CULTURE

Madeleine Peyroux’s musical adventures

Madeleine Peyroux is not the easiest person to talk to. Although we had arranged a telephone interview some time ago, there was no answer on her personal line and it was her manager who tracked her down. The artist, who must not be very keen on talking about her work, let alone selling it, is scheduled to perform at the Athens Concert Hall on Saturday and at Thessaloniki’s Radio City on Sunday. The 35-year-old musician was born in Athens, Georgia, and her parents split up when she was 6. She started singing at 15 and by the age of 16, she was touring Europe with a band. A talent scout spotted her in a New York club and convinced her to record an album with takes on songs originally recorded by Edith Piaf, Bessie Smith and Patsy Cline. She released her debut album, «Dreamland,» in 1996, aged 22, and sold 200,000 copies. She found fame tiresome. She disappeared, went through a health scare regarding her vocal chords and wound up in Paris, where she played in tiny bars, rarely using her real name. After eight years, she felt ready again. In 2004, aged 30, she was back in action singing songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Charlie Chaplin, Serge Gainsbourg and Tom Waits, as well as her own compositions. In 2005, she appeared in Edinburgh and then disappeared once more, only to be tracked down by a private investigator in New York. In Greece, Peyroux’s 2004 album «Careless Love» – which was followed by «Half the Perfect World» and her most recent «Bare Bones» – went gold. For her upcoming concerts Peyroux has prepared a show of all her favorite songs, «the sounds that people love. I will be singing for 90 minutes. The last time my performance was way too short.» The vocalist, who confessed she would like to sing something by Bob Marley, added that she does not know what her target audience is. «I see people my age and even people my grandparents’ age. There aren’t many teenagers at my concerts. I don’t care if I perform in a concert hall or a club. The stage can even be the street. The music is the same, whether you’re playing for three or 3,000 people.» How popular can jazz be today? I think that I treat jazz – or the kind of music I represent, a mixture of vocal and retro sounds – as a place to explore music. I don’t want to have boundaries. Commercialism should have no relation to music. Jazz is popular at the moment. It has had its ups and downs over the past 100 years, but there are major jazz stars today, like Diana Krall and Tony Bennett. Do you want to be a big jazz star? I am still a young artist who is exploring. For the time being, I am enjoying what I do. I am a composer and a performer. The world has changed; you can become famous just because you uploaded a video on the Internet. It really is a strange industry. How do you take advantage of technology? Do you Google your name to see what has been written about you? No I don’t; should I? There is nothing for me there. But the Internet is a huge library, a dictionary. I use it for research, entertainment and communication with others, especially because I travel around a lot. I also use it for shopping and to buy music. Do you use it to promote your songs? You will see that I do not invest very much in my personal website and that I do not have a serious presence on the Internet. I am not a fan of Twitter, there is enough information going around about everybody as it is; we are in danger of losing human contact if we continue communicating this way. Does it anger you to still be presented as the successor of Billie Holiday or do you feel flattered? I don’t feel weird anymore. People always want to compare you to somebody. But it is certainly not the way that I choose to present myself. I don’t say I have any relation to Billie Holiday; I just continue to grow. How do you feel when interpreting a song that has been identified with the voice of another artist? I become the person in the song, I am not interested in the past. It is like an actor learning a role. You have to find out who you are in order to move on. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333; Thessaloniki’s Radio City, tel 2310.819.153.