All my life, people have thought that I am French.
I have played many French roles and even had a show written for me in which I played a French singer “Angelique’ and a song I wrote with my friend Helen Turner became a big hit in France for the singer Etienne Daho with his own words in French.
I love to listen to French music. I think the language is so beautiful. When I listen to it, I escape there. It makes my home in Camden suddenly feel like I am living in bohemian Paris.
Listening to the music of Francoise Hardy, Juliette Greco Bridgette Bardot among others inspired me to record the album.
I asked Gwyneth Herbert to produce it. I had worked with her before and I love her quirky style and her creative ability to come up with unpretentious but yet unusual ideas. We sat down together and listened to lots of the French ye- ye music of the 60’s, and together we came up with a soundboard for the album. We first recorded the band in a little studio with a history of a brothel in East London… something here seemed to work. The band crammed in to the little old basement recording room and I Say Yeh-yeh started to bloom, even without sunlight.
I wanted to include some of Edith Piafs songs as her life and music had inspired me since I was very young, and I even sang one of her songs for my Les Miserables audition. I played the role of Eponine in the first London and Broadway productions and the song On My Own was written for my voice. Gwyneth said I really ought to include it in our French album, I was not so sure, I felt that it was such a long time ago that it was better to leave it behind..but she persuaded me and came up with such a fun arrangement that I am so happy that I listened to her.
The album is bookended with Les Miserables. I start the album with the original song written for Eponine but it never made the British production, but it was the first music they played me from it and I have always loved it. ( L’un Vers L’autre) and ends with a new take of On My Own.
Le Brasier I wrote with Helen Turner and Etienne Daho and it is a very well loved song in France and has been on many albums. I thought after all these years and a lot of French practise that it was time to record it myself.
A Quoi Ca Sert (Take the Mercedes Benz) I loved so much but could not really find any English lyrics to it that I related to, so I decided to write my own.
I found Paris Summer one day just listening to Spotify, I knew I had to find a man with a gorgeous deep voice, I wasn’t sure who it could be. I knew my local hairdresser Rowan John wanted to be a singer. I asked him if he wanted to come to the studio and sing the demo for me as a favour and for fun, little did I know that his voice would be so perfect for it. I could not have asked anyone better.
La Foule, Hymne l’amour and Je Ne Regrette Rien are all Edith Piaf songs.
La Foule is the hardest French song I have ever learned, it has a fairground quality, It took so long to learn it I could not not put it on the album and I so love the crazy wonderful arrangements Gwyn has produced for it.
Hymne L’amour (if you love me) was my audition song for Les Mis. Edith Piaf wrote this just after her lover was killed in a plane crash. The words touch me so much I feel freezing cold whenever I think about it.
Je ne regrette rien, I try so hard to believe that I have no regrets, but I do.
I wanted this to be in both French and English and I wanted it to be simple, just voice and guitar so that the message of the song would be the main attraction.
I loved the original Georgie Fame song Yeh Yeh, and I mixed it with a Bridget Bardot song… Ca Pourrait Changer. I asked Gwyneth to sing it with me and there you have it, I hope it has captured the fun we both have had making this album.
This album, I record for love, I never give myself pressure, I don’t look at it as a job, I am so lucky to be able to enjoy being creative. I am extremely proud of it and hope people will like it as much as I do.
Copyright © 2017 Frances Ruffelle
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