Donnerstag, 22. November 2018

Interview My Brightest Diamond

I met Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond on a sunny day at the end of september in Paris. The day before she played at a private wedding in the south of France for Chryde (Christophe Abric) , one of the founding members of La Blogothèque. La Blogothèque always supported My Brightest Diamond's work and filmed her.

We are sitting in a café outside, close to the church Saint Eustache. I explain to her that our blog is specialized in concert reviews, so I want to know more about the history of her Paris shows.

OP (Oliver Peel): Did you play with Sufjan at the Bataclan? 

SN (Shara Nova): Let me think... yes I did, if it was the Illinois(e) tour then it was me, otherwise I would have been Annie... (Shara is thinking). I remember that  I did  one European tour with him for the album "Come on feel the Illinoise" and later there was a butterfly tour, that Annie from St.Vincent did. But did I really play at the Bataclan? I can't remember...

(* the internet knows everything, actually My Brightest Diamond opened and then played in Sufjan Stevens band called the Illinoisemakers on October 26th in 2005 in Paris at Le Point Ephémère. But Shara didn't play with Sufjan Stevens at the Bataclan, that was Annie Clark aka St. Vincent on november 9th 2006)

OP: Do you have any special memories about this show?

SN: I think we did a pyramid! (laughing)

OP: And what was your first Paris solo show?

SN: Let's see that... ( Shara is checking on her phone...) 

OP: For me the first show I saw of you was at Point Ephémère in 2007 (February 26th) and then their was that show for your birthday party at the same venue in 2008 (April 4th 2008), when you were wearing this funny little hat. I still have one of those hats at home.

SN: Oh really, you still have it? Nice! Yes, that was on my birthday!

But the very first show I played at Point Ephémère was really special, it was magical! (October 26th, 2005). Because after everyone left, Charlie O (a french artist) was playing the piano. I didn't know him before, he was just coming over there, playing the piano and it was sooo good! 3 people from Point Ephémère were sweeping the floor, but then they started dancing and i just started to cry! I even sang "La vie en rose" (Edith Piaf)!

OP: I wasn't there in 2005, but in February 2007. You had a band with you on drums and bass at this time.

SN: Yes, that's correct.

OP: It was quite a rocky set with some heavy guitar songs from the first album.

SN: Yeah, it was!

OP: Your new songs are more electronic, is the indie rock period over?

SN: Oh I will always be a guitar player! But I have been trying to figure out how to write dance music for myself. Writing dance music on the guitar doesn't come naturally for me. I wanted to explore bass frequencies, what I really wanted to make was a drum and vocal record, but I didn't do it the right way. But i ended up finding my way. I wanted to have a different relationship to the guitar, so less guitar on this new record (A Million Pearls) I think, yes.

OP: But actually since the beginning you did electronic remix albums.

SN: I always liked electronic music! It was always part of my interests,  i always have put out remixes, since the beginning.

OP: And now you even go over to classical music, you played at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg in august with a big danish orchestra and 66 musicians,  right?

SN: Yes, indeed! I was trying to bring the songwriter in me and figured out a way to bridge that with my classic interests for so many years. For the last records there were many horns and I was bringing marching bands, on this very new record I really separated it. I try to go clearly and strongly in one of the two directions rather than do to a unified work.

OP: How much time did you have to practice?

SN: We got 3 days for practice. But we haven't done it in the US yet. I hope to do it more in the future.

OP: How man shows you played beside Hamburg?

SN: Only 2 other shows in Danemark.

OP: You will come back on tour in Europe in november, what can we expect?

SN: It will be just the drummer and me. I will mostly play the new material, but also some old stuff. Some of that older material doesn't work in this constellation. The issue with my older work is that it  requires many instruments,  an autoharp for instance, or this or this, it gets complicated. My interest is in moving forward and make things easier for me. I spend so much time in redoing arrangements, its' exhausting, you know?

OP: Will you still play a bit of ukulele?

SN: I don't think I would bring a ukulele in november. But i played it at the weeding yesterday!

That's the issue with touring, because I have to fly, bringing more stuff is too expensive, you have to be a bit practical.  Otherwise  I have to bring a truck (laughing)!

OP: Was it a coincidence that the EP Champagne came out in April and the show at La Philharmonie in Paris opening for Dominique A was also in April ?

SN: I did the EP on purpose for the show with Dominique and also the song ChampaignI had a bit of time to prepare this EP. 

OP: Did Dominque invited you a long time in advance ? 

SN: We knew about it at least one year in advance, yes.

OP: How did you get in contact with Dominique?

SN: Dominique reached out to me over the past years, sending me little messages, saying very kind things about my work. And also many people in France told me that he liked me. I think that's how it went.

OP: Did you communicate in english or in french ? Your french is not bad at all !

SN: No, it's terrible. So it wasn't in french.

OP: But you have some songs in french, right?

SW: Yes. I have Ceci est ma main (translation from the song This Is My Hand), Champagne , and also Youkali, a Kurt Weill song.

OP: And you played also Kurt Weill in Hamburg, the piece about the 7 deadly sins? ( in german they are: Faulheit, Stolz, Zorn, Völlerei, Unzucht, Habgier, Neid)

SN: Yes! I called it Seven deadly pearls. (picture by Gudrun Thäter ©)

OP: Did the music fits the mood? One deadly sin is anger (Zorn in german). When it's about anger is it then an angry song?

SN: The story is about this girl who leaves her home in Louisiana,  to make money so that her family could build a house. She ends up being a dancer, a stripper, an escort, she kind of makes a living in the sex industry and at one point she moves to California and there she became angry at injustice, because the movie director is violent towards someone else and she gets mad and quits the job.

But what you should know about the piece is that all the action is told about, it's not shown, it's not lived in. It's narrated, from a dramatic standpoint, it's a bit tricky. That's how she gets angry.  The bitter aspect is when you are poor you don't have the luxury about being angry. Now she can't eat, cause she lost her job. She is living in this conflict and she is angry. She has to go dancing  in order to make a living. She can't get a job as a film actress.

OP: Do you think you will bring this piece to Paris one day?

SW: I dont' know! If you would know someone to help me! It would be cool to do it! It comes from cabaret. To me that's important. Kurt Weill in particular, it relates to what Edith Piaf was doing at that time in the late 30ies. Piaf and Weill are to me the two characters that bridge between the two worlds. In fact Kurt Weill  was not respected in the classical musical world, because he liked to much popular music, he wasn't doing 12 tone rows. But when I found Piaf and I found Kurt Weill, I felt like  they could help me know my own place and where I could sit, you know?

OP: Did you play in theater when you were at school?

SW: I did opera, my education is in opera.

OP: Did you read a lot of classical French literature ?

SW: Not really. But I learned about the classical music of Debussy, Ravel and Gabriel Fauré. And I played in "L'enfant et les sortilèges" by Maurice Ravel. I was the child of this piece in school. That was like my big opera. My song Black and costaud is about L'Enfant et les sortilèges."

OP: You are very interested in French culture in general, right?

SW: Yes. There is something that very deeply speaks to me.

OP: Did you never wanted to live in France ?

SW: Sure! And I always wanted to sing in french. You can say something in french and it feels different than in english,  it has a different emotion when you sing something in french, that's why, plus I really believe in the preservation of language. I want to contribute to that.


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