A soliloquy gives a voice to inner thoughts. With her new album, Lou Doillon reveals more of herself than ever. “I had a desire to be more upfront” she says of Soliloquy, her third album, the follow-up of the globally successful Places and Lay Low. “With this album, I worked on the production a lot more with four producers including Cat Power. Working with different people in different studios and with the different energies has brought something richer than when I worked with one producer. Extremes. I made the link between them.”
As Lou acknowledges, Soliloquy marks a new way of working. By seeking producers who would bring diverse points of view, she has found new ways to frame her songs and new ways to articulate the emotions driving them without sacrificing her trademark immediacy and intimacy. The voice – expressive and smoky – is as ever hers and hers alone, but drawing from the experiences of Places, Lay Low and performing live she began exploring new territories.
It’s hardly a surprise. With her acting and her art, Lou has never stayed still. She credits Timbre Timbre’s Taylor Kirk, Lay Low’s producer, as helping her approach recording differently. “After finishing Lay Low with Taylor,” she recalls. “We were having a conversation where I was saying that an album has to reflect how it is played live. He said an album is a creation which has nothing to do with reality. You can change it playing live. That struck me – let’s stop being so precious, what counts is what you feel. It gave me a freedom.”
Laughing, she adds, “I thought let’s work with loads of people and I’ll bring it back if it moves too far away from me.”
Lou decided to seek out Benjamin Lebeau of French dance-electro outfit The Shoes and Dan Levy of art-pop duo The dø. She knew their work and that each would bring something different. Almost literally, she had found night and day. Benjamin works at night, into the small hours in a warehouse with barely any electricity. Dan sticks to daytime working hours at his home studio in the French countryside. She had the extremes which were necessary for her new album. Her regular live keyboard player Nicolas Subréchicot was on hand too, to aid with bringing the unity she wanted. These were Lou’s songs, and the guiding hand was always hers.
The journey through Soliloquy travels further musically than Lou has been before. There are hints of trip-hop on “All These Nights”, “Flirt” and the title track. “Last Time” nods to reggae. A soul undertone has always coloured Lou’s songwriting but never more overtly than on “The Joke”. “With some songs, I think I was going towards something…” admits Lou candidly. “…and then it became something completely different. I am a kid of the Eighties and was listening to Nineties music: Massive Attack and [the roguish French duo] Les Rita Mitsuko. The Slits too. I was raised at one point in my teens in the Caribbean and the only music we had was reggae. I had a desire to reconnect with these roots. I still love Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Nick Drake. Let’s channel it all.”
An overt link with her first two albums comes with “It’s You”, which features Cat Power aka Chan Marshall. “All my new songs used to live in an acoustic guitar as that’s how I wrote them,” explains Lou. “I did not want to turn away from that and thought that with a song featuring an acoustic guitar I should work with someone I admire. I sent Chan a message on Instagram and to my surprise she answered back straight away.” Lou already had a bare-bones recording and she told Chan to do anything with it. The affecting, haunting “It’s You” was the result.
Lyrically, Soliloquy is often allusive but the meanings are clear. “Nothings” has “eyes that look away.” “Widows” is metaphorical but inspired by Dorothy Parker. The truncated interaction of “Flirt” – “by the time we start talking, you’ve disappeared” – is familiar to anyone attempting to interact with someone who will not engage. Contrastingly, the album opens with the forthright “Brother”. “We need hope, see us climb above the barricades, hey sister, where are we heading,” questions Lou.
“Brother” is, she admits, a comment on times. “I was born when we were breaking down walls. My first memory from TV is the Berlin Wall being broken down and it is strange we are going back to building walls in one way or another, the ways people are overly defining themselves. The more we define, the more we close up.”
Asked how this forceful album will translate into the live context, Lou pauses. It will be a challenge. “I’m used to having a guitar but I might be more upfront and not play an instrument. Should I be more free? I don’t know yet. We will see what happens,” is all she will say.
And asked if she has thought about how Soliloquy will be received, she declares “Making an album is like throwing a bottle in the sea. Forms of art are a mirror and people see their reflection in it, but I can’t tell what people will see. I will be thrilled to learn what people hear or see.”
Lou Doillon may not know the impact of what she has created but it is certain that anyone hearing Soliloquy will be instantly enthralled by its power.