Camille

Born : 1978 in Paris
Country : France
Language : French / English
Category : Composer / Female Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

Camille, a sensitive young singer-songwriter renowned for her energetic live performances, is impossible to pin down into any existing music category. The young 'chanteuse', who insists she finds "stability in instability", is currently winning increasing popularity on the mainstream.

Camille, a sensitive young singer-songwriter renowned for her energetic live performances, is impossible to pin down into any existing music category. The young 'chanteuse', who insists she finds "stability in instability", is currently winning increasing popularity on the mainstream.

Born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris in 1978, Camille Dalmais came into contact with the music world at an early age. Her father was a musician, who also indulged in a spot of songwriting from time to time. Camille soon discovered her own artistic bent, developing a passion for dance. She started taking ballet classes at the age of 7 and went on to perfect her skills over the next ten years. Meanwhile, Camille was also keenly aware of music, attending her first live concert at the age of 7 (when she watched Ray Charles perform at the Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes).

Camille, who had also developed a strong interest in bossa nova and American musicals, was already set on taking to the stage one day herself as a dancer, an actress or a singer. Yet she never once conceived of the idea of learning her profession in any kind of institution. For her, the arts were a personal world, to be explored in an instinctive, self-taught way. Camille went on to give her first public performance, singing at a wedding when she was just 16. "Un homme déserté", the song she performed at the wedding, was co-written with friends.

While still dreaming of becoming a dancer, an actress or a singer, Camille applied herself to her studies. She was a particularly gifted pupil and studied at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris, obtaining an arts degree before sitting the exam for the prestigious Normale-Sup Saint-Cloud. Camille then went on to graduate from "Sciences Po" (where she was allowed to record her album "Sac de filles" as a final end-of-year-project). Meanwhile, on the songwriting front, "Un homme déserté" had laid the foundations of what was to become the Camille style: a combination of ‘70s soul influences, ‘60s folk influences, French 'chanson' and a particular attention to language.

Camille honed her vocal skills, taking singing lessons, and she began trying out her new songs on the Paris jazz circuit, accompanied by a backing band which included her future guitarist, Sébastien Martel. Camille also found work as a backing singer and she came to professional and public attention, performing as one of the backing singers with Jean-Louis Murat when the latter appeared on a television show.

The first demo

In 2001, Camille made her acting debut, playing a small role in Antoine de Caunes's film "Les morsures de l’aube." But, more importantly, the budding singer-songwriter also featured on the film soundtrack, contributing the song "La vie la nuit." Meanwhile, Camille's first demo tape – a minimalist four-track affair based on simple guitar, piano and vocals – began doing the rounds of the record labels. With a helping hand from a music publisher, the tape ended up in the right hands and Camille was signed to the Source label (a subsidiary of Virgin).

Camille's debut album, "Le sac de filles", was released in 2002 when she was 24 years old. Camille wanted her album to sound like a basic, pared-down folk record recorded live and her collaboration with Jacques Ehahart (the producer of Henri Salvador’s album "Jardin d’hiver") enabled her to achieve just this effect. (The young jazz musician Magik Malik also contributed to the album, playing flute on several tracks). Two singles were released from the album: the title track, "Le sac des filles" and "Demeure d’un ciel." Boosted by these, the album ended up selling over 30,000 copies and was hailed as a critical success. Meanwhile, Stéphane Sednaoui (the director renowned for making Madonna's video clips) was so impressed with Camille's song "Paris" that he called her record label and insisted on filming a clip for the song (agreeing to work for much less than his usual fee).

Later that same year, Camille recorded vocals on "Nicole" and "Geneviève." These two tracks featured on "Les pétroleuses", an album masterminded by Marc Collin, a virtuoso producer renowned for his work on the Paris electro scene (notably Ollano, Volga Selection and the hip Nouvelle Vague project). 

At the beginning of 2003, Camille performed live, appearing at L’Européen in Paris for a five-day run (28 January - 1 February) with Roméo, another young, up-and-coming singer-songwriter. She was accompanied on stage by a backing band featuring piano, guitar, double bass and drums.

Continuing her prolific songwriting and recording career, Camille recorded a duo with French male vocalist Marka (the song "Avant après" appeared on the album "L’Etat c’est moi"). Meanwhile, she co-wrote "Seeing is Believing", a track which featured on the debut album by French electro outfit Scratch Massive. In December 2003, Jean-Louis Murat returned to the studio to record a series of tracks which appeared exclusively on his DVD "Parfum d’acacia au jardin." Camille, who had appeared on Murat's album "Lilith" released that same year (and whom Murat described as his "chief backing singer"), brought her unique touch of soul and R&B to bear once again.

In 2004, Camille continued her work as a backing singer, appearing on Gérard Manset's "Langage oublié" (released in March of that year). On 25 March 2004, Camille's friend and sometime guitarist Sébastien Martel released his own album, "Ragalet." Camille provided guest vocals on two tracks: "Ragalet" and "Dumb VF."

Nouvelle vague

In April 2004, Camille was chosen as one of the seven female vocalists in a new project masterminded by Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux. Collin and Libaux came up with the novel idea of recording an album of bossa nova reworkings of cult new wave classics by the likes of Joy Division, The Clash and The Cure. On the album, entitled "Nouvelle Vague", Camille appeared on four tracks, singing in whimsically French-accented English on covers of The Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck", Tuxedomoon's "In a Manner of Speaking", "Guns of Brixton" by The Clash and "Making Plans for Nigel" by XTC. She also participated in Nouvelle Vague's European tour.

Meanwhile, Camille continued to be in great demand as a guest vocalist. She appeared on Etienne de Crécy's album "Superdiscount 2", singing on the track "Someone Like You" (which she co-wrote with de Crécy). And she also guested on albums by the musician/composer/illustrator Oomiaq and Franck Monnet. At the beginning of 2005, she wrote the lyrics for "Caméra dans le cœur", a song which appeared on Lokua Kanza's fifth album, "Plus vivant." 

2005: "Le fil"

The highlight of Camille's career at the start of 2005, however, was the release of her second album, "Le fil." The title ("Le fil" translates as "The Thread") refers to the B note Camille hums time and time again in the course of the album, stringing songs together and providing the idea of a concept thread. Accompanied in the studio by Sly (the human beat-box from Saïan Supa Crew), Martin Gamet (on double bass) and Madjiker (aka Matthew Ker on machines and accordion), Camille pushed her sound in a slightly new direction, flirting with African and American influences. She combined these influences with intelligent lyrics and a sharp sense of humour, delivering her songs with energy and passion. Boosted by the success of the first single release, "Ta douleur", Camille's album rocketed straight to the number 12 spot in the charts the week of its release (15 February). By September 2005, "Le fil" had sold over 150,000 copies.

As usual, Camille excelled live on stage, working the crowd with her natural charisma, coupled with a set of superb backing musicians and a truly original show. In the months following the release of her album, she went on to perform some 100 dates, making an impact at leading music festivals such as Le Printemps de Bourges and Les Francofolies. Camille also played concerts across Europe and appeared in Israel and Montreal. In 2005, she performed a number of concerts in Paris at various venues including Le Café de la Danse and Le Trianon.

With her quirky style and original personality, Camille proved to be one of the hottest new talents to have emerged from the ‘new French chanson’ scene. On 4 March 2006 she scored a double whammy at the “Victoires de la Musique” awards, Le Fil winning Best New Album of the Year and the singer herself triumphing in the Breakthrough Live Act category.

A few days later, Camille released "Live au Trianon", a live album recorded at concerts she had performed in the tiny Paris venue on 17 & 18 October 2005.

Camille went on to play another sell-out run in Paris at Le Cirque d'Hiver (29 - 31 March 2006). After that, she took to the road for an extensive international tour, playing dates across Latin America, Europe and North America.

Camille's album "Le Fil" was released in the U.K. and the U.S. in June 2006. That summer, the singer branched out into cinema, acting in Olivier Lecot's first film, "Ava", in which she played the role of a quirky young woman who upsets the routine of a veteran Don Juan. In September 2006, Camille turned her attention back to singing again, providing guest vocals on Sébastien Martel's album "Coitry". She appeared live on stage alongside Martel at the special fund-raising "Concert en Blanc - Solidarité Liban", staged at the Théâtre du Rond Point, in Paris, on 5 September. (Profits from the show were donated to the Lebanese Red Cross). On 5 October, Camille took to the stage again, this time as a solo act performing to British fans at the Shepherds Bush Empire, in  London.

2007: Ceremony of Carols

In 2007, Camille was involved in another film, this time the French adaptation of Pixar's award-winning animation "Ratatouille." Camille lent her voice to the character of Colette, one of the film's main protagonists, and also recorded the theme song for the French version ("Le Festin"). But most of 2007 was taken up by the singer's ambitious new personal project based on an adaptation of Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" and different religious songs which she planned to perform in different churches across France.

Camille spent several weeks rehearsing "Ceremony of Carols" (which the 20th-century British classical composer wrote in 1942) and also adapted a series of Christian, Jewish, Algerian, Sufi and Taoist songs, presenting these as part of her spiritual show "God is Sound." Camille performed the première of this new show at the Eglise Saint-Eustache, in Paris, in June 2007. Accompanied by singers Indi Kaur and Julia Sarr and the guitarist Sébastien Martel for the first half of the show, Camille performed solo on stage in the purely 'a cappella' second half. She went on to tour her show across France that summer. 

Following her concerts in the summer of 2007, Camille got down to work on writing material for a new album (scheduled for release in March 2008). A mini-concert tour has already been arranged as soon as the album is released with dates in Paris and Brussels.

2008: "Music hole"

In October 2007, Camille set to work preparing a third studio album. “Music Hole” came out in 2008. Like “Le Fil”, it puts the singer’s voice right in the foreground, with numerous a cappellas, polyphonies and dazzling vocal trances. In her quest to do everything differently, Camille also uses her body as a percussion instrument: she bangs her chest, taps her foot, makes noises with her mouth, blows and cries like an animal. Two accomplices help her in the task: Sly (Martin Gamet), ex-member of the French rap group, Saïan Supa Crew, and MaJiker (Matthew Ker), who takes care of the machines and piano. The mixing is done in Reykjavik, Iceland.

As to the lyrics, it is a surprise to hear Camille singing in English. Perhaps she is giving in to Anglo-Saxon cultural domination, or trying to invest in other markets? The artist replies that no, she just fancied the adventure of trying out another language that she happens to master perfectly.

In April, she plays four evenings in a row at the Printemps de Bourges festival in central France. From 23 to 28 May, she is at the Cigale in Paris before setting off on tour.

In 2009, she won the Victoire Award for female singer of the year.

In April 2010, Camille took part in an event at the Printemps de Bourges festival, entitled “Les Françoises” and including La Grande Sophie, Emily Loizeau, Olivia Ruiz, Jeanne Cherhal, and Rosemary from the group Moriarty. Each of the stars performed a version of one of their female peers’ numbers. A CD-DVD of the joint show was released a while later.

In November 2010, the singer gave birth to a boy named Marius, fathered by the musician Clément Ducol.

2011: "Ilo Veyou"

Camille gave a series of concerts at the Couvent des Récollets in Paris from 1 to 13 September 2011 to present her new album, which she released in October under the title “Ilo Veyou” (i.e. “I love you”!). The collection reveals some impressive vocal mastery from the singer, accompanied by acoustic instruments. Clément Ducol was involved in the arrangements and produced some of the tracks. Mixing pop, chanson and folk, Camille confidently navigates in a world stamped with her pared-down, shifting and enchanting style. The first single taken from the album was an unadorned, appealing song called “L’étourderie”.

From October, the artist was off on tour, performing at Café de la Danse in Paris from 12 to 18 December.

January 2012

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