Cette interview publiée ici en anglais fera l'objet d'une traduction en français et sera publiée fin février dans le numéro 87 de Country Music Mag
I tried to make my best… Hope you like it!?!…
It is never an easy thing to write an interview… And using a foreign language, do not simplify your job… Now a days, we almost have the (false) impression to know absolutely anything about a lot of artists. You find their biographies on their web site, their schedules on their Facebook page. You have to put rules and to follow them. To be concern with the artist that will take time to answer your questions so, no stupid questions could be one of the mean rules. Not to be boring the second?
The language barrier between American/English language and yours will not help you to understand everything they sing and interviewing a singer songwriter like Helene do not let you any space to error or misunderstandings… Asking general questions about their past and influences could be a good beginning?... I will come to this kind of questions later. When I will not have other to ask.
With independent artists it is (a little) easier because you do not fond a lot on social media or web and as, great, they do not have yet Wikipedia page. Anything has not be told about them and you will always have - hide in a dark space of your brain - the pretention to think they did not answer your questions for an hundred time.
So after this long introduction, time to jump!
I did not know you one day ago and fall on your name on musicrow.com as I was searching for new albums out and I fall on yours 19 minutes before you officially announced it on your Facebook page.
It seems that you appeared only in 2014 as solo singer songwriter, but I suppose that it hides a long way before.
Can you sum-up your beginnings and different levels you reached in the music?
I grew up in a musical and artistic family. My brothers and sister and I played music for fun, learning and singing the popular songs we heard on the radio. We learned to harmonize and figure out songs and play "by ear". I played piano beginning at age 6, and then picked up guitar at age 12. I could read music and learned music theory from my piano teachers. This helped a lot when I started writing songs with my guitar. I learned guitar on my own, teaching myself for the most part. Even now I love figuring out new ways to play, new sounds, new chord voicings.
My husband and I live in Dallas, Texas. I began recording albums a long time ago. My first 3 albums were religious or "Contemporary Christian" in genre. The last one of those was done in 2001! In 2004, I began driving to Nashville to bring my songs there and learn to write for the Country market. Now, I have a small apartment in Nashville and go there every month to play shows, record music, and write songs with other songwriters.
Finally, after a long time with no recordings, I released an EP in 2014 called "Restless Heart". In 2015, I released another EP called "Belong to the River". In 2019, I began working with Matt King as my producer. We recorded a full-length record called "Old Ghosts and Lost Causes" that received very good reviews. "Landmarks" is our 2nd full-length record together! The songs on "Landmarks" and "Old Ghosts" are the result of all my years spent writing songs in Nashville and at home in Texas!
Who are the artists in music you admire the most and did some of them influenced you way of writing, singing, playing?
I am a fan of great songwriters. I like Travis Meadows. His writing encourages me not to be afraid of writing about very personal issues. I admire the writing of Lori McKenna, and can appreciate the fact that she is also a mother, and has had a family to raise, but still she travels to Nashville regularly to write songs and make records.I get compared a lot to women like Rosanne Cash, Gretchen Peters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Mary Gauthier. I consider this a compliment! People who I listened to when I was young, and who influenced me are: James Taylor, John Denver, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Eagles.
I am a longtime fan (of) female singer songwriters such as Rosanne Cash and Gretchen Peters and I found that you take place in this small and talented family.
Do you know and/or admired them?
Thank you! I have seen Gretchen Peters perform a few times. I've never seen Rosanne in person, but I know of her work. Yes, I admire them both.
Most critics like to put artists in small boxes they cannot get out of. You got one foot in Americana, the other in Country but also Folk and a little bit of Rock.
I think this is true. I don't fit in one small box or genre!
Your songs capture facts of anybody’s life and made you close from any human being preoccupations. I think the public feel the authenticity (autobiographic or not) of the songs you sing, and it is probably a big part of the relationship you got with him.
Again, thank you! I do try to write honest songs. There's usually a bit of truth in them even if they aren't completely autobiographical. They all start with some kind of real life experience that, hopefully, listeners can relate to!
Now let’s talk about your last album, you explored a lot more different genres and rhythms and it seems to me (now that I listened to your other albums and EPs since yesterday) that you made one more step up in the confidence in yourself and vocally the way you sing.
Am I right in these different affirmations?
Yes, I think you are right. Matt King and I knew that this new record would need to be even bigger, and just as strong or stronger, than the last one. There is no going backwards! I do feel more confident in my singing, because Matt encouraged me to sing with more grit and power. I think the results are apparent! Many reviewers have commented on the growth and the different singing styles, all on this one record.
What made it different from the other albums you work on?
"Landmarks" is a collection of many serious songs! Or at least songs with important messages. So, maybe there are fewer "personal" songs, but still my usual honesty and authenticity come through. Another difference is the layers of production. Matt and I had a great time adding fun harmonies and being super creative with the background vocals. These songs needed that and I'm glad we took the time to add layers of harmony on many of the more complex songs.We also layered a lot more instrumental parts.
A few words about people you work with on this one?
I worked with many of the same musicians who played on my previous record "Old Ghosts and Lost Causes". We had Kenny Vaughan, Bobby Terry & Byron House again. We had 3 different drummers for the 3 studio session dates - Chris Powell, Jerry Roe and Paul Eckberg. On the song "Just a Woman" we added Emily Nelson on cello, and Todd Locke on piano and keyboard. All of those people are top studio musicians in Nashville. When it came time to record the big chorus at the end of "Just a Woman", we invited Wendy Moten, Vicki Hampton, Heidi Newfield and Shelly Fairchild to come in and be our "choir of women"!They are also professional artists in Nashville. We recorded it at a very special studio in Nashville called Sputnik Sound, with Mitch Dane as our engineer. So, everyone involved with this record was top level!
What are your main ambitions in the future?
I love being a songwriter, and especially love singing the songs I write for other people. So my artist career continues to develop and grow as more people hear about me. I would like to continue my travels to Nashville to write with other artists who will record our songs, but also to record more of mine. I'd like to play festivals in the US. I would LOVE to tour in Europe!I got to visit and sing in Denmark last year and that makes me want to go back to Europe! People everywhere love and need music.
My last question to an American artist is always the same: It is about France. What my country represents to you, whose images do you get from France? and would you like to play for a French public? (hope French festivals representants that listen to my magazine will be sensible to your music and this special answer? ;-)
I have always wanted to visit France. I've only been there for 1 day, when a cruise ship I was on stopped at Marseilles, and I got to explore Aix-en-Provence for the day. It was a gorgeous day. I wrote a song about it called "Lavender and Gold". Maybe someday I can come to France and play it for you all! The images I have of France are that it is a beautiful, romantic country, with a lot of important art, pretty scenery, the kind of place that has always inspired artists and musicians.
Wishes you, the best for the rest of your career. Hope it will grow as you deserve and thanks to be one of the rare American artists to accept an interview and take time to answer for a Country, who, most of all for a language barrier (so few French people talk and understand English), is unfortunately not the best market for American artists.
Thank you, Jacques