Famous People

Carla Bruni on Her New Album, Stage Fright, and Edith Piaf

by Mickey Boardman
Carla Bruni needs no introduction. The singer, model and ex-First Lady of France is one of Mr. Mickey's biggest idols and also one of the classiest dames alive today. While in town to promote her new record, Little French Songs, Mickey was lucky enough to sit down with the always belle Bruni and chat with her about stage fright, the language she uses for love, and Edith Piaf. Read below and sois jaloux.

Mickey Boardman: I see you have a BlackBerry. I used to love the BlackBerry. It was a hard changeover [to the iPhone]. I liked the typing on it.

Carla Bruni: Why did you change, then?

MB: Because I did it for work and everybody else was. Plus I do love Instagram. Are you on Instagram?

CB: What is Instagram?

MB: It's like Twitter, except just with photographs. Just photographs.

CB: Oh, okay, okay.

MB: So congratulations on your record! I love when you sing in all different languages in the same song. Do you feel like French is better for a love song or is English better?

CB: For a love song I think Italian would be better. And English because I think there's something quite...you know it's very hard in French to be naive and to be pure. There's something very simple about both [English and Italian]. You can easily say, "I'll always love you." It's very hard to say "je t'aime." English allows a lot of simplicity in a love song and Italian is really vocal and a sort of romantic sound, whatever you say. But I like to write in French as well because there's something a little more sophisticated in the French language that makes it easier to use very classic, loving images like desire, despair, tenderness.

MB: You come from a musical family. Were there singers that you listened to when you were younger, like Edith Piaf?

CB: Oh, I love [Edith Piaf]! When I was younger I listened a lot to the French singer Barbara. Did you ever listen to Barbara? I don't understand why Barbara was never that famous. To me, she should have been famous just like Edith Piaf. Maybe she had something dark; she was a dark lady with black hair and a very special voice. I even listened to Jacques Brel who's Belgian but sings in French. It was really like a discovery for me because they put a lot of meanings in their songs. They have those songs that you listen to. Not only you hear them but also you listen to them and I like that.

MB: Did those those singers inspire your new song, "Little French Song?"

CB: You know, "Little French Song" was like an homage to these people that I listened to. Those are the people that made me try to write songs in the beginning. I thought it was mieux to give an English title to a song that's [all about being] French. Whenever someone Italian, French, Belgium, or German tries to speak English, they always try to get the good accent. But in that song, I don't. I really sing with the French accent and that was hard too. So it's an homage to French songs and at the same time it's a little joke about languages.

MB: And you're a French citizen and an Italian citizen?

CB: I'm both, yeah.

MB: So do you relate more to your French side or your Italian side?

CB: I've been Italian a good third of my life, or even half of my life. And then I became French when I got married, and my grandmother was French so I was always very connected to French culture and French language. I think I write in French because my grandmother must have been talking French to me [my] whole [childhood], because she wasn't speaking very much Italian. She was married to an Italian man, but still French was her language. So, I feel Italian but maybe my language is French because I came to France when I was six.

MB: And had you always been a performer? Have you ever been shy?

CB: Yeah, I'm so shy. I don't know why I'm exposing myself! It's really like a contradiction -- hello, Dr. Freud! I die when I get in front of people. But not like this [interview] -- not like a direct relationship with a human being. Then I guess the Italian side comes over. I get in touch with people very easily, I get connected with people. And that's why I like America -- you know, people [here] are insane. They give introductions for hours and I like that about America. It's the same in Italy. You can meet your best friend, you can meet your lover in the street without being introduced. France is a bit different.

MB: What was it like to perform before you became a pro? 

CB: The first time I tried I thought I was going to get sick. I really wasn't physically well. My heart! And I was sweaty and I couldn't control my body. It seemed to move without me. So I tried to control it and it was the worst when I tried to control it.

MB: What have you been doing while you're in New York?

CB: Yesterday we were downtown -- with the trees and the summertime. I loved it.

MB: Are you going to do more performances?

CB: Yes, I'll be coming back to New York to do a real concert in April 2014. You should come.

MB: Where will it be?

CB: I don't know where precisely, but there's so much music [in New York]. It's a lucky thing to be able to come here. It's really, really cool. I love to be here. The only thing is I should have brought the kids because I miss them. Badly.

MB: Are they musical? Have you tried to make them take piano lessons?

CB: They're musical and I have tried, but one has to choose it. Especially with music or writing: it is not a hobby. For a hobby, anyone can do whatever he wants. But music you can't learn without [conditioning]. So, my son did piano and guitar and I always had to push him to do it, so I said, "Listen, if you do it, you do it." Also, with young children, you make them do things but all of a sudden they get their own taste and that's when they really do something. They have to find their own way.

MB: My grandmother made my father take piano and he is so great at it, but he hates it because she made him do it.

CB: And did you play when you were a kid?

MB: A little bit. I wish I could sing, but I really have no musical taste except to dance along to little French songs.

CB: It's also an education. They took very young kids in Romania once, like one to two-year-old kids and they educated their ears and they realized that actually every human being has a [good] ear. It just has to be taught. Some people have it spontaneously. You know, I can write with rhymes but if I had to be a journalist it wouldn't be easy. When I have to write without rhymes it is very confusing and slow, like when I have to write a letter to someone. If I could write a letter and rhyme it, it would be faster. Everyone has their skills and I don't think it's good to force. There's not enough time, you know? You can really do something well when you do it with desire.

MB: By the way, I love that you smoke Vogue cigarettes with a leopard-print lighter.

CB: Do you smoke?

MB: I don't, but I love leopard-print and I love Vogue. Have you tried to quit?

CB: Oh yeah, I've tried to quit, and gladly here in America you really can't smoke.

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