Interview with Clara Luciani
Her style is innate, her voice golden, her look timeless. Clara Luciani is the latest young French singer to be the envy of the world. Taking on the legendary "Il est 5 heures, Paris s’éveille" (It's Five O'Clock, Paris Awakes) by Jacques Dutronc for Longchamp, she shares her take on the capital, on style, on music… life, in short!
It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, Paris is waking up… where can we find you?
In bed. I’m not much of a party animal, so if I do half-open my eyes before the sun comes up, I’ll realise there’s still three hours before my first cup of tea of the day. And try to go back to sleep!
Sacha Guitry said: ""Being a Parisian is not about being born in Paris, it is about being reborn there"". Is that how you feel?
Definitely. I’m very much on that wavelength. I often say I spent 19 years in gestation before being born in Paris! As Delphine sings in The Young Girls of Rochefort: ""À Paris, moi aussi, je tenterai ma chance"" (I’m going to try my luck in Paris too). Coming here, everything finally seemed possible, at least musically; I discovered myself, found myself fulfilled artistically. It’s where I wrote some of the songs on my album, like ""Les Fleurs"".
Is Paris the most beautiful city in the world?
There is beauty everywhere, all the time in Paris, that's for sure. I really like it, but my heart also belongs to Aix-en-Provence; the architecture and natural surroundings have long inspired me. It's no accident that my first album was called Sainte-Victoire. That’s where I come from. But what makes me feel at home in Paris is the fact it has given me the fondest memories of being on stage, not to mention friendships and all kinds of adventures. Artists that gave me my break: Benjamin Biolay, Raphaël, La Femme... My first solo concert was at Madame Arthur. I won't forget seeing those red letters on the front of the Olympia in a hurry.
That was a great moment…
it really was! After a dozen or so support acts and other collaborations at the Olympia, I got it all to myself.
Which is your favourite arrondissement of Paris?
It depends on the day and on my mood… but maybe the 18th and the 9th, probably because I spend so much time there for work. Sometimes I venture over to the Left Bank for a wander around the Jardin du Luxembourg and to drink hot chocolate at Angelina, near the Musée du Sénat.
What's the perfect breakfast when Paris wakes up?
Pain au chocolat! I've always had a soft spot for them and always will. I’d also like to point out that anyone who calls them chocolatines could not be more wrong!
Who do you think is the ultimate Parisian icon?
Juliette Greco. There was something terrifically free about her; she was almost arrogant in her freedom, wild and beautiful, without affectation. She’s an icon in spite of herself; it was a lack of funds that compelled her to search out simple clothing, not an obsession with minimalism. Her effortless style has become the uniform of Saint-Germain-des-Prés… nothing deliberate, nothing studied.
Why does the whole world aspire to have Parisian style?
Because it's inimitable. The reason it cannot be emulated is because it is innate. Try too hard, it evades you... The French are the enfants terribles of fashion! It is actually more of an attitude than any particular look; this nonchalant elegance that some women have, owing to their age, physique or descent: Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jeanne Damas, Anna Karina…
all strong women in their own way!
True! In fact, that's what my song, ""La Grenade"" is about; women's power is just as intense as that of men.
There have been so many films made in Paris. Which one means the most to you?
Love Songs by Christophe Honoré, he knows how to capture Paris like no one else, and in musical format. I’m a huge fan of musical films, I was raised on Jacques Demy and the combination of sound and imagery really affects me.
Best song about Paris?
Talking of musical films… for me, it has to be ""Paris Violon"" by Michel Legrand, who’s composed the music for lots of really good films. I love it so much! ""Paris Verlaine, aux sanglots longs / Paris ce soir se fait violon..."".
What about books?
The Lady with the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils. It’s a wonderful love story just the way I like them, set in Paris from a bygone era, think 19th century salons and boxes at the opera. Describing the relationship between a young man from a wealthy family and a courtesan, Dumas fils was inspired by his passion for a certain Marie Duplessis, who died at a very young age from tuberculosis.
Love is a great source of inspiration for you too, isn’t it?
If I hadn’t had my heart broken a few years back, my first songs would never have seen the light of day. It took me a break-up to feel the overwhelming need to write my own music. While the intensity of writing my first album is ever present, I have since taken the necessary step back and moved on, thanks to the reaction that Sainte-Victoire received on tour. Performing is so important to me!
Which is your favourite Jacques Dutronc track?
I love ""L'Idole"", the words are amazing. He talks about the reality of being a singer, refuting with self-deprecation and a certain (very Parisian!) cynicism the public's image of an artist, which we often wrongly assume is all glitz and glamour.
Why did you decide to cover ""Il est 5 heures, Paris s’éveille""?
For a start, it was nice to sing an ode to a city that I love, but have been kept away from longer than expected because of the recent lockdowns. It’s a nice way to revisit it! As one of my favourite artists, reinterpreting Jacques Dutronc is an honour. I feel very strongly about what he and Françoise Hardy did for French music. They casually dusted it off with their freedom, their charm, their audacity. On top of that, as chance would have it, I've just recorded a duet with their amazing son, Thomas Dutronc!
What was your vision for this cover?
Although I’m a fan of the Sixties, whenever I cover a song from that decade I always try to get as far away from its aesthetic as possible, to avoid falling into the category of pastiche. The past has passed! We have to try and work on the follow-up, offering up something new, while not denying its heritage. What matters is being an artist of your time. I wanted to inject something of my own musical DNA into it, organic yet manufactured pop with an insistent bassline. For the recording, I worked with my inner circle in the studio, the musicians and producers Ambroise Willaume aka Sage and Yuksek.
Who are your musical influences?
They’re very wide-ranging! From the melancholic piano of Erik Satie to the psychedelic and alternative rock of Spacemen 3, via songs embodied by Jacques Brel… it’s important to stay curious and to nourish myself on all the arts in the broad sense: painting, photography cinema, fashion, etc. I also like to keep up with my French brothers and sisters, like Juliette Armanet, Hervé and P.R2B.