(Photos courtesy of www.cecile-corbel.com)
Travel comes to mind when you think about Cecile Corbel. Her music is a treasure box of impressions and scenes from anywhere in time and history. Cecile was a new artist then when I discovered her through Myspace. What I noticed right away was her energetic harp playing as well as her use of different tempos in her records. And how could you not notice that apple- meets- barley red hair?
Few years later, with two albums out and one EP, Cecile continues to take Celtic music by storm with her Breton spirit. Touring and videos on You Tube do help in establishing her authority in this timeless Genre that keeps on winning coverts from around the globe regardless of race and geographical locations.
Songbook is a debut full-length album worth listening in any time of the day. Above the wonderful talents behind the beautiful instrumental arrangements is her wispy innocent and beautiful voice. How she does it, or what her creative process is will be unveiled here. Let’s welcome Cecile Corbel from Bretagne, France.
-You have a new album out called Song Book vol. 2. I have listened to Songbook one and I admit I was dazzled by your harp playing and your unique voice. Tell us how did this project came to fruition?
Song Book is the result of a two years work: I collected some Celtic songs that I loved (from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland..) and re-arranged them with my own sound and inspiration; I also wrote a couple of songs based on traditional Celtic poems or classic Irish /English poems.
The arrangements are inspired by pop and folk music, but the harp and the traditional instruments are very important also.
-You are again surrounded with your great band of musicians of course you, Cécile Corbel (celtic harp and voice) Cyril Maurin (guitars) , Pascal Boucaud (bass), Eric Zorgniotti (cello) and JB Mondoloni (Bodhran) Tell us how it’s like being surrounded by these equally talented people?
I’m very lucky to work with such talented musicians, especially with Simon Caby (arrangements, production). They all also are my friends. On tour, this is very precious to be surrounded by these people.
-Your first album is a fusion of a lot of musical styles from Jazz,Folk Rock,Traditional and Pop. Tell us what can we expect from Song Book 2?
Song Book (released Nov 2008) is more personal: I composed most of the songs and wrote most of the lyrics. It reflects who I really am, and my influences: Celtic music of course but also medieval, baroque, rock and pop/folk music. I loved the songwriting and the possibility to tell stories with my songs.
-What’s the recording process and how long did it take to finish this new album?
I took two years because I like to work slowly: recording, selecting the songs, re-recording, etc…
-I heard the sample via your official website and I can say they are exquisite. There is already a video out for La fille damnée . What’s the concept behind the song?
This song is an original song inspired by the medieval/folk French music.
It’s a very special song in this album, mostly based on vocals.
It’s the story of a girl who has been damned. It takes place in Brittany’s haunted moors…it’s a bit frightening! The video is based on the song (the damned girl on the moors…) It’s my new video and I really like it. It was shot last April in my native region.
-There’s another single out as well called Sweet Song. It has an interesting piping and drum part near the end. What’s the story behind this song? I saw the video is excellent as well with those watercolor paintings.
Sweet song is a love song I composed a couple of years ago.
It’s a very simple song, with simple words; it’s a kind of cradle song.
The pipe solo at the end is one of my favorite moments in this album! The talented piper Cyrille Bonneau (Wig a Wag, Denez Prigent) recorded it for us…The Sweet song video was released winter 2008.
-How do you compose your music? Is there a formula?
I’m afraid I can’t answer this question because inspiration is something mysterious – even for me. I can’t tell how and why inspiration comes…It just comes! (and sometimes it doesn’t come !)
-How did you develop your style of singing and harp playing?
I practice harp everyday and I try to sing also everyday. I’ve been playing harp for 15/16 years now and I am still learning… I listen to many different kinds of music and it inspires me for my harp playing and singing.
-That harp of yours, it looks wonderful. Is it custom made?
Yes, it’s a custom made harp, made in Brittany (Quimper) by the harp maker Marin Lopitheau. I really love his harps: powerful sound, nice design.
-You were born in Brittany, in the Finistère, at the very west of Europe. As a child, you traveled all over Brittany with your parents, who were puppeteers. It must be an interesting childhood!
I grew up in Brittany which is a wonderful part of France. This inspired me a lot for my music.
My parents were puppeteers but they stopped when I was 7, so I don’t have a lot of memories of this time. They were also artists (painters….) and I remember my childhood was very happy, creative and full of imagination!
-Is it true that in your teens you discovered the guitar first before learning the harp. Can you tell us more about this?
I learned the guitar when I was 10. I discovered the harp when I was 16…and I chose the harp…I think the instrument corresponds to me better.
-What got you started into this musical path? Other musical influences? Artists perhaps that might have told you “hey this is what I’m going to do”.
When I was younger I didn’t decide to live for my music. It’s something that happened slowly: I was a student (Archeology and Art History) in Paris and I started to play with a Celtic band in the pubs and bars, then I also played as a street musician. I was still a student and I liked to be on stage. When I finished my studies, I decided to record a first demo and this is the real starting point for me. Then concerts, festivals, tours in France, Europe and abroad, the second album and the third album followed….
-Before starting in this musical career of yours what were the challenges you encountered?
Challenges are very important for me; I try to have some new challenges everyday! When I started to perform the biggest challenge was to convince venues to program my music.
One of the biggest challenges I had in the past 3 years was a 3 weeks tour in Australia: I was totally unknown in this country and we decided to organize a tour with no help at all.
Fortunately some big folk festivals booked us but when we arrived in Australia we didn’t know at all if the audience would have been there and would have liked my music! Finally the tour was a success!
-Is there a huge support for Celtic music in France?
Celitc music is very popular in Brittany, and I think people in the other regions also like it. For example, we always have many people coming to our concerts…
But unfortunately this music is not broadcasted on radio or TV…
-Brittany has gotten big in terms of hosting these wonderful Celtic music festivals. Last time I got to talk to another musician Dom Duff who is also from Brittany. You must be proud of your cultural heritage.
Yes. I love Brittany. First, because this is my native region. All my memories came from this area. I’m also proud of its powerful cultural heritage; not only music but also tales, food, architecture and monuments. I’m deeply in love with the Breton landscapes.
-You will be off to Germany and USA for your tour dates. What preparation have you made so far?
I like touring! I think I spent more time on the roads in 2008 and 2009 than at home!
I mostly tour in Europe (France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland most of the time, but also Spain, Italy, England, Estonia…) I also had the chance to travel to Australia (twice), USA, Burma and Paraguay. Next year we plan to perform in the USA and in Japan…
-Anything interesting event that usually happen on the road that you might want to share with us?
When you’re on the road you have to be open-minded and attentive. I love discovering new landscapes, new places, and new people. Most of the time we get a very pleasant welcome and have wonderful guests. I have strong memories of Burma, which was so different from what I had ever known before, but also tons of memories of the moments we shared on stage and backstage with the musicians. It’s almost impossible to choose only one memory!
-You will also appear as the heroine in Alan Simon’s (Excalibur) new show entitled “Anne de Bretagne” next spring. Tell us about this.
The premiere of the show was actually last June in Nantes (France). There will be some other shows next year. This is a great experience for me as a young artist to sing and play in company of such talented musicians: Tri Yann, Fairport convention, Ange, Barclay James Harvest, Nilda Fernandez, Didier Squiban and many more. The songs Alan Simon composed are so great. This is a really nice project.
-Cecile Corbel thank you so much for taking the time to be part of this interview. What’s your message to your listeners and fans?
I just want to say thank you for the interview and thank you for all the people who like my music!
I wish 2010 will be full of concerts and festivals and that I will have the chance to meet you all!
Song Book vol.2 is now available at Amazon