Dawn Landes: 'Sometimes I feel like I was born too late'

Samedi 7 Juin 2014

Interview. The American folk singer Dawn Landes has just released her fifth album titled Bluebird. She recalls the making of the album and she speaks about the EP Mal Habillée.

You grew up in Kentucky and you live in Brooklyn, two worlds that seem opposed. Where do you feel at home?

Lately I feel most at home on the road, but setting foot in Kentucky always feels so familiar and comforting somehow.

In 2012, you recorded the EP Mal Habillée in French. This is a very rare experience for an American singer.

My very first album was released on a small French label (Ocean Music) and a lot of my early touring was in France, where I was playing music with French musicians, going to parties and dinners with French people and not speaking a word of the language. I started listening to a lot of Ye-Ye music from the 60’s and really fell in love with those songs and the sound of that music. I started translating a bunch of those songs and singing them, it was sort of educational I guess. I decided to live in France for a few months to learn the language. The songs on Mal Habillée are my love letter to France. It was very inspiring to me to live in a new country and learn a new language.

My friend and producer David Stanke flew from Paris to Brooklyn to record the songs with me in my studio in New York. We invited fellow francophiles Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Tunde (from TV on the Radio) to guest on the album. It was a lot of fun to make.

When I hear Bluebird I felt melancholy but also a sensation of calmness and the promise of a new beginning. What was your state of mind when you wrote the songs?

It was sort of a calm-after-the-storm time in my life and my writing.

In the Bluebird album there are two songs recorded with Norah Jones.

I’ve been a fan of Norah’s music for a long time, and got to see some of her earliest performances before that first record hit. She’s an incredible musician and I’m really honored to have her magic threaded into this album. The sessions were recorded quickly, I think we did 2 or 3 takes of each song. She nailed it from the start.

There are country music reminiscences in Bluebird. Was country music a source of inspiration for you?

I’ve always shied away from the “country” music description but find myself saying “folk” more and more often. It feels better to me. Some of my favorite singers come from the country-folk and bluegrass traditions... I love Skeeter Davis, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Jean Ritchie.

As a folk artist, do you feel close to Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and all those songwriters from Laurel Canyon who were popular in the 60’s and 70’s?

I do, sometimes I feel like I was born too late. I remember reading Shaky (the Neil Young biography) and really feeling upset that I wasn’t around for all of that. Maybe there will be a revival... maybe it’s happening now.

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Boris Plantier