Interview with Patricia Kaas

In a career spanning more than 25 years, PATRICIA KAAS has become one of France’s most renowned international artists. Zo� McIntyre catches up with the singer on the eve of her world tour paying tribute to �dith Piaf

Kaas Chante Piaf is an homage to �dith Piaf (pictured below) to mark the 50th anniversary of her death. When I was presented with the idea, my first reaction was “wow” because singing one or two of Piaf’s songs is one thing, but a whole tour takes some courage. But I didn’t want merely to copy Piaf’s songs, as there is no way of bettering her, so I have given a different interpretation, trying to reflect her emotion but with a contemporary twist. That is why I wanted to work with Abel Korzeniowski, because he makes movie music [he is the Golden Globe nominated composer for A Single Man and W.E.] and could add both subtle and dramatic depths to the originals. The 24 songs that I chose for the tour include some that people know well and others that I felt touched by – be it the lyrics, strength or melody of the song.

Which is your favourite Piaf song?

I really like the lyrics of Avec Ce Soleil about the angst of teenage love. I also love La Belle Histoire d’Amour, written just after the death of Marcel Cerdan [the boxer who was the love of Piaf’s life], which really resonates with the strength and sadness of Piaf trying to move on but at the same time finding it impossible to let go.

What do you think of contemporary French music?

The new generation is extremely interesting. Camille is very good and -M- [stage name of singer Matthieu Chedid] has a particular sound which I like. Some of Vanessa Paradis’s music is good too.

Are there any French artists with whom you would like to appear?

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We have a television show in France in aid of the charity Les Restos du Coeur. Every year about 45 singers perform together to raise money for the homeless, so I am lucky enough to have sung with some pretty great French artists already – Serge Lama, Charles Aznavour, as well as some newer artists.

How did the actor G�rard Depardieu get involved in your early singing career?

He financially produced my first record [in 1985]. He loves to be involved in a lot of different projects – wine, restaurants, music etc. At the time that I did my first audition, the studio passed my recording to Depardieu. His then-wife �lisabeth co-wrote the lyrics for Jalouse and he produced it.

What do you think of being labelled the French Madonna?

I did a show in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, in 1994 and became the first western artist to perform there since 1958. There were 10,000 people at the show, about 98 per cent men; it was very hot and they went crazy. It was after that show that I read “French Madonna performs in Hanoi”, but actually it’s great. Being compared to Marlene Dietrich, �dith Piaf and Madonna is fine by me.

Tell me a bit about your home town

I grew up in the north-eastern town of Forbach in Lorraine, which is a strong mining region. Mining is the hardest job in the world, but the locals are very proud and would never want to change their profession. My father was a miner and my mother had seven children – five boys and two girls. I was the last one; an accident.

Where do you spend your time when out of the spotlight?

Mostly Paris. I like Saint-Germain-des-Pr�s, where I had a flat when I first moved to Paris, but I now live in the 8th arrondissement, which is a bit more chic. I also have a little house near Avignon, where I spend my time mostly at home or in the garden.

Where do you dine out in Paris?

I enjoy going to H�tel Coste in Rue Saint-Honor� for its great restaurant and La Mar�e in the 8th arrondissement. There are so many nice places; it is hard to choose just one.

What else can we expect from Patricia Kaas?

The Kaas Chante Piaf tour will take more than a year, so after that I shall need a big rest. Then maybe I’ll do a new album with my own songs and a simpler tour. After every tour, I say to myself: “That was too hard, never again!” but then I do something bigger and harder. Maybe it is a subconscious act to stop me from getting bored.

Patricia Kaas’s world tour Kaas Chante Piaf begins at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 5 November. Featured songs will appear on an album being released on the same date.