Sébastien Parentin is a musician who is currently living in Strasbourg, France. At Song Revelation we look to give you an insight into the lives of young, upcoming, creative musicians around the world. Although Sébastien is a native French speaker we were delighted when he agreed to complete an in depth feature interview in English. Read on to find out, amongst other things, how Sébastien would describe his music, who he would like to collaborate with given a chance and what it’s like working in Strasbourg.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
I am probably not the best placed to answer the question. One day, Sera Roadnight, manager at MT Press, who I had pleasure to work with, wrote: “Sébastien makes use of captivating swells and navigates through many layers of melody and harmony to communicate with his listeners.” That’s beautifully said. I can’t say whether people actually feel that or not, but that’s definitely what I try to convey.
Q: What is your musical background?
I entered a classical music school at the age of 7 at the instigation of my father. I had indeed any kind of ambition or motivation at this time. There, I learnt music theory for ten years and chose the piano as my study instrument. Retrospectively, I think I did well. The piano offers me now so many possibilities in terms of sound shaping, virtual instruments controlling, that I just can’t imagine myself playing another instrument!
Later, I broadened my horizons to jazz, and rock. During my college years (I actually studied for an engineering degree), I and a few other mad school friends created a rock band. This was actually my first songwriting experience, and it sounded like a revelation to me. Although I never believed in my songwriting abilities, I even so realized that writing songs was for me like a second nature, and best of all, that my songs were surprisingly inspiring other musicians. There was a kind of emulation in the band that helped me to believe in myself. This was truly rewarding. Then, enriched by this experience, I felt the need to write my own self-inspired songs, in a totally different way.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
I’ve been working on promoting my first songs throughout France over the last 12 months. I’ve also already been placed in a few international songwriting contests. That’s an encouraging beginning, but I need more now!
Q: Who inspires you musically?
My main influences come from British music. A few years ago, I could not stop listening to Coldplay’s first albums (“Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head”) at the time when I wrote my first songs. I felt very close to their so characteristic dreamy and cathartic atmospheres with mostly piano based arrangements. Then, I realized more than ever that my instrument, the piano, was even sometimes more than others, a good mean to serve beautiful and touching alternative pop/rock melodies. Of course, other artists come in mind; I think about Muse, Keane, Radiohead, Sigur Rós… mainly for the same reasons.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
There are so many people I would like to work with. The list would be too long. I think about a good producer, talented and inspired, who will respect my choices and my vision throughout the process of writing and mixing. I like to work alone and the freedom that comes with, but I’m also aware that I need people (producers, singers, songwriters) to stimulate and inspire me, bring new ideas and new relationships. A good question would perhaps be to ask, “Is there anyone who would like to collaborate with me?”
Q: What songs are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment, the artist I’m probably listening to the most is “Florence and the
Machine. I really like “Ceremonials” album, which I discovered quite lately, about one month ago. Florence is a very talented singer. The arrangements are so well inspired, exotic and exhilarating. The structure of every song is brilliantly written. I also appreciate the big work on vocals (including background), which gives to most songs a feeling of power. I love it.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
I usually do not already have a concept in mind. It is often the notes I play on my piano that help me to build the concept alongside the songwriting process. Then, comes the time to choose the rhythmic part that best matches the mood of the harmony. It is a very decisive step for me, since it conditions the arrangement and the specific character of my song. Sometimes, when playing with some beat pattern designers, I enjoy creating some quite interesting gimmicks that can lead to a true new interesting song, but it is not my usual way to proceed.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Melody definitely. I know that French people usually think the contrary; we attach a lot of importance to lyrics in my country to the detriment of music (I mean for French songs… for English ones people don’t care). I think that good music simply makes good songs. The best proof is that most of beautiful songs often became huge worldwide success, including in non-English speaking country. If lyrics were so important, this would not happen as often in many countries where people absolutely do not understand any word of what it is said. Music is what makes people move, feel, think, dream, remember good times… Of course, lyrics have a role, but I consider them more as the icing on the cake; if song is great, beautiful lyrics make it unforgettable.
Q: Where are you based?
I’m based in Strasbourg, in the very East of France. It’s a frontier city with Germany.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
I really like Strasbourg! That’s a beautiful city, very lively and cosmopolitan. French people have the reputation of being cold, stressed, and not very welcoming. That is quite true… for Paris (I admit it), but Strasbourg is hopefully saved from the world famous French gloominess… I just regret that indie music scene is not so well developed here; city is maybe not big enough for that. Sometimes, I think that I should try my luck in Paris, but for the reason I evoked previously, I prefer to stay here!
Q: What are you currently working on?
I just released the song “Tears in the Sea”. For this song, I tried to create a more intimate ambiance than I used to do, with an acoustic and very light arrangement (piano/voice). The song was also the opportunity for my cousin Marianne to do her first steps as a singer, since she kindly accepted to lead me her lovely voice for background vocals. As of this moment, I’m working on my E.P. last song, still untitled. The sound should be, this time, very electronic and a kind of powerful pop/rock, Muse inspired maybe (all things being relative).
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in over the next 12 months?
I’d like to finish my E.P this year.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Watching horror dripping hemoglobin movies can work sometimes, but doing sport is more effective. I like jogging, rollerblading, cycling, everything that makes me discover (or re-discover) some green landscapes, and breath fresh air. This said, I think that probably the best way to feel lastingly relaxed is to be at peace with yourself.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
There is beauty everywhere. I can’t say really what would be my favorite place. Maybe that my little preference even so goes to Ireland for its landscape and people, who I feel very close with, for many reasons.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?
I would say, “Believe in yourself”. Try to find musician buddies, who have the same interests as you. It’s always easier to crack the music market together.
Also, nowadays, it’s easy to achieve a quite professional sound with very powerful, easy to-use, and affordable software (DAW + some plugins), and a few mixing skills. Then, get a keyboard and a microphone, a basic USB sound card to plug them… and you’re ready! Finally all you need is some inspiration to make the difference.
Editor’s Note: Sébastien Parentin has a great degree of musicianship that he brings to the fore in each of his inventive songs. At Song Revelation we’re looking forward to how Sébastien’s sound and signature sound develops over the coming months.
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