CHLOE PERRIER AND THE FRENCH HEART JAZZ BAND // INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW BY: Emily May
French-born and NY-based jazz singer Chloe Perrier has been making her mark on the NY jazz scene. Perrier started acting, singing and playing the violin at a young age and after years of acting, she decided to make music and singing her priority. She attended the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris for 3 years, studying under Sara Lazarus for vocals and Joe Mackholm for piano and composing and began writing and composing her first songs while attending the academy. Having always dreamt of NYC, Perrier moved to there about 6 years ago and has adapted to life in NYC, relishing in the wonderful and culturally diverse jazz scene within the city. These days, she performs at various spots in both Paris and NYC as a duo, trio and quartet with her French Jazz band, performing a variety of styles including great jazz standards, bossa nova, French songs and her own compositions. Perrier released her first album, Coeur de Francaise (heart of a French Girl) in 2012, which was a mix of famous French songs and original compositions. She is currently working on releasing her second album with her new band, French Heart Jazz Band. The new album will consist of French chansons and American jazz standards from the ‘20s to the ‘40s. Although Perrier is currently focusing on music, she does plan at some point to return to acting. She currently has a residency at one of her favorite jazz clubs in NYC, Club Bonafide, at which she plays Fridays and some Sundays. You can stay up-to-date with Perrier and all of her upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase her music, via the following links. You can check out a video of the band performing below.
You started acting, singing and playing the violin at a young age. Was music always a part of your life growing up? What led to your love for and focus on jazz music? What led you to decide to focus on making singing your priority?
Music was always a part of my life.
When I grew up we had a record player and I was listening to the same albums over and over again, until I eventually got my own CD player. Jazz came later on for me. The first concert I performed was a compilation of songs from my favorite movies. It is not common in France to start a music career as an actress, but for me that was very natural. A few years later, I was singing more and more jazz, and I decided to go back to school to learn more about it. I chose the Bill Evans Academy Jazz school, and followed singing classes with the great Sarah Lazarus, and composition with Joe Makholm. This is where I composed my first song « Si » which is on my first album « Cœur de Francaise ». And my Jazz life began...
When I moved to New York five years ago without speaking almost any English, it was common sense to focus on the singing first. When I sing nobody complains about my accent, it’s quite the opposite! ;)
You studied at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris and while there, you started writing and composing your first songs. What is your process for writing and composing music? What inspires your lyrics when writing your original compositions and how often do you write your own material?
I don’t really have one process. Sometimes a song pops up in my head when I wake up, sometimes while walking on the street, sometimes when I decide to focus on finding something. Usually the melody comes first and then I sing and record it on my phone so that I don’t forget it. Then I write down the melody and look for chords to go with it on my keyboard.
Then the teamwork begins, I ask a musician friend to play it, to see if the chords works with the melody, and I’ll try it on stage with my band.
And for the lyrics too, it comes directly from my life. What I feel, live and see around me.
To be honest, I don’t write enough yet. I wish I had more time to do it. For now it’s on and off... taking advantage when it comes. But my plan is to create more time for this in my crazy schedule.
You perform these days as a duet, trio, quartet and sextet in clubs around NY and Paris. What do you enjoy about performing with different line-up configurations? What do see as some differences between performing in Paris versus the US? How are the jazz scenes and audiences different?
Duets and trio‘s are more intimate, which perfectly suits my first band « Cœur de Francaise ».
Quartet and higher are more festive and are appropriate for my new band « French Heart Jazz Band » which encourages more people to dance.
Personally I love both, I just don’t sing exactly the same way depending on how many musicians I have. I adapt my singing to the band I’m playing with.
I’m dreaming of playing with a big band some day. I sat in with Vince Giordano big bands a few times and it was amazing!
You have relocated from Paris to NY and currently reside in Brooklyn, deciding to make the move to NY almost 6 years ago to follow your dream. What was it about NY that lured you there as opposed to a different place? What do you love about the NY jazz scene and who are some of your favorite jazz musicians in NY right now?
I always dreamt about NYC. As an actress, I always had the wish to be part of the Actors Studio, and NYC was featured in most of my favorites movies. Also, I don’t know why, but I feel home here. I feel that I can be 100% myself. Music is everywhere, and when I went to my first Jazz Club and began to discover the Jazz scene here, I became convinced that I had to make it my home. I love the fact that musicians come from all around the world. Each one of us brings his/her own culture to the music, it’s a unique mix. And I love that you can find any kind of Jazz.
The list of my favorite musicians here can be long. All the musicians I am playing with are amazing, I also love to listen to Marianne Solivan, Camila Meza, Vince Giordano, Tatiana Eva-Marie, Jon Batiste, Saul Zebulon Rubin, and a lot of others!
How did you meet and come to perform with your dream team- Aki Ishiguro (guitar), Jim Robertson (Bass) and Rodrigo Recabarren (drums)? You have since formed The French Heart Jazz Band with them! What can you tell me about the band?
I met Aki first when I was doing a documentary about artists in NY a few years before I moved here. After I moved I was looking for a guitar player and a friend advised me to call Aki. I realized that I knew him already and how great he was! Aki introduced me to Rodrigo and Jim afterwards.
The band is like a family. I really consider those guys as my brothers from another mother. We know each other so well that I don’t really need to direct them as a band leader. They totally understand my universe and got my back at any time. Our complicity is part of the music and I love that. For my new album, I added to the band Jon Hunt on clarinet and Caroline Bugala on violin (who recorded her part in France and sent it to us). They are two wonderful musicians and human beings as well and are a perfect addition to the band. I love playing with them and it was wonderful to be able to record an album with them.
You are currently working on your second album and started indiegogo and crowd funding pages to help fund the record. What was the response like? Did you meet your goal?
It was amazing: 154 people participated and between the Indiegogo and direct support we did reach the goal. It feels great to be supported like this.
Your second album will be made with your new band, The French Heart Jazz Band, and will feature a mix of French chansons and American jazz standards from the '20s to the '40s with continental flair. Your first album, Coeur de Francaise, was a mix of famous French songs and your own compositions arranged with a jazz rhythm. What led you to change your focus for the second album?
It’s a different band. I love both of them, and I am still playing with the two bands. I do plan recording an album with my « Cœur de Francaise » too when I will have more original scores. But right now I decide to focus on « French Heart Jazz Band » who also received great success in Jazz Clubs.
What are your thoughts on the status of jazz today? It attracted a younger crowd in recent years. Do you feel that has helped to transform the genre, in a sense, in helping to make it a bit more mainstream?
Jazz used to be popular music and I am glad that a part of the Jazz scene returns to those roots. I don’t like the idea of Jazz being exclusively an elite. I like to play songs that everybody can understand. Even people who don’t have a Jazz background, because music is music… I don’t believe you have to understand what’s going on to appreciate it. It has to be instinctive for me. Natural. And I am happy that a younger crowd comes to it. But I also think that it is good to keep different styles of Jazz, because everyone is different and diversity is good.
What would you consider to be your favorite era(s) of jazz? Do you like to include a wide array of jazz sounds and influences into your compositions, recordings and performances or do you prefer certain eras of jazz over others?
I have a slight preference for Jazz between the 20’s and 50’s but I do love a lot current Jazz too. For my <<Coeur de Francaise>> band I like to mix different eras and different styles (French chansons, Bossa Nova, compositions). For my « French Heart Jazz Band » I focus more on 20’s to 40’s with some 50’s in it as it is a vintage band, but I like diversity, we are not a traditional hot jazz band.
You have done acting in the past, as well. What have some of your favorite acting experiences been? Do you have any plans to do more acting in the future or has music taken center stage for you lately?
I believe my two favorite acting experiences were two plays, which it is strange because I like the camera a bit better ;). My first play (when I was 13 years old at the Festival D’Avignon) was a dream for a kid. I was the only kid and we were playing at midnight and I discovered the “saltinbanque” life style and I loved it! The other play was an amazing experience with director and actor Jacques Bonnaffé named “Display”. I love his universe and he is a amazing director. He pushes you to your optimum potential and I love it!
For now I focus on my music, but I will come back to acting. It was my first love... And actually... I do have a small part in which I also sing in the movie of a French director I love, but I’ll tell you more about it soon...
You currently have a residency at one of your favorite jazz clubs in NY, Club Bonafide. How did the residency come about and what makes this particular club so special to you? Do you have any other residencies in NY at the moment? What are some of your other favorite places to play in NY?
I began to play at Club Bonafide since almost the opening of it. The sound is amazing there which is one of the reasons I love to play there. Since the beginning they always believed in me. And seeing that the room was getting more and more packed, they offered me a residency. We play there at least 4 times a month with my two different bands (usually with « French Heart Jazz Band » every Friday and with « Chloe & friends » some Sundays). It’s an amazing chance to be able to play in a space where people attentively listen every week. It makes you grow faster! We also will be at City Vineyard Pier 26 on Dec 28th. And If you desire to see the other places I am playing you can check my website http://chloeperrier.net . My favorite places in NY beside Bonafide are Zinc Bar, Iridium, Cornelia Street Café, and I would love to play at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub, Birdland, Village Vanguard, Small’s, Mezzrow and more!
What's next for you?
The release of my new album with my « French Heart Jazz Band » at beginning of next year. We just finished mixing. I am really happy about it! And I am looking forward to sharing it with you!