Oyster chats to charming chanteuse emilie Simon on the eve of her Australian tour.
"It's not cold at all here. It's very sunny, beautiful days." It's clear from the warm, girlish tone of electro chanteuse emilie Simon's voice that New York City's weather has contributed to a rather rosy disposition. It's no wonder, really. The captivatingly chaotic collection of songs on latest release The Big Machine has solidified Simon's position as a thoroughly charming and fundamentally unique voice in contemporary pop music.
For Simon, the path to a musical career happened independent from external influence. There was no grand epiphany- you get the feeling that it ran so deep in the veins that there was no other option. "I started music when I was seven years old, maybe six, so music was part of my life but I didn't know then how big it was going to become. When I was eighteen, nineteen, I started having ideas about songs and the kind of direction that I liked. With my first album, I was a student of musicology, because I loved music, so I was just doing it but I didn't know if it was going to be a real career." With three successful studio albums and a feature film soundtrack now under her belt, any doubt Simon may have had regarding a musical metier has proved unfounded.
It's tricky to explain the luscious electronic layering of Simon's work to the uninitiated. She attributes her unique sound to the personal touch that envelopes all her albums. "I've always liked to produce my albums, so the sound and everything is all coming from me, it's following my life. It's very organic, everything in it is really home made for me." Indeed, with work that runs the gamut of lithe, pulsing electro on Dreamland to the cheeky cabaret of Rocket To The Moon, it seems incongruous that it should so often be isolated under the tag of simple electronica. Simon is loathe to label her music so definitively. "I say that it's electronic music, chanson electronique, because I know that it will be a little easier for people to see what I'm doing, but it's difficult to just put a label on the music. I would say it's very energetic, there is electronic elements, but there is also all these instruments and drums. It's very organic, that's why it's difficult to explain it in a few words."
For Simon, the writing process is a very intimate one. "I feel like all my albums are like a little projection of what I was, what was going on in my life and the feelings that I needed to express at the time. So they are all very genuine, honest." She is particularly satisfied with latest release, The Big Machine. "I have the feeling that I explored something and I am happy about it and I feel like it's real." When quizzed about any upcoming projects, however, Simon is quick to assert that a new album is the last thing on her mind. "I don't know about the next album right now, I'm still working on this album. I'm writing all the time, it's part of my balance. But there is no next project to talk about. Not yet, anyway."
Talking to Simon, you can't help but be absorbed by the idiosyncratic melange of Gallic accent and unapologetic transatlantic vocabulary. Her conversation is punctuated with the inherited 'like's' and 'you know's' typical of all resident New Yorkers. But it's not just a verbal lexicon that Simon has collected from her adopted homeland? it is a constant source of inspiration. The vibrancy of the buzzing metropolis can be felt throughout The Big Machine, which was inspired by Simon's transatlantic upheaval a few years back. What attracted her to life Stateside? "There is a lot of different people here. It's, like, very open, a lot of different cultures, a lot of electricity in the air, so there is a possibility to see new things all the time and to discover a lot of artists. Everybody is a magician, singer, actor, painter. That's the exciting part about being in New York, being around creative people all the time." Does she ever miss Paris? "New York City's very different from Paris, and I love Paris too, but it's just different, completely different vibes. It's nice to just change your habits, you know, go out of your comfortable zone. I talk to American artists and they're telling me how much France and the French inspire them. But I just feel like it's important to just go somewhere else and absorb something different from your culture, and for me it was New York but it could have been another city."
Simon is charmingly enthusiastic about her upcoming shows in Australia, which see her share the stage with fellow countrywoman Melanie Pain (of Nouvelle Vague fame). For the first time, Simon will visit Brisbane and Perth. "I'm really looking forward to the things I see in Australia, it's a long trip, but it's worth it!"
So what can we expect from Simon's live shows? "[The Big Machine] is an album where there is a lot of colours happening with the music, and a lot of energy, so I hope that people have fun, because it's a lot of fun to play." Hailed as the artist who "makes every song an adventure", it's a fair assumption that Simon won't be disappointed.
emilie Simon plays Prince Bandroom, Melbourne on September 29, the Metro Theatre, Sydney on September 30, Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane on October 1 and the Rosemount Hotel, Perth on October 3. Visit Cartell Music for details.
Keen to catch a gig in Sydney or Melbourne? Oyster readers are offered 25% off tickets at the Prince Bandroom and Metro Theatre! Click here to purchase Melbourne tickets, or click here to purchase Sydney tickets.
Words: Lillian McKnight