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Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Jean-Baptiste Sinniger

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Three years after her debut album, rock & roll pasionaria Anna Calvi made her way into international recognition with a brilliant sophomore album.

So here we are, 3 years after the release of your first album Anna Calvi.  How do you deal with fame since the moment you became a successful singer and songwriter?

I don’t really think about that. I just focus in doing good performances and making good songs. Of course, my everyday life has changed a lot but I don’t feel of feel kind of different in myself.

 

Anna Calvi

 

Is it more difficult to work on an album when you know that, this time, people expect you?

I guess in a way it was more difficult but I think the main thing for me was to make something I felt proud of and that I could stand behind. You know, you can’t control whether people are gonna like it.

You expected to sell around 5 000 copies of your first album while the final amount of copies sold is around 100 000 copies. How do you explain the sudden success of your first album?

I don’t know how to explain it really. I tried to make something that was a representation of me. I really think that if you do something truthful, people will give a positive response to it.

When I heard about you for the first time, I was instantly hit by the character you proposed on stage. You know, this woman dressed like a flamenco dancer playing the guitar as a soloist and standing in very dramatic postures. Do you think you benefited from some kind of surprise effect? If so, to what extent?

I dress the way I do because I want to express the passion that is present in my music. I found that the flamenco outfits gave a strong impression of passion, and this is why I chose them.

 

Anna Calvi

 

You were nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2011, you received praise from music monuments. What is your relation to recognition? Is it something you look for?

Honestly, it’s not the main thing I think about but I think it’s definitely nice to get recognition. It’s nice to have people that appreciate what you do. But I don’t think we can say it’s a fuel to my creation. 

Your second album sounds darker, maybe more straightforward compared to the sensual and dreamlike first one. It is something that you can actually feel just by comparing the covers of the two albums. How do you explain this transition?

Well, I don’t agree with that. For me, there are more moments of dreaminess in this second record. Like in The Bridge or One Breath, for example. I think the difference between the two records is that the new record has a wider expression of colors and mixes moments that are more aggressive and sometimes uglier with moments that are more beautiful to my opinion. This is what I looked for, an opposition between two extremes.

Your music often sounds like it is taken from a movie. For example, Carry Me Over sounds like a thriller movie score at some point.  If you had the opportunity to remake the score of an already existing movie, which one would it be?

It’s a difficult question because I love the actual music of the movies I’m thinking of. But if I had to choose a movie, it would definitely be Taxi Driver, even if Bernard Herrmann’s score is really fantastic.

 

Anna Calvi

 

The idea of duality is very present in your universe, in your songs that can be quiet and noisy at the same time.  You are often presented as shy in life and ferocious on stage. Which side of you do you prefer, the gentle one or the wild one?

Well I think it’s nice to be both, to be allowed to be whoever you want. 

I read you were a regular painter. Is there any chance to see your creativity operate in new disciplines like painting or directing films?

I’d like to do more painting. Unfortunately, I don’t have sufficient time to paint like I would like to.

And what about fashion? I saw the photos Karl Lagerfeld made of you. Is it something that interests you?

To me, fashion I just another way to represent my music but I might consider it if a brand comes and asks me to work on a capsule collection for example.

I have the impression that you are connected to France with a solid relationship. You even recorded your first album in the French countryside. Can you tell us about this?

It’s true. And the French audience has been the first to respond strongly to my music. I think that I still have a large audience here. Maybe it’s because of the lyric heritage of France, I still can’t explain it myself.

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