– Can I let you introduce yourself a little bit to start with?
– I’m Mourad, singer-songwriter, do I have to say how old? When you listen you can guess I’m forty-something. I’ve been bringing songs to life for about ten years on stage and records.
– How do you come, at 40 years old, to do albums and concerts, even though you’ve already got another life, another job?
– First there’s a genuine passion for songs. I started my guitarist-life with covers like everybody.
– Covers from whom, mainly?
– For example, I learned to play the guitar self-taught with Nirvana Unplugged album. In French chanson, I covered a lot of Goldman and Cabrel. Before launching myself alone, I played in a band called Côté Guitare, and we covered French songs from the 70’s to now. During years, I assured I was unable to write songs. Until one day lyrics and a melody came out.
– Did you play Nirvana on stage?
– Never. (laughs)
– Your new album’s entitled Ta Vie de Garçon. Why this title?
– My songs often speak of how time flies. "Ta Vie de Garçon" firstly was a track, and I was in these little ravings about stag do… and stag undo. And then the idea of the imagery of the sleeve came to me, with my son in the reflection of the mirror.
– With the about-turn on the other side, rather astute.
– Thank you. So there you go, there’s as much a look at myself as at coming life...
– Knowing it’s your son is not needed, one can think it’s younger you.
– On the other hand the song isn’t directed at your son but at a mate.
– That’s right. But another son gis directed at him, which I wrote as a father, which will talk to many parents, it’s "La Cavalcade des Années".
– What’s your best concert memory?
– The most recent, the opening for Volo at Bateau Ivre in Tours last September it was great. Otherwise, during my beginnings as a songwriter, a World Music Day on France Bleu catwalk. And a stage sharing with Aldebert in Chartres too. As soon as there’s sharing it’s a neat memory.
– Still sharing, you took part in several songwriting workshops. What did they bring you?
– Open-mindedness. Especially, the fact of daring. Under the eye of the others, you build, you help each other, you bring each other something, this is songwriting lessons. I’ve been asked sometimes to help with composing, sometimes to have a look at the lyrics, sometimes we write songs together.
If I take the example of Astaffort Meetings with Oldelaf on the subject of funny songs, this is what enabled me to try to do a bit lighter. Because my songs from 10 years ago broached the same subjects but in a serious tone. Then Jean Fauque’s experience... And all the ones I attended the lessons with.
We spoke of Volo. This was sharing, The evidence is a song in the album On en Parle?, named "Papy", which was written during the intership. As soon as it was written, Axelle said “You’re going to sing this one”. "Et Mes Parents" was also born during the same intership: I came in front of Frédo [from Volo (editor’s note)] and said I wanted something lighter, something funny. To me "Femme Parfaite" is an ironically funny song too... but not to everybody. I smiled while writing it; it’s really got derision inside.
– Do you recommend these songwriting workshops to young artists?
– I do.
– ...And to old artists? (smile)
– To everybody. By the by, I recommended them to Mathis. I think its first co-writing was with me.
– As it happens, speaking of young artists in general, and of Mathis Poulin in particular, because we follow him closely too at japprecie, you have a duo with him in your new album. How did you meet?
– Before "Scruter l'Horizon" there was a first sign. During the 1st lockdown I had proposed to Mathis we write together, but remotely.
– But how did you meet before?
– I’d say at Copains d'Abord, but not sure. It’s a concert-restaurant in Salbris, with a beautiful programme. I invite you to go there.
– To come back to this duo, the topic, young people vs old people, was a bit risky, wasn’t it? You remember Goldman hit a brick wall on writing a song for les Enfoirés...
– (laughs) Well you see, I didn’t think of it at all! Yet I believe I am quite a Goldman music-lover.
As Mathis and I had to do a common set in September 2020 in Villandry, I said to him: “It could be nice to end up with a duo, but we aren’t going to dish the lockdown song up. We take one day off and we write together, and here’s the subject I propose you: we take life from my forty-something point of view, and life from your point of view.” He said OK, and the song was born during the day. It was super well welcome, and we recorded it.
– Your lyrics generally involve "your little world", I mean you, your couple, your family, your mates. Is it because you feel less comfortable to speak of big social issues, world topics, politics?
– (thinking) To me politics is between the lines in tons of things. Because actually living in society is a form of politics too. And a song like "T'es Bien un Mec" is a social song in my opinion. It ain’t really about married life, no, it’s really in terms of gender equality.
– ...through the prism of the couple.
– Totally. I introduce it a bit like my militant song, messing about, my rant, because I can’t stand being told “Well, that’s normal, Mourad, you’re a man.”
Then, it may also be because, today, I like the idea that people find themselves inside lyrics. So, everyday life is the most common. And it’s easier to mock.
But, who knows, it could be that I’ll also do my part of songs about... boycott of... I don’t know...
– You’re thinking of the song Volo’s just released.
– This new album includes a song which is a bit different from the others, which I like a lot because it carries an atmosphere from one end to the other, it’s "Il Est Temps". Can you tell us about it?
– That’s right it stands out from the rest by its atmosphere, which is closer to what I could do 10 years ago. In the atmosphere, not in the lyrics. It’s an idea of song I’ve been dragging for quite some time. It’s a kind of sad utopia of this couple that comes to say “We’ve seen it all, and I think we’d better stop here.” But it’s borderline what you could hope for some people you know. This little turning arpeggio came and stuck well to the atmosphere I wanted to place.
– And the bass which lays it on thick.
– Yes. And then the electric guitar enters, and I intend to initiate gradually on stage, to diversify the sounds. You saw, during the release concert, we were 3.
– On stage eh, not in the venue. (laughs)
– Yes we were more, you’re right, thanks for the precision. But I’m thinking of something around staging, for a song like "Il Est Temps", taking this note of the electric guitar, even if it’s alone, even if I remain guitar-vocal style.
– I propose you to have a look at the list of the albums reviewed in japprecie <https://japprecie.fr/en>. Which ones do you know? Which ones do you like?
– Of course I know Mathis Poulin, that’s easy. Cats on Trees I’ve listened to this album which was nice; it sounds differently from their previous ones.
Well, Ben Mazué is on front display too, it’s an artist who, in his lyrics, touches me to the max, who’s got a beautiful approach, with whom I’d like to exchange views during a songwriting internship.
The Volo brothers, doubtlessly I do. Pomme Les Failles was played a lot too.
Oh la la, Eiffel! but this album’s old! No, not that much actually, 2019.
Clara Luciani I’ve listened to her album, and what impresses me with her is this disco groove.
– The new one is much more disco than was that one.
– It’s true, but in "La Grenade" there was already this very very disco bass groove.
Ah la la, Tamino, I was awe-struck, when I discovered him on France Inter. To me he was a kind of Buckley’s spiritual son. Impressive.
– Moreover I saw him at Hop Pop Hop Festival, and I interviewed him at this occasion.
– I didn’t even know he came to Orléans.
– Yes he did. Salle de l'Institut. Superb.
– You don’t say! At Salle de l'Institut I had seen Tom McRae. Still got thrills.
Well, Daran, that’s the same. He intervenes in Astaffort. He’s the kind of guy I could meet as well. I saw him during his Le Monde Perdu Tour at Bains-Douches, a great moment.
Agnes Obel that’s nice too. I like to listen to it on the road.
Gaël Faure Regain too, which was played a fair bit. A little less than the previous one.
Yann Pierre of course I know him, through the news of concerts in Orléans a few years ago. We never met actually.
– I know him well. I followed him at several concerts, I interviewed him, I made him come to a P'tit Déj' Musical special "Humour and chansonniers", as a guest.
– Ah, cool.
De Palmas marked my guitarist beginnings, at the Marcher dans le Sable era. "J'en Rêve Encore" remains a gem to me, even though musically this isn’t the De Palmas touch.
Manu, I love her track "Tes Cicatrices".
Rover, my disppointment of having missed him in Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle. English pop as good as can be, sending me back to the Richard-Ashcroft/the-Verve period.
And Liz Van Deuq of course.
– Do you have some more to suggest to Appreciators?
– Last time I got awe-struck is the Éphémère EP from Gaël Faye, Ben Mazué and Grand Corps Malade. It’s super pleasant to listen from A to Z. It means something, the whole of these tracks.
This afternoon I’ve discovered Noé Preszow. When I came to "À Nous", wouw, and finally I let the album flow, and I’ll listen to it again.
– How do you deal with time, duration, in your songs?
– Without meaning to, I’ve got a very 'radio' format, I’m around the 3 minutes. Then, the input of the arrangements surprised me to have tracks more around the 4 minutes in Ta Vie de Garçon. But I don’t necessarily ask myself the duration question, I above all care about the meaning. Like Bénabar said in an interview: 3rd verse or not? Sometimes I’ve got bridges, sometimes not, sometimes a 3rd verse, sometimes I double the chorus... Depending on the meaning. Do I think it sounds? Or not?
– And in your concerts?
– It’s a job I’m gonna call trial run. It’s the same, I’m also searching for meaning in the nuances. I also like the concert moment tells a story. And that you have the opportunity to come inside. And then that you feel you’re coming towards the end – without for all that awaiting it for an hour. (laughs)
• "On a Pris le Temps"
• Alain Chabat’s Late Show
• Cécile Coulon’s poems
“As soon as there’s sharing it’s a neat memory.”
Created19 December 2022
Words recorded on November 24th 2022.
Thanks to Mourad.