How much time passed until you decided to go together to Montreal?
That was fast, I think it was only three months. We met in May 1990 and we went to Montreal on the first week of September.
Had you already fallen in love by then?
Yes, absolutely, we were a couple when we landed in Montreal.
How do you remember those times? Wasn’t that a crazy thing, to just pack your things to go to Montreal and try to do something there?
It was very natural. We went there to stay for a week, but we ended up staying a whole lot longer. There was a proposition to play in a club, that was my first contract negociation. I said: We can play the whole month of April. We went back to Brussels and we recorded the Eponyme album at the studio where I was recording. Then we went to Montreal in early March 1991, with the idea of performing in that club. And we never left. After two nights the club was packed. The other nights, it was the same, full of people, so the owner said: Can you do July? We decided to stay. Then he said: Can you take August? So we decided to stay, and finally we launched a record, on our own record company, because nobody would sign her.
Can you find any logical reason for that?
Not really. But that’s the way things happened and maybe it was better, because it forced us to take some risks and at the end of the day, we owned our own company. After this happened, nobody could stop us, we could do anything we wanted. So it really was better that it happened like that, even if it was very frustrating at the time. It took us a almost two years and a half to break that record on the market, by promoting, touring, interviews etc… We worked every day and every night, it was hard, but that was what we had to do.
And then, there was success…
Yes, it was. When we made Pure, we didn’t know we had such a good record in our hands, because we were busy doing it, not thinking about it.
How did this success change your life?
Everything chances when you have success. Not because of the popularity, but you have an ability to make decisions about everything, about touring, about putting the right show together, about producing live albums, special events. Pure was one of the top selling records, only in France it sold over 2,5 million copies. When you do that, there’s an expectation of the audience about the next album.
The next albums were very successful too. And everything around us indicated that we had to have a deal. And you know what we did? That was very funny: the record company came to Montreal to listen to the production of the record. It was Universal Music, so the expectations were very high. We invited them to dinner and told them that the next day they should come to the studio and we will play the record. They came to my house, where the studio was, and me and Lara decided to play the record only piano and vocal. No production. And we played the 12 songs of the new album to the record company. They started to say how wonderful they were and started planning which and when should be a single. Then they looked at us and said: We hope this is not the record, and we told them No, these are the songs. They asked to listen to the production and we replied: Well, we have good news for you, we’ll play you the production tomorrow. We had the production done already, but we wanted to see their reaction to the songs. The deal was finally signed, but see, not because of the production, but thanks to the songs. They loved the songs and they loved our approach. Songs are what matter the most; even if you have a million dollar production, it doesn’t mean anything if the song is not good.
Obviously, the songs were good, all Lara Fabian songs are good.
We set up a standard in the ’90 and we tried to keep it and even break it and do it better when it was possible. So they knew: if it’s going to be a Lara Fabian record, they were going to be happy with it, they didn’t worry about it. It’s just like those big rock bands: they have a sound and an attitude which they respect and preserve, and people just loves them, again and again, because nothing sounds more like a Rolling Stone record than a Rolling Stone record. It was the same for Lara: it’s going to be a Lara Fabian record, so it’s going to be a good record, that’s obvious.
What was it like to work with Lara? How is she as an artist and as a personn?
Great. She’s extremely professional and very talented in every possible way – as a producer or a partner. She is very demanding, she is a person who knows what she wants. Most of the time our choices were the same, it was a good combination. Of course there were moments when we needed to readjust, but for the most of the time, we worked together perfectly. We had 14 years together and I was blessed all this time.
Did you ever feel that your personal relationship ever affected your work?
Well, that’s personal, I’ll probably write a book about it one day, but that’s another area. I’m trying not to think about it. There were a lot of reasons for which we did so great together because we had a relationship. And there were also a lot of reasons for our work not working out because we had a relationship.
From all of your songs, the one I love the most is Je t’aime. How does it feel to know that it still is so popular among people all over the world?
I always have the same feeling: the feeling I’m blessed. I love that song too. I am still amazed, it’s not something that one can really understand. Every time I see it in different contests or I see it played on TV, it’s always a blast, it’s always nice, it’s what every songwriter wishes.
On the other hand, I also have the feeling that I need to go over that type of quality songs. Because it raises a standard in people’s mind; you don’t have to recreate it, you don’t have to try to make a copy of it, hoping that you’ll have the same success. In the source of that song there was an inspiration, there was a way that I followed naturally, very simply. And I’m trying to be respectful of this way of doing songs. So, when I release a new song now, people have to say it’s as good as Je t’aime. Not necessarily better, but at least as good as that. Then I know I will have done my job.
I guess many people think you and Lara Fabian wrote Je t’aime for each other. But I know the story wasn’t really like that…
No, it wasn’t. I wrote the melody of that song after a story I had lived with somebody else; it was after my time as a couple with Lara. When I did Pure with Lara, we didn’t know that we were really going to do it. We had just broken up, I had moved into a loft in Montreal with my gear. I started writing songs and we lost contact for six or nine months. I thought a song like Je t’aime was going to be a song for my own record, I never thought about recording it with anybody else. I was writing about what I was living at that time, that’s what I felt. Many people were very surprised to find that we didn’t write that song for each other, but the lyrics were written in the memory of our relationship, that’s true.
So there is something true about this story…
Yes, the lyrics are about what we lived together. But the song itself, when it was written by me, as a composer, didn’t have that intention, it was a song for somebody else, that’s the truth.
It was very impressive that Lara could write such powerful lyrics after your love story was over. That means she kept it in her heart in some way.
Well, yes, I guess she did. But you know, I wrote the chorus for myself, and Lara kept the lyrics of that chorus: Comme un fou, comme un soldat, comme une star de cinema, comme un fou, comme un roi, comme un homme que je ne suis pas. Those are lyrics for a man. And she kept them like that, she wanted to do this and it worked. But at first, she didn’t want to record that song in that key.
Yes. We were singing in the studio and she left!
Why didn’t she like the song in that key?
Because it was too intense and the key was right for me, but it was wrong for her. She said: It’s too high and I don’t want to record it like this. I told her it had to be that key, and she said: In that case, I’m going home! Then I called her and I said: Ok, if you really want to change the key, come back to the studio and we’ll discuss this. She came and she just said: Play the damn song! (laughing) I explained to her why other composers chose a certain key for certain songs, I told her that I really needed that note and she said: OK, I’ll give you the damn note! (laughing) She did and it became a No.1.
It was great that you were able to still work together, although you weren’t a couple anymore.
That was cool, yes. We did nine records together, including the live albums. It stopped after 15 years in which we were together every day. We were exhausted, we both felt we did what we had to do together and that was it.
Would you still work with Lara now, if it would be the case?
Yes, absolutely. If there is going to be an opportunity at some point and she might feel like it, of course I would still work with her. That’s not even a question for me, the answer is Yes. If she wants it, I’m totally open. And if it doesn’t happen, I’m still happy that we have the records we did together. I am curious about the new album that she will release in April. But she’s the finest performer that I know and I know she’s going to be impressive no matter what she does.
In the meantine, you are busy with your own projects…
Yes, that’s true. I am currently in the studio with Lola Dargenti, she is one of a kind too! We wrote many songs togheter for the record, and she also adapted the whole French album in Spanish, as she is from Argentina. You’ll see, she will amaze the world!
The other artist is Mickael Petrau, he is a singer, you can hear and find everything on his website. I produced the record, and wrote many songs too.
What do you wish to do in music in the next years? Is there a dream that never came true for you in this area?
I don’t make plans at all, that way, I don’t get dissapointed, and there is always a dream that wasn’t planned that could happen, dreams are only dreams, life is better, I realize that every day. If I wish something stronger than anything else for the next years, is to be as inspired as I always have been so far, and get to experience more things down the road.
And what makes you happy in your personal life? Are you married?
That’s personal for now.
I know you have two children, a boy and a girl. How old are they?
My daughter Leelou is 7, and Lucas is almost 3… That is another thing that keeps me young!
Do they have any interest in music?
Leelou already studies the piano and she is more than gifted. Our entire family are musicians, I guess she will become one too; if that is her choice, I’ll support her in every way possible.
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