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Getting To Know Lou

French songbird Lou Doillon is about to embark on her first U.S. tour—and defy a few expectations in the process

Lou Doillon is many things. She’s an actress, a model, a singer. She’s cultural royalty: Her father is French filmmaker Jacques Doillon, her mother is the actress and It-handbag inspiration Jane Birkin, her stepfather was the legendary French warbler Serge Gainsbourg, and she has a whole litter of glittering siblings. Above all, however, Doillon is undeniably talented.

She released her debut album Places to a French public wary of a multi-hyphenate starlet—and a French press that had long been hostile toward her—and met it all with resounding success. Places went on to win Doillon the Best Female Artist award at the French Victoires de la Musique, a sort of Gallic Grammy Awards.

Now Doillon, the face of the fall campaign for Barney’s, is coming to the U.S. to tour for the album. Kicking off their tour on October 11, Doillon and her band will crisscross the country for the first time, bringing their charming, haunting songs to American audiences. DuJour spoke to Doillon about making music, defying expectations and why advice about preparing for live shows is all wrong.

Your debut album, Places, came out this summer and you’re just now launching your first U.S. tour. How did the album come to be?
It’s kind of a modern fairytale. I spent my life surrounded by musicians, coming from a family of actresses and musicians, but absolutely never fantasizing that I would be a musician myself. For years, I would play guitar when I got off set from movies, and I realized that people would relate more to that than what I was doing as an actress.

A producer came along and asked why I hadn’t recorded before, and I told him it was in no way an ambition of mine. Coming from a famous family, I didn’t like the idea, but he convinced me and we did this little record in just 10 days.

You’ve been quoted as saying you had every reason in the world not to go into music, but it seems to have snared you anyway.
The point of view, which I took from my mother, is that you can do many things as long as you do them well. So already being an actress and adding to that modeling and having fun doing weird movies and strange projects, the last thing I would have expected was to do music.

How do you write a song?
I love to hear stories, so it’s true that all the songs I love make me laugh or reveal little things about human beings—the pathetic, the common moments. What I like to see are all the mistakes and how pathetic we can be. That’s what makes me laugh—those low moments—because once it’s out, you realize that everyone relates to the very simple, stupid moments when you make an ass of yourself. That’s it—that’s my absolutely personal process.

You’re about to embark on your first American tour. How do you feel about that?
It’s always the same thrill and surprise that even one person turns up and wants to listen. I’ve done a lot of theater and have realized that the audience is as tense as I am, and that there are moments that are sacred. Music has this beautiful thing where people can do whatever they want. They can get drunk, they can listen, they can snog, they can close their eyes, they can leave, they can live their own life. It’s more about sharing a very strange moment of you being absolutely morally naked and having people in front of you doing whatever they want with that.

Do you have any rituals that you do to prepare for a live show?
Most advice I’ve had from fellow singers didn’t suit me. I’ve been told to try to have a sacred moment by myself. I find that highly threatening because I really wonder what I’m doing and then I am thinking too much, so I just spend my time with the band and we sing and improvise.

Because you come from a famous family of performers, do people expect certain things from you?
Yes and no. I share with my mother the delight of being on stage, and I know that my mother has that history of being very brave on stage. On the other side it’s happened very quickly but late in time—I’m not at all like the rest of my family where I’ve put myself there in a way. Also, I have a voice that is much lower than theirs; it’s a bit darker.

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