Singer-songwriter Carla Bruni

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The singer-songwriter—a former top fashion model and first lady of France—discusses her first North American tour and fourth CD, “Little French Songs.”

Carla Bruni has been writing and performing music since 1997 and is out with her fourth studio album, "Little French Songs." Once one of fashion's top models, working for such houses as Chanel and Versace, she left the business to devote herself to music. Bruni was born in Italy and grew up in France, eventually moving to Paris to study art and architecture. After marrying then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, she continued recording and has performed for Nelson Mandela and recorded a duet with Harry Connick Jr. She's also involved in humanitarian work and launched a foundation to promote access to culture for all.


Tavis: Carla Bruni first started writing songs more than 30 years ago, and she now has four albums to her credit, including her latest CD, “Little French Songs.” But it still may be difficult for audiences to see her just as a singer-songwriter.

She was, of course, the first lady of France, marrying Nicolas Sarkozy during the second year of this presidency. Now, though, free from political constraints, she’s just completing her first North American tour. Let’s take a look at Carla Bruni singing the title song from her CD, “Little French Songs.”

[Video clip of “Little French Songs”]

Tavis: So you feel a lot freer these days?

Carla Bruni: Oh, yes.

Tavis: Yeah.

Bruni: It’s wonderful to be able to be in America and to play my French music in America. But so music has no language, right, so yeah, I feel a lot freer and very happy, because we have time for the family, a lot less pressure.

But it was also great time when my husband was the president. It was an honor for me to be next to him, but it wasn’t so easy.

Tavis: Yeah. What did you find most difficult about it, given that it wasn’t so easy?

Bruni: I would say the press, the depression from the medias, from the public eye. I was afraid to make a mistake, a gaffe, say something wrong. (Laughter) Say something wrong to some other president, or I was afraid not to be exactly how I was.

I was born Italian. I became French when I got married, so I became French at 40 years old. You’re always afraid you’re not good enough to do such a – it’s not a job, but it’s a function, and to represent a whole country.

If you do something stupid being me now, it doesn’t really matter, even on television. It doesn’t really mean much. If you do something silly being in that position, then, like, the whole country, 60 million, go, “Oh.” (Laughter)

That’s embarrassing, and you don’t only embarrass yourself, you can embarrass the whole country. This is like in front of the world. So yeah, I feel much freer, but it was wonderful. It was a wonderful experience.

Tavis: See, I’m listening to you, Carla, and what I’m thinking is the juxtaposition between the being sort of caged as first lady, not wanting to make a mistake, and music is the exact opposite.

Bruni: Yeah.

Tavis: What makes music work is that you’re willing to take risk.

Bruni: Absolutely.

Tavis: Is that you’re willing to try things, is that you’re willing to make a mistake, and that’s how you become a great artist.

Bruni: Yes, but that’s the story of life, right?

Tavis: Yeah.

Bruni: Life is worth if you take risk, and so of course the show business is a much lighter atmosphere, is a much lighter challenge, but still is a challenge for some people.

Some people, everybody has trouble. You don’t need to be the president to have trouble.

Tavis: That’s true.

Bruni: Just people’s life is not easy, and I thought it was a nice experience. So what I did is that I thought okay, let’s take it like an adventure, an experience. Let’s not fight it. Let’s adapt to it and try to do my best.

Also, something really nice is that you can help a lot of people when you’re in that position, because people send you letters, people ask for help. So I could help. I could raise money to give it to the people through my foundation.

I could help by just calling people, sometimes going to visit them in hospitals. That was really nice. It was not the story of my personal artistic life, but it’s, as a human being, it was quite an experience.

Tavis: You mentioned earlier that music has many languages, and it does, and you sing in many of them, a few of them on this project. Tell me about this new album, “Little French Songs.”

Bruni: This album is a typical – that’s why I called it “Little French Songs.” It’s typical French songs. What I mean is that my lyrics are French. The music, though, could be folk music, as so many talented folk players have in America.

My models will be (unintelligible) Leonard Cohen, very simple music that you can play. My music is like I can come to your house and sit with you and in your salon in front of your family, and just play.

It will not sound so different. I don’t need so many microphones; I don’t need so much production. I’m not – it’s very simple. The old traditional type of songwriting, that’s what I’m trying to do.

So this album is French songs, but that song, “Little French Songs,” is half in English. It uses some English lyrics. It’s Frenglish.

Tavis: Yeah, “Frenglish.”

Bruni: Yeah. (Laughter)

Tavis: I like that. How does this, for those who are just now, and certainly in our country, for those who are just now coming to know that you really are an artist, this is your fourth CD.

Bruni: Yeah, yeah.

Tavis: How does this compare to the first three?

Bruni: Oh, I feel like I’m always writing the same song for some reasons. I write love songs.

Tavis: You write a lot about love.

Bruni: Yeah, a lot.

Tavis: Yeah.

Bruni: I like love songs.

Tavis: I guess if you’re French and Italian, you have to write about love.

Bruni: Yes. You have no choice. (Laughter)

Tavis: What else are you going to write about? Exactly, yeah. (Laughter)

Bruni: Also love, we’re all concerned, right? I really admire when people write social song or dancing songs. I really love to dance, myself. But I just, that’s what comes out of me.

So it’s melancholic, but also happy songs. They talk about tenderness. There’s many songs that are like dreamer’s songs. There’s songs you can use to go away when you’re stuck somewhere you don’t like.

Then you’re sort of getting into a dream, a daydream. So a song is very simple. It doesn’t have an historical meaning or anything to me. It’s just something that goes from my heart to yours, and my way of writing is very similar to the songwriters that are trying to tell a little story, as if it was a little story you tell your kids before they go to bed.

Tavis: To your earlier point, I believe that what comes from the heart reaches the heart.

Bruni: Yes.

Tavis: What comes from the heart reaches the heart.

Bruni: Absolutely.

Tavis: Love songs have an obviously unique way of doing that. Of all the things that you could have written about, and obviously there are many artists who write about love.

What does the fact that you write almost exclusively about love, what does that say about Carla Bruni?

Bruni: A romantic. Yeah, I guess I’m obsessed with – it’s not only happy love, right? It can be lust love. It can be a love that one imagined, that hasn’t happened yet.

Tavis: It’s like inexhaustible, isn’t it?

Bruni: Yes, inexhaustible. Also, I don’t know where the inspiration is coming from, but I know that when I write I need to feel moved. So I also have a few songs about when you lose people, like when people go, when people die.

Basically, love and death are two points of life. Death is not really the point, but it’s the only certain –

Tavis: Yeah, the only thing certain.

Bruni: (Laughs) So it’s difficult to get completely rid of it. Also what I like is desire, writing about desire, writing about tenderness. My songs, I can sing them to my – I have a two-year-old baby girl, and they’re supposed to be soothing.

They’re not songs very good for (claps). You know? (Laughter) Hey. Go up in the morning and go jogging with my music. I wouldn’t go jogging with my music.

Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter) Have you written a lullaby for your baby yet?

Bruni: Yeah – oh, no, not yet.

Tavis: Not yet.

Bruni: But I sing it. No.

Tavis: You sing to her, though.

Bruni: It’s not easy for me to sing – first of all, there are beautiful lullabies and classic lullabies, and so I sort of sing the lullabies that mothers have been singing to their kids.

But this album is very much (unintelligible) to my first and second album, they’re tender songs. I hope that if one listens to them it’s like a caress.

Tavis: You’ve had a very successful U.S. tour, as best I can tell. What have you made of your getting out in our country singing for fellow citizens?

Bruni: I was scared they didn’t come. Until the last minute here I thought, oh my God, they’re not going to come. Why would they come? I was lucky, because usually when you come to America, being French, then there is, mostly the audience is French.

I could feel, I could feel in Canada, I could feel in New York and I could feel here in Los Angeles that the audience was not so French. That’s a major challenge, because to make American people come and listen for one hour and a half of French songs that – to me it was kind of a miracle.

Tavis: But you have to understand though that it’s hard to find a more romantic language.

Bruni: That’s true.

Tavis: French is pretty romantic.

Bruni: That’s true.

Tavis: And we love romance.

Bruni: Yeah, that’s true. Americans are so romantic (unintelligible) absolutely.

Tavis: We love romance, yeah. (Laughter) We like a little lust too, though, as you said earlier.

Bruni: Yes.

Tavis: We like a little lust, but we love it. The language is so beautiful; I think that’s part of what makes music sung in French resonate.

Bruni: Still, it was like fantastic for me to be in front of this audience, and I can feel when they’re French or when they’re American, because when I speak in between songs I can feel the reaction.

If I make a joke in French and there’s no reaction, it means there’s no French people. (Laughter) That’s freaky. So it was really like a miracle, and I said to myself 2,000 people, 1,800 people came.

I was afraid of the traffic, of the timing, maybe they didn’t get the address right, I completely – I freaked out.

Tavis: And you walked out every – every night you walked out and there was a crowd full of people.

Bruni: Wonderful.

Tavis: And your husband has been going with you on this tour.

Bruni: Yeah. My husband is so nice. You know what he said to me? When he lost the presidential election the second time in 2012, he said – I said, “Listen, do you mind if I go on tour?” But you know, I missed him – like one hour away, and I miss him. (Laughter)

When you’re married, we’re like a new couple. And I miss the kids also, so much. I’m not a very good touring type, because going away like 100, like Bob Dylan, he makes the never-ending tour? That’s not for me.

I miss them so much. I miss my house, I miss my friends, I miss my dog, I miss him and the kids. So he said to me – and I said, “I’m so, I want, I’m invited to America. This is, like, such an occasion, I’d love to go. It’s 10 days away.”

He said, “Okay, I’ll come with you,” and he did that. We brought the baby too, and so that’s – changed it completely.

Tavis: Made it a lot easier for you.

Bruni: Oh, yes.

Tavis: I’m glad you had a good time, and I know the audiences who’ve had a chance to see you on this tour had a good time. In case you missed her on her North American or U.S. tour, you can get the project.

Go pick it up – Carla Bruni, “Little French Songs.” Lot of folk talking about it and I think you’ll like it. Carla Bruni, nice to have you on this program. All the best to you.

Bruni: Thank you so much.

Tavis: Thanks for coming on.

Bruni: Thank you.

Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.

[Video clip of Carla Bruni performing]

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Last modified: May 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm