Francis Cabrel: “I have been on the extreme left for a long time”

At 61 years old, Francis Cabrel released “In extremis”, a record which speaks for the most part about the time that flies. The occasion for the hermit of Astaffort to react on the policy and the rumors which run about him.

As every spring, every seven years, a new Cabrel arrives in the bins. “In extremis” (Sony) is a mixture of concerned songs and sentimental refrains. But what is striking about this album, today more than yesterday, is the awareness of the time that flies. Meeting with Francis Cabrel, who came from Astaffort to Paris, to tell the story of the genesis of this disc, to give some explanations of texts, to talk about the career of his daughter Aurélie. And to respond to the rumors that are currently circulating about him. They obviously stunned him.

You are already 61 years old. We are very far from “Petite Marie” …

– I even go on my 62. “Petite Marie”, I was 24 but I had started the song 4 or 5 years before. I wrote my first song when I was 19. Time flies normally, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time or that it has gone so quickly.

Time flies is the central theme of your album.

– Yes. First I don’t want to hide it. Then, that’s what concerns me and then it allows me to play down. It is not dizzying. I don’t want to quote anyone, but trying to convince teens that we make interesting songs doesn’t ring a bell, I just want to say who I am at that point in my life. All of my albums, in fact, are photographs, snapshots that show who I am as I write them. Who I was at 24, 27, 31, etc. When I look back, I care about who I was. I don’t want to be fasting.

Why ?

– I think that would be pathetic and lost in advance. I don’t think I have that audience and if I did I would rather have it through excess of frankness than through subterfuge. Anyway, I’m not looking for it.

Do you feel very different from the man you were seven years ago when you released the album “Roses and Nettles”?

– The constant is that I always feel as concerned by the world around me. I wouldn’t like to make a record that isn’t. It seems to me that there is not a huge difference between “Roses and nettles” and “In extremis” . These records are quite cousins. The difference is the assumed time.

The previous album was a phenomenal success, we imagine that afterwards it is very difficult to bounce back. You made “Aim for the Sky”, an adaptation disc of Dylan and “The Pink Soldier”. A way of procrastinating?

– They were transversal to try to regenerate me, to try to find ideas. Today I can tell you that I don’t have a clue, I feel drained. At the time it was the same, that’s why I found myself playing school: a very intense one which was to translate songs by Dylan and two more festive ones that are children’s stories, “The child. -gate “and” The Pink Soldier “. I went into children’s songs and loved doing it. Suddenly, I wrote this new record in dotted lines, with sudden stops to do something else because, if I have no plans, I die off, I get bored, I get depressed.

Troop work was unprecedented for you. 

– I loved. I met a magnificent youth, sparkling, brilliant, hyper concerned, very involved in projects.

Love at first sight for Thomas Dutronc, right?

– It’s true, we are on the same wavelength. Humor, detachment. We seriously do our songs, not the rest. We do not take the lead for our image, for example.

From the first song on the disc you are identified immediately, even before you sing. How do you explain it?

– It is a pleasure. It’s the guitar stroke, which I’ve been working on for many years to have a genre, be it very personal, a kind of breathing complementary to my singing. In fact, my singing is inseparable from the movement that I imprint on the guitar. I found it at one point and since I’ve been working on it, I try to magnify it and to purify it at the same time. Remove everything that is unnecessary, let it be very rhythmic. We talk a lot about the meaning of the songs, but what interests me the most is the rhythmic mechanism, the placement of the words, the impulse on the guitar, what makes it turn, that it fits together. The internal mechanics of the song fascinate me, it is essential even if the meaning interests me, obviously, to the highest point.

Does that explain that you co-produce your albums (with Michel Françoise)?

– Yes, I need to be there from the first to the last second. I do a lot of solo preparatory work in my studio, and when I bring my models in they’re almost finished, since I play everything – pretty much or pretty much badly. And then, the musicians replay them clean. But the internal mechanism, the watchmaking, is already in place.

You have never gone so far in political nihilism as in the song “Dur comme fer”.

– It’s irony. I vote and I will vote again. I no longer believe in characters but still in directions. We vote for a policy. The characters who represent this policy have shown us their flaws, their bad sides, I don’t think I invented anything in the song. I have long been on the far left, but today I no longer go to the extreme, little by little I am bourgeois (laughs).

What part of the world do you evoke in “The country next door”?

– The choirs have an African connotation, but the song is about the country next door in general. Things are not going well with us, we do not take care of anything or much, but in the country next door what is going wrong! I think that on an ecological and political level, the citizen should be consulted more. I am thinking in particular of the referendum. Electing a president and his National Assembly in the same quarter and, for five years, not asking people anything except for small subordinate elections where people let off steam, is not very healthy. On major issues, we should be consulted.

What is your intention on “Mandela, meanwhile”?

– I wanted us to imagine what 27 years represent. When I saw Mandela come out of prison, I wondered how he managed to fit in this tunnel and go to the light and rule a country. This subject captivates me. I scroll through my youth so that we take stock of all that we can do in 27 years. His death inspired this song for me. He is a very moving person.

When you look at your daughter, Aurélie, making a career in singing do you tell yourself that it is more difficult today?

– I think it’s as difficult today as it was 35 years ago. Aurélie left with an unfavorable a priori insofar as she is a “daughter of” … What I told her when she started out is that she must be a “daughter of … more …” I think that she made two good albums that didn’t have that “plus” that would have made it incredibly unpleasant. What do you bring besides singing well and doing pretty songs? On the second, I wrote for her. I really like his very soft, very velvety grain of voice. It surprised me a lot, by the way, because she didn’t sing so much during her childhood. I offered him three texts that I had in my notebook. She still leaves with a deficit.

And some advantages.

– Yes, because life is easy, the record was made without difficulty since dad was in agreement, the musicians came running. It was simple. At first, I warned her that it might not go very well. You have to be mentally prepared to assess the situations, the good and the bad. If we make a record thinking that it will work and that we are going to become famous, you have to know that unfortunately, it does not always happen like that.

Recently a dependent book appeared: “Cabrel, the crossroads”, by Alain Wodrascka. Where the author reveals a little of your private life and your personality. How do you feel about entering the people section?

– A book that appeared on me? Is that so ? I know someone is chasing me for their rumors. I don’t like it, of course against my will, it has never happened to me to make the headlines. Afterwards, I know that there are a lot of people who don’t like me and who wait for me to release a disc to unpack their salad in the trailer. It has happened several times. It touches me, I hate it. If someone wants to hurt me, this is indeed the best way. I have a very simple life and they invent another for me. Someone like me who is too smooth, too, too wise, that must worry a lot. I was not aware of it and I will not try to dig.

Interview by Sophie Delassein

Source: Francis Cabrel: “I have been on the extreme left for a long time”


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