The Canadian rock star and photographer, best known for his hit singles Summer Of ’69 and Run To You, spent time in the south of France before buying an apartment in Paris. He talks to Zoë McIntyre about singing in French and cycling in Paris
What are your first memories of visiting France? I remember visiting with my parents in the 1960s. We used to take road trips across Europe when we lived in Portugal, and some time in the late 1960s we stopped somewhere on the outskirts of Paris. I remember we all sat in the car, ate cheese baguettes and gazed across the skyline towards the Tour Eiffel. However, my first proper time in the city was when I was about 20 years old on a promotional trip for my first album in 1980.
Has France ever inspired your song writing?
Absolutely. I’ve written and recorded many songs in France. The songs Please Forgive Me and All For Love were both done in Paris in 1993. I also recorded in the south of France in 1995 when Johnny Hallyday very kindly lent me his house in Ramatuelle [a town in the Var département] for about four months. Also, 18 Til I Die and The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You were both written there, as were many off that album. Being in the south of France was a great experience; it’s also the place where I learned how to swim.
What made you decide to buy a flat in Paris?
As a result of living in the south of France mostly, but also because my second language is French. Having a little place in Paris was just a dream and thanks to my friend Jean [Touitou] who owns the French fashion label APC, it just happened. He called me one day and said I should come to see something he had found for me…
What is it like living in the city?
I love it, except for perhaps the taxi system. I don’t understand why you can’t simply put up your hand and get a taxi as in every other country in the world? Très étrange!
Where are some of your favourite things to do and see in Paris?
I love the Marais, and Les Puces de Saint-Ouen and I love biking around the city. Paris is a good place for a bicycle. I also enjoy eating out at Ze Kitchen Galerie in Saint-Germain which is my favourite restaurant in the city.
What is it like singing in another language?
I love to sing in French as I get to practice my pronunciation. Whenever I’ve sung things live in France, it always goes down very well, but maybe they are just being polite! In 2004, I did an album in French titled Spirit, L’étalon Des Plaines for DreamWorks Animation. In 2008, I performed a duet in French with Emmanuelle Seigner called Ce N’était Qu’un Rêve. The latest song Tous Ensemble with Garou and Roche Voisine was fun to do because we are all Canadian. Now I sing Un Éléphant Qui Se Balançait to my daughters.
Are you a fan of any French musicians?
In 1997 I wrote Let’s Talk About Love with French singer and songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman, so it’s easy to be a fan of his. And of course Garou and Roche Voisine as we worked together. I can’t forget to mention Robert Charlebois too. I performed his song Je Reviendrai à Montréal live in Montreal and he sang a song I co-wrote back in the 1980s called Tears Are Not Enough. The song was recorded in the mid 1980s and joined the UK’s Do They Know It’s Christmas and the US’s We Are The World, to raise money in aid of famine relief for the people of Ethiopia. As we are a bilingual country we had a line that was sung in French.
You recently photographed French actress Léa Seydoux. Who else would you like to catch on camera?
I love Léa, she’s brilliant. There are many others: Catherine Deneuve, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard – the list is long!
Do you admire any French photographers past or present?
Yes many. I like fashion photographers Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Jeanloup Sieff but mostly Jean-Paul Goude. I really admire the humour found in his photography.
Bryan Adams will be on tour in Europe until 5 December.