23-year-old, Charline Mignot, aka Vendredi Sur Mer, is one of the French pop scene’s great new hopes. She almost stumbled into music by coincidence, but, with the release of her first EP Marée Basse in 2017, the singer-songwriter was definitely on to something. We met her over a glass of red wine in a Parisian café.
Between Lyon and Paris, I believe you met someone who changed your life?
I’ve been living in Paris for three years now. Before that, I was in Lyon, and I lived in London as well. I wrote my first song Est-ce que tu t’en souviens? and posted it on YouTube. That’s how I met my manager. I had been taking photos and showing them. He hounded me for four months for a meeting! He had set up his indie label Profil de Face and was studying in Lyon. He liked, my song and told me we just had to put out a record and an EP. I didn’t even know what those things were! So, I put out Morphine. We were 17 years old when we met. I told him “yes” because just imagining what would happen made me laugh.
La Femme à la peau bleue was your first big hit on YouTube. How did your collaboration Lewis Ofman go?
I had recorded a first version of the song with Léo from Bleu Toucan, another band on Profil de face. My manager met Lewis and asked him to remix the track. We loved it so much that we decided to release it as a single! When Lewis does a remix, he only keeps the vocals and builds an entire new song around it. I’m working with him now on the album. I get a lot of inspiration from hearing his production, and then I improvise. It works really well in that way. Now our workflow has evolved to the point where he doesn’t even have to ask for my input anymore, we just naturally exchange on the productions.
A lot of your lyrics involve women, is that a coincidence?
Writing about women came naturally to me, I find it inspiring. For example, the song Morphine was about a boy, and from there I started writing for women. I like going back and forth between the two, so people can’t tell who I’m speaking to. Often in interviews, I get asked about my relationship to feminism, because I talk about women so much. It’s starting to get a bit frustrating, because I find that trying to glorify the topic too much works against the cause. I talk about women in the same way I could talk about my dog or my boyfriend! I’m a human being and I do as I please! It’s like having a Gay/Trans category at film awards. It puts you in a box.
You played at Point Éphémère in January. What’s a Vendredi sur Mer concert like?
I have dancers with me on stage, one male and one female. We set up three desks on the stage, which makes my concert a bit like a play. My dancers created different tableaux for each song, each with its own choreography. We’re all wearing 80s suits. When I started playing live, it was a bit hard… but I’d done theatre as a child, so improvisation came naturally to me. With music, the process was longer. At first I would just say “thank you and bye” and leave. Now, I share stories from my life – I’m no longer afraid of other people’s judgement. A fan told me the other day: “before, I loved your songs, now I love you!”
Writing in French is harder… It’s more revealing of oneself than English.
Yes, but for the last three years, there’s been a shift in pop music. French chanson is back in style. Personally, I can’t write in English, so that’s why I wrote in French! I wrote a verse once, I don’t even know if it means anything:
AS A LIGHT YOU COME TO ME
AS A GLOW I COME TO YOU
THATS WHY I LOVE YOU
THATS WHY YOU LOVE ME
It’s probably horrible if you translate it into French!
Tell me about a French musical hero of yours?
I listened to Renaud through my entire childhood, I’m quite a pest about it! Sometimes during a conversation, I’ll quote Renaud and my friends just can’t stand it anymore! But I can help it – his lyrics are so well thought-out, he’s sincere. I remember that the first song I sang was his duet with Axelle Red, Manhatthan Kaboul. When I was nine years old, I went on a trip to Marrakesh with my mother, and the hotel had a karaoke. This little boy who was my age started singing the song, and my mom practically pushed me on stage to sing it with him! So I did…
Your three favourite albums?
Rest (Charlotte Gainsbourg) – Marche à L’ombre (Renaud) – Sili Beto (Touré Kunda)