Carla Bruni Debuts Video for Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' Cover, Talks New Album: Exclusive Premiere
"It’s such a perfect song that it really didn't need a cover," says France's former first lady.
Ask Carla Bruni if she misses the privileged but very public life that came with being France's First Lady from 2008 to 2012 and she doesn't mince words. "Oh my god, not at all," says the Italian-French former model, who married Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, less than a year after he'd been elected President of France. "It was an honor for me to be in that position -- and I have good memories -- but I don’t miss it for myself and I don’t miss it for my family. It doesn't leave you a quiet, serene life."
Since leaving Élysée Palace, Bruni, 49, has immersed herself once again in songwriting and recording. On Oct. 6, she will release her fifth album, French Touch, which despite the title, will mark her first English-language release: a collection of cover songs that, while the complete track list remains under wraps, includes Bruni's interpretations of songs by ABBA, The Rolling Stones and The Clash. A version of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" is also on the set and Bruni's music video for the song debuts below.
French Touch is a departure from the very personal French-language songs that Bruni has become celebrated for since her stunning 2002 debut album, Quelqu'un m'a dit, and she spoke to Billboard about how meeting Grammy-winning composer and producer David Foster led to the idea. She also discussed, diplomatically, America's embattled new president, Donald Trump (who reportedly once falsely claimed to be dating Bruni) and France's newly elected first family.
It’s been about four years since you’ve released an album. What have you been up to since then?
I’ve been writing a lot of songs, which I've given to other singers. I consider myself primarily a songwriter and when I was starting out I thought that I would just give the songs that I wrote to other singers because I was not good enough to sing them myself. And then everybody said, “Those songs are so personal, you should sing them yourself.” So that’s what I did.
Who are some of the singers you've worked with recently?
I’ve given many songs to a very good French performer Julien Clerc. I’ve been working with him for many, many years. I also gave some songs to a French-Canadian singer named Isabelle Boulay. They were just released on an album. I’m also writing songs for another artist, but I haven’t finished, so I don’t really want to talk about it. But, basically, that’s my main work. I also recorded the album, and I have young children, so I’m constantly quite busy as a mommy.
How old are your children now?
My daughter [Giulia] is 5, and my son [Aurélien] is 15, but still there is a lot of taking care of him. So when I’m not on tour or recording music or promoting it, I stay with the children really.
Why did you choose to record this album in English?
The idea mostly it came from David Foster, who produced the album. I met him in Los Angeles after I played a gig there in 2013. He said to me that he would love to produce an album of mine for America, but that my songs are so French! He said that people in America would love to hear me singing in English. I said I’d love to do it, but I but I only write in French and I’d never thought of doing a covers album. I wanted to hear his ideas though, so we met in Paris and had a cool afternoon where I played some of my favorite American and English songs on the guitar, like I’ve done since I was 10 years old. And David said, “Oh, this is going to be great. Can you make me some demos?” So I made my own demos, like they were my own songs. David said he really liked them because we twisted the songs a lot. I did that with my guitar player and my piano player who are both on the album. It was very organic.
The songs I’ve heard are very different from the originals.
Yes. I think it was fun for David -- who is sort of a grand producer that uses orchestras and strings and big productions for great voices -- to do these acoustic covers.
Particularly in the case of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence.” You really stripped the song down and let the lyrics create dramatic tension.
What I like very much about the song is the lyrics. It’s such a perfect song that it really didn't need a cover. The lyrics are quite dark, but they’re made stronger because, nowadays, noise is everywhere. We need silence. Silence is healing.
Did you choose all of the songs on the album?
Oh yeah, very much. We did maybe 20 demos, and then we chose from them.
Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man" is one. Is that an homage to your husband?
It’s a homage to any husband in the world. It’s the husband song. It’s very macho actually in a very tender way. I love Tammy Wynette. I love her voice and her writing.
You've also recorded a very interesting cover of The Rolling Stones' "Miss You." Is there anything to be read into that, given your past relationship with Mick Jagger?
I recorded it because it's a great song. I always loved it and we gave it a sort of Latin beat. It really has nothing to do with my friendship with Mick. That was not an affair. It was a friendship. "Miss You" is a song that everyone feels once in a while with our children, our friends, our lover, our dogs. My man is in Singapore right now, and I do miss him. Missing someone is universal.
I understand that The Clash's "Jimmy Jazz" is also on the album.
Yes, we did it in a very jazzy way. We’re not trying to compete with The Clash. We really went in a feminine direction. There is a live version on the YouTube where they go much faster than they do on the recording. They must have been drunk or something. They're really screaming the song. We really did it girly and Frenchy. So I hope Joe Strummer will not send me messages from heaven, or hell. Who knows where he is.
You also cut an ABBA song?
"The Winner Takes It All." I've been playing it since I was a teenager on the guitar like a Joan Baez song. So we did it that way. Very sweet; very folk. Initially, I said, "No, I can't do that. The song is too famous." But David insisted. He said, "It's nice when you play it on the guitar. It's like you're sitting on a porch somewhere in the South playing a song."
Who are some of your other musical heroes?
Oh, Leonard Cohen for sure, and in America Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith. I love Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and all the blues people.
How long did it take to record the album?
A very short time really. The demos took maybe two weeks at home, and then with David we did two 10-day periods in the studio. Ten days in Paris, where we'd send our work to his engineer in L.A. every day. And then we went to L.A. a few weeks later for 10 days and finished the record. We added strings and did the vocals.
What did you make of this country's political situation when you were here. I know that you've had some previous experience with our president when, many years ago, he falsely claimed that he had dated you.
Ever since my husband became president of the French Republic, I hold myself back from making political comments. I'm being very diplomatic. But you know what? I wish America good luck. I wish the president good luck. And I also wish the new French president good luck. Because it’s a hard job.
Do you know the new French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife?
No, I haven't met them, but they seem to be nice people.
Do you have any advice for Brigitte Macron on dealing with the attention that is being focused on her right now?
It’s hard to give advice without looking pretentious. She looks intelligent and clever. I’m sure she will manage.