INTERVIEW: MADJO (FRANCE)
Back in 2009, a little EP appeared out of the middle of nowhere. Half in English, half in French, including a gently haunting cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” made popular by Lead Belly and Nirvana. The singer’s voice left an imprint that carried on through her excellent debut album, Trapdoor. Yet despite tours and festival slots, including alongside pop icon Mika, Madjo seemingly disappeared from sight like wind-blown snow leaving only traces of fleeting beauty. Now, newly independent, the young artist is back ready to make her mark as one of the prominent independent artists poised to take off in this new year of 2015. Read on, and learn more about this songwriter nestled and hidden amidst the gorgeous cliffs and mountaintops near the border of the French and Swiss Alps.
You can pre-order her album today on iTunes. ‘Invisible World’ drops March 2nd.
First off, tell us a little about yourself! Who is Madjo?
Madjo is not a character I’m hiding behind. It’s me, but I wanted to choose a name with a personal story, Madjo is the name of my family’s house. My dad lived there when he was a child. When his dad bought the house in the 60’s, there were two names on the bill of sale-Madeleine and Joseph. Maybe they were a couple? What a beautiful love story!!
Where did performing and writing music come from? Your family?
Honestly I began to play music when I was 6 years old with the violin! My parents don’t understand at all because they don’t listen to classical music! I composed my first song later when I was 23. I was in Paris for a year and I began to look for some gigs in bars and tiny concert cafés.
You’re about to release your second album in March. What is the story behind the album? What inspired you this time around?
For the second album, I decided to leave Paris to rebuild, to compose, to write far away from the shaking city. I broke up with my publisher and with my label. It was a real “rupture” breaking off! This album is more close of who I am. That’s why it was a long process, I wanted to take my time to find the best way, the best color and sound.
My inspiration was the story of the house, the walls, the mystery around her. She whispers to me. Sometimes I didn’t hear her voices. Sometimes it was too hard to translate. I want to understand my family’s story, my roots. Lots of questions and interrogations! That’s why I set my studio there. To find, to resolve.
The album is called Invisible World. Why this name?
The album is called ‘Invisible World’ because it explains the composition process. The first step starts with an invisible state.
And when you’re alone or with your musicians in the studio (here it was more a room than a real studio), there’s nothing. I mean it’s not tangible. And then suddenly you have one note, and another, and then you get into some kind of trance.
You start with an empty space and then it’s full of huge energies. It’s like I don’t have control anymore. Later I have different readings of my songs. I can sculpt them and shape them as I want. When you compose, it’s like having the void under your feet. You can have vertigo!
You’re releasing Invisible World independently. What’s the independent scene like in France? What are some challenges being an independent artist in Europe, and what freedoms or advantages have you found it gives you?
Ah my favorite part, the independent way!! The good idiom is DIY. We are in a DIY society, the paradigm is changing. Now you can create in an independent way because there is no need to record in a studio. You can compose at home if you have, of course, enough material.
But in France, it’s difficult to be a truly independent artist because it’s more rare than in the US! The challenges are that you not only have to think about your music, you have to set up your budget for the artwork, music videos, photos…It takes time and money.
But the good thing that you choose your team! People who work with you are really motivated about what you are and not only what you’re worth. The difference is huge! In France and Europe, of course, you have a huge network of places to play. Beautiful places, amazing festivals. And I would say that it’s essential to play a lot when you’re an indie, you need it. That’s why it’s essential to have a good booking agent.
“Choose the Heart” is your first single with a gorgeous music video behind it of you climbing around mountains. Are you a natural climber? How was it filming the video-because clearly you don’t have any feelings of vertigo!
Yeah, I really enjoy climbing! The music video talks about my experience with the album’s construction. It was like a climb. Often I feel like sporty person, like a climber. I had to fight, to keep on going even if sometimes I wanted to stop, changing of directions. I wrote this story between a woman and a shaman because I composed this album like it was a personal quest. I go deeper into myself than the first LP. The 2 characters of the video are a part of me!!
“Ce qui compte ça n’est pas ce qu’il y a tout en haut de la montagne mais ce qui m’a donné à croire que j’étais capable de la gravir.”
It doesn’t matter what there is on the top of the mountain, but that I’m able to climb the mountain!
Who is the dancer in the video? How did you find him?
The dancer is an amazing guy. His name is Feroz Sahoulamide. He’s a friend of mine! He was the perfect person for the character!
For those who don’t know you, you’re from the French Alps. Care to share any tips or inside information for people on places to visit, to ski or snowboard, and towns or villages to see? Where would you take someone and what would you do to introduce them to your little corner of the world?
I would take people to Chamonix, of course! It’s wild, beautiful and GRANDIOSE!!!