Singing Life Softly In Her Song

SOLOIST ISABELLE GEFFROY IS ZAZ. SLATED TO APPEAR IN ISTANBUL ON OCTOBER 22 AND IZMIR ON OCTOBER 23 IN THE AKBANK JAZZ FESTIVAL, SHE TOLD US ABOUT HER LIFE OUTSIDE AND INSIDE, IN OTHER WORDS, ABOUT HER MUSIC.

ZAZ’s live street performances are familiar to everybody who puts finger to keyboard in the social media. Attracting a sizable fan base not just in France but around the world when her album of the same name was released in May 2010, ZAZ is on world tour to the end of the year.  The singer, who says her life has become very planned and professional of late, must really miss improvising and living spontaneously, walking into a patisserie, for example, and buying a pastry.

You are loved and acclaimed by people all over the world. People with completely different tastes who like different kinds of music. How did this happen?

It’s my music. People like the songs I sing. I try continuously to take inspiration from different worlds and different ambiences in the songs I sing. It’s wonderful that my music is loved and accepted by so many people despite the diversity. It really is…

You’ve come a long way from the Latin rock band Don Diego that you were in before you became famous. It’s a journey that’s taken you from Egypt to Russia. How has that journey affected your music?

Encounters and coincidences… All the people I meet have added different dimensions, different colors to my creative process.

Like listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Enrico Macias, Bobby McFerrin, Richard Bona...

That’s what I mean… There are so many great singers, all from different worlds and backgrounds. Such diversity, such a mix of cultures. Those are the things that influence me the most.

Are you a truly happy person? Or are you a little troubled? Even though your lyrics seem quite upbeat, they actually touch on social issues, the existential problems of young people, the yearning for a more just world. When you think are about it they are quite critical…

I try to be a happy and positive person, but nothing can stop me from taking up the more difficult and depressing subjects. Like everybody, I’ve also had periods when I was more sensitive and vulnerable than at other times. Anyway that how people’s characters are formed. I think happiness is just a feeling. But of course it’s also important and essential that a person be consistent with himself.

Despite your very different interpretation of Édith Piaf’s Dans Ma Rue, and your different relationship with the street, the critics still have you tipped as the new ‘Little Sparrow’. What do you say to that?

I don’t reject the comparison because it makes me very happy. But the time and the way of life are very different now. Regardless of how timeless Piaf’s music is, she is nevertheless a product of her age.

If you hadn’t won first place in the Generation Reservoir competition in 2009, and if it weren’t for the social media, how long would it have taken for us to hear about you?

Information is transmitted much more quickly in that form, of course. But at the same time it’s a little risky, because discovering new musicians is easier and faster but the process of finding one’s niche over time is that much more complex.

The name ZAZ comes from the pronunciation of Isabelle but also brings to mind Zorro, right? Is he a favorite of yours? Do you call yourself ZAZ because your music includes all the sounds from A to Z and back?

Yes, it’s actually the name of a character, plus it’s made up of the first and last letters of the alphabet.

Do all the sounds and genres of music really interest you then?

I’m a very curious person by nature, so I’m interested in a lot of things, including all the genres of music.

Are swing, pop, jazz and chansons, for example, all going to be on your new album? Maybe even more? How is the album coming along? When it is expected to hit the shelves?

I’m reflecting my emotions in my work these days. I’m working very hard on my new album. I hope it will be ready by the end of 2012. It’s important that it comes out. At the moment I am just hoping it will be a project that combines a rich content with diversity.

Your concert in Istanbul is going to be held in an indoor venue. Don’t you prefer open air venues or the streets? Or doesn’t it make any difference to you?

I’ve done a lot of singing in the street. Even if I didn’t make much money I was still happy. All it takes to make a venue come alive is people. I love people. So I think a beautiful, warm hall will be great too.

INFO

ABOUT ZAZ…

ZAZ - real name Isabelle Geffroy - was born in France in 1980. She began studying violin, choral singing and music theory at age five. Starting her singing career with the Blues band Fifty Fingers, she sang in the streets for a long time until she was eventually discovered in the streets of Paris. After she came in first in the Generation Reservoir competition in 2009, she released her first album, ZAZ, in 2010 and immediately hit the top of the charts.

INFO

ZAZ’S TURKEY CONCERTS

ZAZ is appearing at Istanbul’s Lütfî Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Center on October 22 and at the Izmir Arena on October 23. Tickets for the Istanbul concert range from 50 to 115 TL, for the Izmir concert from 40 to 50 TL. Accompanying her are Benoit Simon on guitar, Ilan Abou on bass and contrabass, Denis Clavaizolle on keyboards, and David Maurin on drums.