Carla Bruni up-and-close: Former supermodel talks music and her stint as First Lady of France
Carla Bruni on overcoming stage fright, the best language for pop music, and how the role of First Lady is different in France. We have condensed her interviews with THR and Town & Country Magazine for you.
Carla Bruni Sarkozy, the former first lady of France, has spent her time working on a comeback as a singer-songwriter. Bruni said "It’s a life I never really left,” in an interview with The Chronicle after her husband, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, was defeated in the presidential elections held back in 2012.
The singer-songwriter and former supermodel is now back in the United States performing at the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel on February 23, concluding her headlining tour.
Bruni will bring back her magic performing covers of country great Willie Nelson, pop-icons ABBA, and Depeche Mode. She has previously dated prominent figures such as Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and US President Donald Trump.
Bruni's album French Touch was produced in the states at Capitol Records by David Foster, who has won the Grammys for a whopping 16 times. Her North American tour is being considered as a homecoming of sorts after she performed last in Los Angeles back in 2013.
The supermodel spoke about her collaboration with David Foster, saying “I told him I could never manage to write in English and had tried. He said, ‘OK, let’s make a covers album.’”
The 11 songs the duo picked for her tour include ABBA's 'The Winner Takes It All' and The Rolling Stones’ 'Miss You'.
However, fans showered her with immense affection for her 2002 debut song 'Quelqu’un m’a dit' ('Someone Told Me'), which was a part of the soundtrack for the movie (500) Days of Summer in 2009.
The 50-year-old queen of hearts said that she keeps herself updated with the newest releases using apps such as Spotify, Deezer, and iTunes. Recently Rwandan-Belgian rapper Stromae has caught her interest and she keeps his music on loop many a time. This year, Bruni will celebrate her 10th anniversary with her husband Nicolas Sarkozy with whom she has a daughter Giulia who is six years old. She also has a 17-year-old son Aurélien, from a previous relationship.
Bruni also spoke to THR's Laura Van Stratten about her family, her music career and her take on the #MeToo campaign. We have consolidated her interviews to bring you the highlights of her conversation. (Link to original interview: THR)
The former first lady of France avoided touching on sensitive topics such as sexual harassment in her worlds of interest, namely fashion and entertainment. She said she's not following politics anymore and it seems she's had enough of it from her stint as the First Lady.
Stratten asked, "What was it like working with David Foster? What did he bring to the table compared with other producers you’ve worked with on your previous records?"
"For me and my musicians, it was one of nicest studio experiences we have ever had. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of melodies, a very strong ear. He also brings his talent as a musician. Usually, a producer lets you do the vocals as you want. He is not like that. He has a very precise idea of what he wants, where I am always full of doubt, especially about me. So his strength, direction, and determination gets rid of that doubt and makes you feel safe, which is important as an artist because it’s communicated — that confidence from him that has to do with experience," Bruni said.
"He has been a musician since childhood and a professional pianist since he was maybe 17!" she added.
Stratten then asked her to describe her singing style.
"What I am trying to do with my voice is that I’m trying to be singing as if I was sitting next to you. I am trying to find intimacy, do you say that? As if I am singing in your ear. I can sing quite loud, I am not such a small voice. But I like to use the velvet of it," the former first lady said.
Laura then followed it up with, "Where are you happiest: in the studio, on stage in front of a live audience or writing when it’s just you and your guitar?"
Bruni mused: "They are very different types of pleasure. Writing is my favorite so if I had to choose forever, it would be writing. Then being on stage, though I don’t like to be away from my kids and my man. I get homesick and it actually increases with age. Touring is made for, like, a 19-year-old, not a 50-year-old. Recording is fantastic because it’s making a dream a reality, with real musicians, and then to be able to listen to it — that always feels like a miracle."
Stratten finally asked her about an interview in the fall where she said the sexual harassment and misconduct doesn’t happen in fashion — or at least that she never experienced or witnessed it.
To that, Bruni responded:
"Never, never. I’m lucky. I guess I am just lucky that it never happened.
"One hundred women wrote an open letter in Le Monde in January, most notably signed by Catherine Deneuve, arguing that the #MeToo movement, along with its French counterpart, #BalanceTonPorc, or “Out Your Pig,” is becoming a witch hunt and veering toward American puritanism, and away from the French approach to sexual freedom and seduction. What is your take?
"I didn’t read the letter that Catherine Deneuve signed. It’s a question of generation. The new generation is different. I think it’s good that it comes out. I mean, imagine all the anonymous women that are struggling at work with a horrible, aggressive boss. It is good that the victims have a way to defend themselves. The only thing that makes me scared is that an accusation has to be verified, in case people are innocent. Otherwise, anyone can give a name. You don’t want to make mistakes — you can destroy someone’s life. But then it has to be followed by justice, don’t you think?" she said.
The Italian born and French-bred star was one of the original supermodels to walk down Gianni Versace's ramp. Looking at her illustrious legacy, Bruni makes the benchmark for a standard model look like an amateur's yardstick.
Town & Country Magazine's Elizabeth Angell talks to Bruni about overcoming stage fright, her favorite language to compose her songs in and her experience from working with one of the pioneers of the fashion industry, Gianni Versace. (Link to original interview: Town & Country Magazine)
Bruni is known to have always stood by her president partner through thick and thin, but not at the cost of her own career and visibility as a performer.
Angell first asked Bruni if she enjoyed performing live.
Bruni responded by saying, "I like it very much now. You know when I started writing my songs, I thought I would actually give them to other people to sing them. I would only be a songwriter. Then I became a singer. I was very, very shy even though I was already 34 years old. I’m not that kind of person that would run on stage—I felt always very scared."
"I thought I was going to die every time I went up on stage. But little by little I learned and how to stop my fear. You actually don’t die. You think you’re going to die but you’re not. Finally now, not only do I like it, but I adore it. I’m not so crazy about touring life, which is away from home, but being on stage and going from city to city is just wonderful," she added.
Angell continued, "This album is all covers and it’s also the first album you sing in English. What was that like?"
"Yes, they’re covers but I feel like I wrote them somehow. I tried to sing them as if they were my own songs. And English is the language for pop music, it’s very different from French. French is a very literary language and it’s fantastic to write because it has a very strong literary power. You have many ways of saying the same thing so it’s a very rich language for poetry, for literature. But it doesn’t really sing right. It doesn’t really bear simplicity," the former first lady said.
Bruni added, "It has to be sort of sophisticated or it sounds stupid. English isn’t really like that. No matter how simple the song, the lyrics, it just sounds fantastic in English. You can keep something naive and simple about it and it just sounds grand. It has a lot of rhythm and a lot of strength. Italian is also fantastic for singing because it’s very vocal. Even reading the menu sounds like a song. It’s only food but it sounds nice."
Angell then asked Bruni about her biggest musical influences.
An excited Bruni replied:
"Well my favorite, as writers, would be Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and also country music people. I love Dolly Parton. I like simple writing and I also like blues. I like Bessie Smith. I also love older soul ladies like Billie Holiday. Of course, I’ve been listening to these people over and over, but as a songwriter, if I had to choose I would choose Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen because they make songs that I just can’t forget. Leonard Cohen: he wrote songs like they were prayers."
Elizabeth continued, "You walked the Versace runway this summer as part of an iconic group of supermodels. What was that like?"
"We were surprised it went everywhere. We were surprised by the reaction of the people at the show. It was quite emotional. We were behind the curtain the whole time so we heard the music and then all of a sudden this curtain is opening. We felt a wave of emotion and a wave of memory and a wave of past.
"We were walking to that George Michael song that Gianni used a lot at his shows and I sort of realized that everyone was gone. Gianni was gone and George Michael was gone and my youth was gone. The fashion world is not made of melancholy and nostalgia but it was a bit of melancholy for me." Bruni said.
After that, Angell asked her a highly pertinent question: "What’s the difference between the role of the First Lady in France and the United States?"
"It’s very different. American people, they like to be very clear about things. American people don’t like opacity, it’s not in their traditions. So the American First Lady usually has a real position. She can have people working with her, she can do whatever causes she would like to do. She can do something she believes in. In France, they like to have the First Lady representing the country but you can’t really give her a precise place. The new French President he tried to give his wife a precise position but the people are not reacting well to that. It’s a complicated thing," Bruni replied.
"But I believe that the person that really counts is the person that is elected. During the campaign for election, the spouse goes but they don’t talk to the people—they just appear. That’s what I did when I was campaigning with my husband. But I noticed that Michelle Obama and Melania Trump they have to give a speech from time to time. And you know it’s not so easy to give a speech when it’s not your job," she added.
Finally, Angell concluded by asking: "Did you ever perform while you were First Lady?"
"I sang sometimes for promotion but I couldn’t go on tour. That wasn’t possible with the security, then you have to bring police with you everywhere and it costs so much money, it’s embarrassing. I waited till my husband was done and then I toured again," said Bruni.
The multi-talented pop star lives in Paris now, where she is a mother by day and singer and performer by night. She lovingly refers to Sarkozy as "my man."
Bruni did compose and record her own music while she served as the first lady of France, but she said that it was difficult to perform live at the same time. Bruni is working towards regaining her lost time and looks forward to touring the world once again with her mild-mannered music.
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