Every musician has an interesting story behind them. A while ago, I interviewed a former FBI agent turned surf rock musician, Susan Surftone. One of the most interesting interviews on my blog. Another interesting story is the story behind John Hanlon, one of New Zealand’s biggest rock stars, who describes his story as being that of an accidental pop star – he was working in advertising before the fame.
Enter Jeremy Engel, a French musician who works as a UN Conference Interpreter by day and a musician by night. He fell in love with Ireland and decided to move there. His latest single “Tell You Ma”, was one of the first songs he wrote, when he was 17 years old, but he sat on it for 20 years so he could make sure it was recorded perfectly and make a good impression. One of his favourite things about Ireland is the music and the musician who changed his life was “Rory Gallagher”, whose famous live album Irish Tour 1974, inspired him as a musician. We’re lucky to have Jeremy with us on the blog to talk about his life and his music. Below, you can stream “Tell You Ma”:
Angie Moon: How would you describe yourself and your music in a nutshell?
Jeremy Engel: I would describe myself as someone who constantly seeks authenticity and I hope it shows in my music. I would like to be able to bring everything we loved about songs from the 60s and 70s back into our time. I love the past but I want to live it in the present.
Angie: What was it like working as an interpreter for the UN?
Jeremy: I have the extraordinary chance to do the job that I have always dreamed of doing. Interpreting for the UN is like playing music, you go on stage, you put yourself in danger, you work without a safety net, you meet incredible people and you travel to countries you would never go. The only difference is that you work in the shadows and your job is to put the spotlight on others.
Angie: How did you get started playing music?
Jeremy: I started at 14 with my grandfather’s old classical guitar and since then I have never stopped developing a whole universe in my mind. But it’s only recently that this universe started its big bang to go beyond me.
Angie: I see that Rory Gallagher is one of your biggest influences. How did you get into Rory Gallagher?
Jeremy: It is thanks to a friend that I was able to make this beautiful musical encounter. He’s a friend with whom we spent our nights watching and listening to music (I think we must have watched Woodstock a hundred times!). We would remake the world believing ourselves to be different.
One day in a music store he hesitated between two DVDs, there was a live of The Doors and a live of Rory Gallagher «Irish Tour 74». I begged him to buy The Doors (I was in a period when I read a lot [of] Jim Morrison) but he didn’t and I was forced to watch Rory. It was the most beautiful musical love at first sight of my life, and it was going to have a great influence on my future life, as a person and as a musician.
Angie: What was it like writing and recording “Tell You Ma”?
Jeremy: «Tell You Ma» was one of the very first planet [sic] of my mental universe. I had this song in the back of my mind since I was 17, but it’s only recently that I brought it to life. It’s a very vocally demanding song and it took me a lot of time and work to be able to sing it properly. I had recorded a first version of this song a few years ago but I was not satisfied with the result so I waited without forcing things to finally give this song a real personality.
Angie: Who are your favourite French musicians?
Jeremy: There are plenty of them, France is a country where there have been an incredible number of artists. I am thinking of Serge Reggiani, Jean Jacques Goldman, Jacques Brel, Maxime le Forestier, Francis Cabrel or even Renaud. France had this extraordinary tradition of songs full of finesse and poetry which unfortunately got lost on the way. I think that for music and society in general, we let ourselves go a little easy and we are less demanding. But I sometimes look at the new French-speaking artists on the networks and there are a few who have a lot of talent but they are not the ones we highlight and I would like to try to collaborate with them.
Angie: What do you miss about France?
Jeremy: I don’t miss France because I spend a large part of the year there. When I’m not in Dublin for the music, I’m in Geneva for the interpretation and I have an apartment on the French border. But to be honest, I don’t have to go very far to miss France. I cross the Swiss border and I miss croissants and good wine 😉
At the same time I am sad when I stay too long in France because French people are not always aware of the luck and talent they have. They have totally forgotten that they are the heirs of Victor Hugo, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Edith Piaf, Claude Monet, and without forgetting to mention all those that France has been able to welcome, from Van Gogh to Hemingway.
Angie: What brought you to Ireland?
Jeremy: It’s not something specific, going to Ireland for me is just answering an inner call. It’s just like falling in love, you don’t know for what specific reason you are attracted to a person, you just are. Ireland is just one [of] the greatest loves of my life, but we’re a bit like lovers, we drift apart sometimes but we’re always together for the good times.
Angie: What do you like most about Ireland?
Jeremy: It is not by chance that I found myself working as a tour guide for the Guinness Storehouse, I’m a real beer and whiskey lover and I know everything you need to know about Guinness. Then it is obviously the music which is diffused in all the streets and in all the souls, the buskers, the trad sessions. But the greatest gift of Ireland is its people who have always welcomed me as if I was part of the family.
Angie: Who are your favourite musicians from Ireland?
Jeremy: There are many of them, Rory Gallagher of course, The Cranberries, and Van Morrison. But I have a particular affection for Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. It’s weird to say, but I find in them what I loved in the great authors of French music and that I can no longer find now.
Angie: What are your goals and future plans for your music?
Jeremy: I’m not someone who charts his own course, I’m even more of someone who takes side roads, so I don’t have any goals or future plans for my music. I’ll just keep writing to keep populating my little universe with new planets, where people might find it good to live.
Angie: Any words for your fans?
Jeremy: Nothing special, except that every moment spent listening to my songs is a moment we share, and they honour me with their presence.
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