Your musical collaborator who writes the songs with you and also your producer… I was hoping you could tell us about Neil Jason.
I don’t really like to share this with anybody, and he’s actually my husband (laughs). It’s not anything new to anybody at this point and I don’t know why I’m keeping it private. Yes, he is my husband. I mean, I was really, really blessed… Hard enough to be blessed on a romantic level, but then to be blessed with a creative partner as well is a miracle… It’s truly a miracle. He’s just the best creative partner any girl could ever ask for and he’s the best husband any girl could ever ask for.
I was kind of wondering from just a creative standpoint what collaborating with Neil Jason is like?
Well, he comes from his own legend. He’s his own legend. You know he’s… I don’t know if you know who he is or what he’s done…
He’s a very renowned bass player.
And producer, composer, jingle writer. He’s done hundreds and hundreds of television commercials and movie scores, but he’s really, really known for his bass playing, because I guess you know you don’t get credit on the TV when there’s commercials. He brings to the table a hell of a lot of history and creativity obviously, and he’s a fantastic teacher and it really is challenging for me to be in the same room with him sometimes, because we’re both creative people. We’re both very stubborn and I have to learn how to take a back seat and just adhere to some of his comments and advice, his teachings etc.. And I have no patience, because I am extremely ADD, so it can be challenging sometimes, but thank goodness, I step aside and let him teach me and absorb it, because he’s fantastic at what he does and it would be foolish to not really shut the “f” up (laughs) and learn.
When you were recording the album ‘Make Room for Me’ was that your first experience in a recording studio or were there other experiences?
No, I’ve been living in the recording studio for a very long time. I’m a studio rat. I’ve done a lot of television commercials. I’ve sand on a lot of jingles in New York and I’ve written a lot of music for movies and television, I’ve written for other artists. I have a song I wrote for Russell Watson, who is a very well-known pop-opera singer in the UK. I wrote him a song and he recorded it with like an eighty piece orchestra. It’s called “Tutto sei per me.” It’s in Italian. I wrote it in English, I do a lot of that, so I’m not new to the studio at all. It’s pretty comfortable for me.
It’s comfortable. Is it an enjoyable? Do you get a buzz from working in the studio?
Oh my god, yeah.
The same buzz I get when I’m working in the kitchen, because I’m a maniac cook. It’s the same thing. It’s just, you know, I get to tap into my creative self. I get to be around creative people. I get to learn. I get to try a little bit of this, a little bit of that and the outcome is always, we hope, wonderful and everybody’s happy. I mean, what’s not to love?
What about performing? What kind of experience is that for you when you’re performing in front of people?
It’s really fun. It’s really, really fun. Because you get to, umm, feel the energy of the room. You get to see people singing your songs. It’s extremely rewarding. I haven’t done enough of it. I’ve gone from recording to writing… it’s really hard when you write your own stuff because it’s such a lengthy process. It’s not like I could say I want to do an album of covers, go in the studio and sing standards and get all the musicians together. We could probably cut it in a week. You know what I mean? And then go out on the road and perform them. When you write your own music, it’s such a lengthy process i.e.: the arrangements have to be done; the lyrics; the melody; you have to get the musicians together. Everybody’s got to be in sync and on schedule. Some people are on tour. You’ve got to wait till they get back if you want those particular guys. It’s endless, so I haven’t gone out enough and I’m really, really focusing on getting those songs recorded… getting those songs written and let the world hear it and then I’ll go out, you know? That’s really my thing. If you can get those songs recorded, you can always play at the local bar or the local wherever. It’s always there. The magic and the real priority for me is getting those songs written, getting those songs recorded and letting the universe hear them.
On your second album, ‘L’amour,’ there’s the French version and there’s the English version. That’s really cool.
I did that on ‘Make Room for Me’ also.
Yeah. You have no problem in singing in French.
No, because French is my second language. I grew up in a French household. My parents were from Casablanca, so it’s actually a first language in my household. I do that and I’ve done that now on ‘Make Room for Me’ and I’ve done that on ‘L’amour.’ I’m doing it on my next CD also. It’s an homage to my parents and it’s to honor them and my upbringing and my relatives and also my fans. I think they enjoy that. They’re getting used to that now. They’re expecting it.
Do you have a lot of people who are fans of yours that are from France or from other parts of the world? Have you found you’ve been able to reach an international audience?
That’s funny you should say that because just yesterday I reached 52,000 fans on Facebook and I was kind of blown away by that. I was so honored by that and I asked them, “It’s really fantastic that you guys are all here. I’d love to hear where you’re from,” and they were telling me. They’re telling me, “Italy here.”, “Iowa here.” , “Florida here.”, “Spain here.”, “Brazil here.” Israel, Morocco, Japan, so they’re from all over the world and I’m so honored by that. That’s the great thing about the internet. I’d have to tour all year to reach these people. The internet allows us to do that. It enables us to get those ears to hear our music.
I want to ask about the song, ‘I Just Love You’, it features Randy Brecker on there. Tell me about the inspiration for that song.
You know, Paul, some songs come out just because I just said something. I was saying something. I don’t like to really reveal too much of my song secrets or why I wrote them. I like to leave it up to the audience, but I was speaking to a person and I called and they said, “Hey, you know. What’s up?” And, “I just called to say I love you.” And the song was born and that’s how some of my songs happen. That particular song was born because of that very thing: I just wanted to say I love you to someone and I had no other reason to call them. They were kind of blown away by it, that I just called to say, “I love you,” so I wrote that song and Randy is always a first choice for me because I adore him as a person and I adore his playing, like most people in the world who know him. Many, many people know him, obviously, he’s a legend. I thought that was a perfect marriage for that particular song as well as ‘See You Again.” I thought of Randy for that song.
In addition to Randy Brecker, there’s a lot of really, really incredible artists that appear on your albums. What was Tom “Bones” Malone like to work with?
He is such a sweet man. He’s such a wonderful man. He’s obviously beyond talented. He arranged my song, ‘Las Vegas.’ He played all the horns on it. I mean, he’s brilliant and just the sweetest man in the world and I was blessed to have him work with me.
There’s quite a few of the artists from the CBS Orchestra, past and present that appeared and if people go on your website, BrigitteZarie.com, there’s a message on there…a video from Paul Shaffer where he talks about being a fan of your work. How did that feel when Paul was saying that he was such a lover of your recordings?
Humbling. I have to look behind me to see, “Is he talking about me?” You know, he works with celebrities. He sees celebrities all day long. I don’t think he’s done that for anyone. So I was so blown away by that. He has many friends that are talented. He has many friends who sing. He has many friends who play. And the fact that he did that for little old me, and I mean that in the humblest way, was huge! Just huge! He called Neil and said, “I love this stuff… anything I can do to help? I really love her voice.” and he was really, really digging the music. I was like, “Wow! He likes it that much!” So to touch someone like Paul that he would go and do something like that is so humbling. It’s really humbling. That’s really the only word I could use…and an honor. Huge honor.
Oh yeah. The songs that you wrote, they’re so many of them, but something that’s really interesting: you mentioned earlier that you felt like Johnny Cash was an influence and people will definitely listen to your music and think about as you mentioned, Cole Porter and some of these others from the American Songbook. But the Johnny Cash cover that you did, ‘I Will Walk the Line,’ that was really interesting. How did you get the idea to do that?
That’s a long story. I’ll try to give it to you short. The Johnny Cash thing I know is from left field and a lot of people are scratching their head, “How the heck did that happen?”My mom, I told this story before, my mom…do you know the movie, obviously, the Joaquin Phoenix movie?
Okay. My mother would come and stay with me and my sister in Florida whenever she would travel to visit us. And any time that movie was on, she would make us all sit down and watch it. So it was a joke among us siblings that we would say, “Did mommy make you watch the Johnny Cash ‘Walk the Line’ movie again? “Yep.” So it was like, “mom, really? We just saw this yesterday!” “I love it! I love it! I love it! I love the song, ‘Walk the Line.’ I love the song.” She had this gorgeous, adorable French accent. “I love the song, ‘Walk the Line.’ It’s my favorite song,” and I’m like, “Oh my god…but you loved it yesterday and the day before!” (Laughs) So we would all have to park ourselves next to her and watch the movie. I mean, we adore the movie and it made a huge impact on me, but come on… every day? So I wanted to surprise my mother and record ‘Walk the Line.’ I thought it would be really cool if I could give that to her as a gift and I thought she would really dig it. But during the recording process, my mother passed away, so she didn’t get to hear it… So that’s that with that song. That’s the story.
What is the best thing about being Bigitte Zarie?
Oh! It’s a pain in the ass! (Laughs) I have so many personalities. I have so many moods I need to address. I’m extremely OCD. I’m extremely picky and anal about music. It’s not hot. It’s not great. It’s not fun. (Laughs) It’s not fun. It can be extremely challenging and I could be very, very, very dark and I’ll be bawling my head off, trying to write a song that moves me and then I can switch off and be happy and basically I’m, you know, a bit of a fruit loop. (Laughs) Yeah… I feel like I’m on the couch…
(Laughs) People have said that to me before.
Yeah… I’ve never been on the couch, by the way. Maybe that’s why I’m writing so many songs. I haven’t really spoken to anybody about all my little eccentricities.
So, when somebody listens to your music, what do you want people to get from the experience of listening?
They tell me. Sometimes I don’t think like that. I think that I’m moved by something that I just wrote. I don’t think, “Boy, I hope they’re going to like it.” That’s not how I work. That’s not how I’m controlled in my music. My music doesn’t control me that way. I put it out there and then they tell me. I just got a message from a woman who is thanking me and saying she’s going to use my song, ‘Celebrate,’ at her wedding. And then I got somebody who told me they had a loss and they were thinking about ‘See You Again’. I had someone tell me they got married to ‘Happiest Day of My Life.’ I had somebody tell me about the song, ‘I Love Las Vegas,’ they drive in Vegas listening… so they tell me. I’m like, ‘Wow! That’s so cool!” You don’t really know how it’s going to touch somebody. You just don’t. You just hope that it does.
We do music really for ourselves first. At least I do. It’s the only way that I can get through my meditating, my venting, my praying is through my music. So I do it for me first and then, “Gee, look…. the world is listening.” And I’m like, “Wow! Cool. Okay. That’s so cool.” Who would’ve thought? I write music in the kitchen sometimes, Paul, over a stew that I’m stirring. I write when I’m cleaning and vacuuming. It comes to my head. I write when I’m driving. So to think that the song that I wrote over stirring a pot of stew is now being touched and heard in various parts of the world… It’s really nuts! Just nuts!
Well, on that note, you mentioned earlier you have 52,000 people following you on Facebook. But you can’t count how many people around the world have been touched by your music. So on that note, you have this opportunity here for anyone who’s listening to this, wherever they are in the world, what would you say to them?
The only thing that continues to inspire me and I hope will continue to inspire me and continue to give me strength to want to continue and go on is the fans. It’s challenging to be a jazz artist today is my point, and the only inspiration that jazz artists have is the honor and respect they have for themselves to want to continue… to keep going because they love the music and they just love the art, like I do. And the fans that give us strength to continue. So the encouragement comes from self and our souls and what we’re destined to do and what we love to do as artists… and the encouragement comes from fans. I hope that the fans continue to encourage us jazz artists to want to do the next CD and to want to do the next CD and to continue, and continue, and continue. I just hope that the artists are still allowed to be artists and just continue to do their art because, thank You God for all the great artists we have in our history that have enabled me and other artists to continue and to do what they love. Right?
So what you just said – first of all, what a great answer – but what I was going to ask you: What do you, Bigitte Zarie, what do you think the role of an artist is?
It’s to let people know that they can be free to create or to teach people to create. To be expressive. To love. To feel. To be romantic, passionate. To be passionate. You know, I’m a passionate person and if I’m mad then I’ll write about it. I mean, if you want to throw a plate every now and again at somebody you love or don’t love, then please throw the plate. (Laughs) But what I’m trying to say, Paul, is self-expression should be allowed and self-expression through art is the greatest form and to be touched. I’ve been touched by art. You’ve been touched by art.
So that’s our responsibility. If we can touch people, if we can move people, if we can make them cry, if we can make them happy, if we can make them feel something they didn’t think they felt before… then I’ve done my job.
Who is Bigitte Zarie?
I’m still learning. I really am. I’m still learning. She’s a daughter. She’s an artist. Who am I as an artist or as a person? I’m super loyal. I’m not going to start stroking myself here, but I’m just really, really an all-around creative person, I think. I’m an all-encompassing creative person. I don’t have any other talents. I really don’t. You couldn’t get me to count to twelve. (Laughs) My talents are really creative. I’m a creative soul. I’m a super-sensitive being and I think that shows in my art and I just want to continue on this journey of making music with the help of my fans, because they’re so encouraging. And that’s really who I am. I’m just a creative soul. I don’t like any kind of violence, again. I don’t like any kind of tension or negativity. I like to be around positive people. Positive energy. I like to spread positive vibes and stuff like that. I’m a cooking maniac. I’m coming out with a cookbook, by the way.
Transcribed by Lori Domingo
Photos: courtesy of Mrs.Brigitte Zarie