new innocence as you had lost it with releasing a debut album. Was it the same with your third album?

Lou Doillon: Yes, absolutely. I think I need to change the process all the time otherwise I get bored. So I think that changing the way that I would write, do demos and work with producers was very new to me and that was a challenge also. I wanted to know am I able just even to produce a song. Am I able to have a vision. Am I able to tell musicians exactly what I want. Am I able to stand in front of a producer and say: “No, I don’t like that and I want it differently”.

I wanted to find my limits in a way and also to be able to stand by what I do and to decide that I couldn’t hide anymore. And I didn’t want to hide anymore. And if you like this album, then I’m very proud. And if you don’t, I absolutely stand by it cause this is exactly the album I wanted to do.

TDGM: I liked it a lot! I’ve listened to it a couple of times before our conversation and I’m impressed. I noticed that you play with meanings. For example when it comes to the album title. What does “Soliloquy” mean to you? How would you explain it?

Lou Doillon: One side of a title is that when you work in a creative field the only guide you can have is yourself in a way. When you work as a doctor for example you do a good operation or a bad operation. There’s no in between. When you write a song you’ll never know. It’s a good song for some people and it’s a bad song for other people. It’s very abstract. The only judge in this abstraction is your second voice. It’s the other person in you. And when I write the only judge that I allow in the room is my second voice.

On the other side what I like about the idea of the title “Soliloquy” was the idea of it being theatre related. It makes me think of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the fact that we are constantly stopped by ourselves. Sometimes I need time by myself to understand things, I need time to process things, I need time to get ready to do stuff.

So this idea of being inner reflection and at the same time the idea of some kind of an audience makes there’s humor in that title in a sense. It does engage a public, it engages drama, it engages performance. I thought that was nice for me and for my audience to be a sense of fun, a sense of a character. I don’t want people to listen to me, or people to come to my concerts and thinking that this is all about me. It’s a play. All of this is a play. Of course there is also a form of distance otherwise it would be very uncomfortable for me and for everyone.

TDGM: So who do you talk the most to with this album – yourself or the audience?  

Lou Doillon: I think it’s really to the audience in a way. To all of us. I love transmission. If I can transmit something that’s when I’m the happiest. I know that I’m very happy on stage because I’m able to talk to people and to relate to them and their stories. It’s a great mission to have. I’m very proud of that.

When I write a song like “Jealousy” I’m happy to write it because it makes me laugh to say that I’m a jealous person and I can be jealous of everything because of my low self-esteem at time. But when I sang in front of an audience I used to dedicate it to all the jealous girls in the room and I had all the girls screaming “Thank you!” because they were feeling jealous also and suddenly they felt less lonely.

Once when I was doing a concert in San Francisco there was a guy who screamed: “This is unfair! I’m a jealous guy too!”. So it’s for guys and girls, it’s for all of us. And I think that for us, for artists, to be on stage isn’t to be a superhero. When we’re put on stage, when we’re under the lights it’s our mission also to talk about how fragile we all are.

TDGM: Music ia a very universal language. I have an impression that English is as much universal to you as music. In one of the interviews you said that English is a language of feelings. Many people would disagree saying that French is a language of love…

Lou Doillon: I would say that for me English simplicity is a quality. Within French simplicity in writing is not really a quality. It’s a very beautiful complicated language which requires rules and tools. And that’s why I love English pop or English rock’n’roll which is often very simple.

Another thing is that English is genderless. French language is divided between feminine and masculine. And when I sing, I like the idea that I’m not sexual anymore. That I’m much a man and a girl and I could be singing to a man or a woman, you’ll never know. When I sing “It’s you” no one will never know if I’m talking about a man or a woman.

If I was writing it in French I would denounce myself straight away. Saying “I’m in love” in French you say “Je suis amoureuse” if you’re a girl or “Je suis amoureux” if you’re a boy. And in a way I love the mystery and simplicity of English pop or rock’n’roll writing. It’s really what I enjoy as a musician.

TDGM: That’s true – there’s some kind of universality and mystery at the same time. It’s a little bit like being a part of the group and at the same time not being. The reason I mention it is that you said once that for musicians, you’re an actress. For theatre people, you’re a model. For models, you’re a dilettante. For the French, you’re English. For the English, you’re French. You said that this is a great place to write from, because you’re never a part of the club. Does it bother you anyway?

Lou Doillon: I’m sure that I did at many times. Today when I’m tired or weak that’s how I know that I feel this way. In such moments there’s the desire of belonging. But I’ve been an outsider all my life and I think I’m actually quite happy about it.

When I feel good I’m extremely proud to be an outsider. When I’m a bit tired and have a lack of confidence I wish that I’d be a part of a group.

I don’t remember who said that but it made me laugh – “I wouldn’t like a gang I would be a part of.” And it always made me laugh because I do believe that’s true. I’m a loner that sometimes gets lonely. And at the same time because I’m lucky to be in a mixture of loads of worlds I’ve known the known and the unknown, I’ve known fame and non-fame, I’ve known wealth and non-wealth. It’s actually a very lucky place. There’s a few people who’ve been blessed like I have been to able to learn so much from so many different people.

[Magda Rogóż/TDGM]