Yasmine Modestine is a singer-songwriter, actress and scriptwriter from Paris. Yasmine has recently returned from a tour in South Korea and kindly agreed to complete a feature interview for Song Revelation. Read the full interview below where Yasmine discusses her musical background, musical inspirations and her current career highlights.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
A piano, a woman, texts and a voice, at a crossroads between French song, jazz and pop music.
Q: What is your musical background?
I had solfege lessons as a child to start with. I was always singing from as long as I can remember. I grew up where everyone was singing in my family. There’s always been a guitar and harmonicas at home. My father used to play a lot and he used to sing me to sleep when I was little. My mother bought me a guitar when I was 15. I learnt listening to the Beatles mostly but also with French singer-songwriters such as Georges Moustaki, Joan Baez and later Leonard Cohen.
Then when I was 16, there was a piano which I took possession of, I learned with my friend Catherine who was taking lessons, she showed me everything she learnt, so I was playing Beethoven, Alboni, Schubert… I remember how I learnt Letter for Elise in one night I wanted to play so much… I wanted to write songs and I don’t remember my first song because actually I have always put music with words. This was how I learnt my school recitals when I was little.
Q: How was 2010 for you?
Quite exciting actually. I was invited by the French Embassy and the French Alliances to tour South Korea. It was fantastic! I sang in Gwangju, Busan and Seoul.
Also, I recorded a new album, Out of the Blue, which I am very fond of, that was released in November. My play, Mademoiselle was published too. So it was a pretty good year.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Oh dear ! Hard to say right away I am sure I will forget major people… If I said that The Beatles played a large role in my life that would sum it up. I was born in France, so there are also major French singer-songwriters I grew up with, such as Jacques Brel (who was actually from Belgium ) .
I loved Kate Bush too, then my friends made me discover jazz and that was so different from pop or French songs. I was fascinated and it puzzled me. I am mostly struck by the voices in general. I view a song as a whole, consisting of music and arrangement but if there is no voice as happens sometimes in French music, I can’t be completely taken in by it.
The voice is the messenger of a good song. John Lennon’s voice had a quality that reminds me weirdly enough of Sam Cooke… someone who’s musical style touches me deeply… something that touches me beyond the music itself. Alain Bashung had this too, something very personal and emotive in his voice.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to
Well talking about voices, you can’t look past Amy Winehouse. Musically, Bjork really has something that belongs to her too. Annie Lennox is a great artist, I really love her. Ani di Franco. Well as you see only women :-). I didn’t mean it.
I am sure there are some men too, but I can’t think of anyone right now. (I told you I would forget all of them.) REM was great. I also love Sinead O’Conor. Ilene Barnes. Corinne Baily Rae. Maybe I am not really up to date :-).
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
Well if I was allowed to dream, I’d definitely say Paul McCartney because I can’ t imagine a life without ever listening to him. The 4 of them have been in my life for so long now.
Someone like Ian Caple who worked with great artists and worked on Bashung’s Fantaisie Militaire, which is a great album…I suppose Brian Eno too would be magical. Actually, yes, I would love to work with Ian or Brian and gig with Paul.
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
I don’t have an ipod, sorry. I hate earplugs. But I listen Eva Cassidy, Syl Johnson (who I’ve just discovered), Sam Cooke and Toto Bissainthe.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
It really depends. There’s no rule. I can write a song from a scratch or I can be stuck for a while. Sometimes words come first, sometimes you have this tune in your head, sometimes you see something or hear something and it ignites the inspiration, sometimes you just sit at your piano or guitar and search for chords that would sound well.
Either way, you end up rehearsing over and over to polish it and make it sound good, chords, words and voice, the way you hear it in your mind. Actually a song is never finished. And it needs to be performed to grow. But then you will always improve time after time. A record is a moment. Of course everyone knows Yesterday but think of all the covers, there are different. But you can decide after some time that you have it and it will be finished that is the starting point to sing it on stage.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Both if you write a song. Words are carried by the melody, the melody enhances the words otherwise you won’t need to sing them.
Q: Where are you based?
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
You speak French, you eat non-pasteurized cheese, you are supposed to drink good wine but there are plenty other places with good wine and good cheese too. You are told you live in the most beautiful city in the world but I don’t know about that. There are also lots of beautiful cities in the world… but you have the Eurostar that gets you straight to London and that is a bit of luck .
Q: What are you currently working on?
I am rehearsing for my next concert and finishing songs.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
The tour in South Korea.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
I’d love to work with Ian Caple. I’d love to get signed by a record company. That would be quite an achievement even though it would be a start.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
I’ll be singing and reading at the castle of La Roche-Guyon (near Paris) on July 14th. Every year, they organize a “citizen banquet” to celebrate Bastille Day. This year, they’ll also feature some of my work as a singer and as an actress.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Yoga, walking, meditation. I also practice the classics (Mendelsohn, Bach, Chopin…), it is very focusing and relaxing.
Editor’s Note: Yasmine Modestine’s music is both experimental, emotional and commercial, which is clearly demonstrated by her avant-garde approach to composition and performance. We hope that Yasmine will continue to tour in 2011 and beyond, so that she can share her music and style with more people.
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Yasmine Modestine, just follow the links below:
twitter link: http://twitter.com/#!/yasminmodestine
myspace link: http://www.myspace.com/yasminemodestine
web page link: http://www.yasminemodestine.com
reverbnation link: http://www.reverbnation.com/yasminemodestine