Approximately every five years, the discreet Francis Cabrel leaves his refuge in Astaffort with a bouquet of new pieces, patiently awaited by his audience. These days he gets on the promotional merry-go-round ofAt dawn returning, an album of thirteen songs “refined to the extreme”, the great part of which is inspired by the romantic poetry of the troubadours of the Middle Ages. The newspaper collected his confidences.
We cannot blame Francis Cabrel for hiding in the shadows in Astaffort for such a long period to tinker with his songs, so much what emerges is magnificently put together, poetic, sought after. With new prose imprints of the romanticism that we know him, lying on blues-folk rhythms, At dawn returning is proof of a feather that is not a bit worn by time.
The singer, who will be celebrating his 67th birthday in a few weeks, has breathed new life into his writings by drawing his inspiration … from the Middle Ages.
A meeting with Claude Sicre, an Occitan singer, was the trigger for the creation of this 14e studio album, which follows In extremis, launched in 2015.
“Claude Sicre is very famous in France,” he recounts on the other end of the phone. One day, he came to record at the studio, at my place, and as a thank you gift, he gave me books on the poetry of the troubadours, a poetry that I did not know. He said to me: you have to make a complete album on the troubadours. These people are the rock stars of the Middle Ages. ”
After 40 years of career, the challenge was “exhilarating”, says the one who even baptized a song Rockstars of the Middle Ages, where he sings in the Occitan language. Several songs stem from his inspiring readings, including Fort Alamour, Melted candles and Ode to courtly love.
What did he discover from the very romantic poetry of the troubadours? “They were very great scholars. It especially revealed to me that they had already said everything, long before us. It’s still a little disappointing when you think that we write love songs, that we invented something, and finally, eight centuries ago, they said better, on the same themes ”, says he laughs.
Tribute to his father
Cabrel also addresses modern themes such as the environment (To the poles), and very intimate, like his relationship with his father, to whom he dedicated a touching song for the first time (Look like you).
While his mother and daughters each had a song written for them, why had Francis Cabrel rejected the idea of talking about his father until now? “Because I knew I was going to be intimate and that’s something I don’t really like. But there, I did not see other means to express the life he had had and mine in parallel. “
In Look like you, he contrasts his artistic life with the daily life of his worker father, Remiso, a son of Italian immigrants who worked in a biscuit factory in Astaffort, who died at the age of 56. Francis Cabrel confides that he had a “fairly silent” relationship with him.
“We didn’t say ‘I love you’, we didn’t hug each other,” he sings.
“They weren’t big conversations,” he comments on the other end of the phone. He worked so hard, he was always looking for something to fill the fireplace and cupboards so that we could eat. I don’t think I’ve seen a single day of rest in his life. ”
Even though he left at a young age, he enjoyed the start of his son’s career. But for a worker, writing songs is not really a job, says the author of I love her to death, The ink of your eyes and Little Marie. “I imagine he found that a little wacky. He must have thought that I was still doing quite well, ”he says.
To these intimate confidences and these Occitan inspirations comes another very pretty piece: a sublime cover of Sweet baby james, by James Taylor, for whom it took 16 years to find the right words to adapt it in French, he confides.
Back on stage
Saddened by the current fate of culture, there is no question for Cabrel of postponing the release of the album due to the pandemic. By releasing one video a day for 55 days during confinement, he saw how much the public needed this contact. “And me too”, adds the artist.
Health restrictions being different in France, Francis Cabrel has set in motion a tour (respecting the distancing) which is to begin in November at the Folies Bergère. “If the situation does not worsen, we will be able to do it”.
“It’s necessary for me to get back on stage, but it is also necessary for the whole team around me. All these people are sad, are arrested, have no resources. After the pandemic, there may be so many people who have suffered that they will have changed jobs. This is not good news. ”
At dawn returning is now on sale. Several shows by Francis Cabrel are planned in Quebec for 2021.