Carla Bruni has worn quite a few varied hats over her 50 years, the most high-profile probably being her post as first lady to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France from 2008-2012. Overall, however, her passion has been music — a career she stepped into following a successful stint as a model, and refused to abandon even considering the time constraints of her political duties supporting her husband.
Bruni has put out five albums to date (one of them released while Sarkozy was in office); her latest is the charming and whimsical French Touch, helmed by legendary producer David Foster, which carries listeners through a somewhat bizarrely chosen selection of cover tunes. The overall collection has zero rhyme or reason — it contains compositions ranging from Willie Nelson to ABBA to the Clash to Depeche Mode — but it somehow manages to be exquisitely personal, and shows off a creative freedom that possibly springs from stepping out of the political limelight.
Yahoo Entertainment had the opportunity to talk to Bruni about the record — which she’s supporting on tour right now, with a North American leg starting Feb. 13 — as well as some of her views on parenting (she’s the mom of a teenage son and 6-year-old daughter), and, of course, as befits a former first lady, a few comments on the political state of the world.
Yahoo Entertainment: How did you come up with the unusual selection of songs for French Touch? They’re really all over the map, genre-wise and era-wise.
Carla Bruni: It’s a strange casting, because it’s coming from my own playing, from my own pleasure playing for myself. Most of them I played when I was a teenager, when I was trying to learn something I liked. So it’s eclectic, but that’s how we made the choice. There was not much thinking about it — it was very spontaneous, and a natural choice. There were like 20 songs that I wished I could have on the album. When you make a cover album, with your favorite songs … there were some songs that I really loved, but I’d never tried to play them.
You must have quite an unusually large musical repertoire as a teenager!
As a teenager I had very wide taste, from French songs to American pop songs, old songs, new songs. My family was very much into music, both parents were musicians, so we always had a lot of music in my house.
Given that you were working with such a wide range of material, were any of the songs in particular hard for you to nail?
No, that’s really how the choice was narrowed down, [it] was that they were all very natural. We tried to change some of the songs and make them as if they were songs that I wrote, my own songs, very simply arranged. So all the songs were easy for us to make. There was something very spontaneous about the whole process. When we recorded them, I kind of pretended that I wrote them.
You’re touring right now to support the album. As a mom of two kids, is it difficult to juggle your professional schedule and family time?
Yeah, every mom, no matter what the job is, it’s not that easy. But being a musician … I work a lot, for like two weeks, and then nothing for 10 days. That’s the way I do it. Like, here I’m in Paris for a week, in the middle of the tour now. Then one week at home, and I take care of them. I spend most of my time with them then — my evenings, my weekends. But it’s not easy. Touring is the hardest part.
Do the kids keep you too busy to write music, or are you able to do that as well when you are at home?
I write at home in a studio, where I am right now, talking to you. In the morning or at night.
Are either of your children following in your musical footsteps?
My son used to play guitar and piano, but he quit. When they want to quit, what can you do? My daughter — she’s singing all the time. She’s quite musical. She likes to sing all those Disney songs –my God! Frozen, Cinderella, Mary Poppins (laughs).
You must be asked often about your former position as the first lady of France. Do you find it irritating when people focus on this, rather than your musical projects?
That’s OK with me. It was part of my life. I’d rather talk about music, or art, or culture, but you know, politics were part of my life and everybody’s life. I’m not following it so closely anymore. I’m on tour, and I concentrate on going onstage. When you go onstage every night, it’s a very strong feeling, it’s very moving. It’s not like a normal time, touring.
It’s hard to escape that we are in a very politically charged time right now, however. Do you have any comments or opinions on the current state of the world?
I’m really distracted from other things. And whenever I’m back, I’m all over the children, so I can [compensate] for the time I’m away. So I’m not even watching the news anymore (laughs).
Would you say it is a relief that your husband has now retired from politics and you do not have to be in that particular arena anymore?
The public part was not the easiest thing, but there were other things that were very interesting. So I wouldn’t say “relief,” because it was not like a burden. But I am happy to be 100% into music, because it makes it easier to work and do my job. It was not so easy to keep my job when my husband was doing politics. He was completely in it; he made everything in that light.
So it is much nicer for my musical life, but I would not say “relief.” Because it was not very difficult. I was standing by him trying to support him and help him; it was a special time in my life. I’m glad we are in another page of life. Much more tranquil, much more creative.
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