Bernard Lavilliers: “To tell a good story, you have to walk a lot”

the essential
We love the man, his warm voice, his burning fights, his dreams of elsewhere. We find Bernard Lavilliers at his best in his new album, “Under a huge sun”. Before a tour that will pass through the Zénith de Toulouse in May 2022.

Why did you choose Buenos Aires as the source of inspiration for part of your album?

I had never set foot there. And as usual I took the time to do it. I spent three months there. It takes that to find musicians, to understand how it works in such a huge city. So I walked, walked a lot: the only way to discover a place. Buenos Aires is a curious city, not really a port when they are called the Porteños; a city that is half American, half European, not really South American. In a country that defines itself as follows: “An Argentinian is an Italian who speaks Spanish and who thinks he is an Englishman”.

What have you discovered during your walks?

Clubs, bookstores, theaters, café-theaters; lots of artists to go and listen, a bit like in Paris. I mostly walked around at night. I went to lots of neighborhoods, especially forbidden areas of course! I plunged into tango-rock, I discovered Barrio 31 rap. I met very different people: painters, sculptors… thugs. I came back with the models of several songs (“The pedestrian of Buenos Aires”, “Noir tango”, “Les Porteños are tired” and others still, which are not on the new album) recorded with two great musicians in a garage in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

What is the atmosphere like in Argentina?

As I say in the song that bears this title (and which made them laugh when I sang it to them), the Porteños are tired, cansado. In 20 years, with a succession of different regimes, nothing has changed: the country has been bankrupt several times. Monoculture is a disaster, disgusting meat, stuffed with dirt. However, Argentines continue to love going out: the places of shows were full every night.

The song “Beautiful days” expresses your taste for politics, here crossed by a scathing irony …

I am talking about the news, what we have experienced, a president and his “little marquises”. The look is indeed ironic. I put forward the flirtatious, annoyed side of Macron and his comrades, a bit of a lesson-giver. I have several times had the impression that they wanted to dissolve the people, all those who do not have a diploma. I sing that and then, presto, I swing Sinatra strings promising “Beautiful Days”. And the chacha-rock turns into a crooning thing, a little mocking.

One of the most beautiful moments of the disc is “Je hold elle” which evokes your city, Saint-Etienne…

It was entirely co-written by two other Stéphanois, from the Terrenoire group. We pay tribute to a city that has suffered greatly from deindustrialization. When I was young, it had 7,000 workers. We worked hard but we had a good laugh. We were used to bringing the payroll home; there was no unemployment at that time. When we were fed up, we would take our toolbox and go elsewhere. This is what I did after learning the trade of a metal turner. I was far from imagining becoming a singer one day …

A magnificent album

Of course, there is “Beautiful days”, this hot-tempered attacking president who “relaxes and breaks down” surrounded by “little marquises, never elected, always chosen”. And then “Corruption”, personification of a scourge which “advances today in the open air, without complexes”, in a society “where everyone spies on each other, is whitewashed and reassured”. But “Under an enormous sun” (that of climate change), Bernard Lavilliers does not forget the excitement of travel (this time to Buenos Aires), the tender evocation of young years (superb “I hold her” ) and amorous passion (for “My accomplice and my soul; my everything” in a magnificent “Elsewhere”). Changing landscapes for an album once again of high quality… in which the Toulouse musician Georges Baux once again plays an important role.

Album “Under a huge sun”, by Bernard Lavilliers (Romance Musique, released Friday, November 12). In concert at the Zénith in Toulouse on Saturday May 7, 2022. Prices: from 42 to 62 euros.