When Chelsea Monthly met the Psychologist turned Singer-Songwriter
It’s not often that you hear about a psychologist staring a career in music. But that is the story of Swiss-born Miel de Botton. We were so intrigued here at Chelsea Monthly that we braved the cold weather on a late October Wednesday evening to meet with the trained psychologist turned singer/songwriter Miel de Botton.
What can you tell us about your soon to be released album ‘Magnetic’?
It’s a beautiful album, which is divided into two parts. One is made up of revisited traditional French ‘chansons’; the second half is of my own songs that are written in both English and French. The Album is to be released, on the 1st of February 2015.
Having listened to your album, I find that there isn’t a predominant genre throughout, is that because you don’t identify yourself to a singular genre?
I guess I like many genres, I think there is a variety there that reflects the variety in my taste.
Tell us about ‘Bad Men’ your latest single, what is it about? Is there a message behind the song? Was there a specific person in mind when you wrote it?
It was about moments in my life in which men were being difficult, and so I got it out of my system with this song and the message is for other women to do the same, to forgive. Forgiveness is shown in the music video when I refuse to shoot the ‘Bad Men’. I also believe that there are bad women out there, I’ve been a bad woman too, so this song is all about questioning oneself as well as everything is not all one sided.
You recently released the music video for ‘Bad Men’, where was the music video filmed? What sort of experience was it for you? Where did the idea of the western theme come?
The song was born when my producer, Andy Wright, was strumming with his guitar and came up with an arrangement, and I instantly though the song had an incredible western feel to it. As soon as we started getting the song together I could really visualise the video set in the Wild West. It was an incredible experience for me, very intense, but we were very well looked after. The whole experience was exhilarating; it was like being in a time warp. And having been filmed in Spain, on the set of a ‘Fistful of Dollars’, one of the greatest westerns of all time, directed by cinema legend Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West), added an almost overwhelming historical value to my video and the overall experience.
Bad Men Video:
You are a trained psychologist, how does a psychologist end up releasing and album? Has that experience in anyway affected your song writing?
It was part of my progression. I do believe that both music and psychology can be linked, and music can be healing, and that is what I look for in music and what I want my music to be. This album was also healing for me, helping me channel my emotions. I’ve gone through a range of emotions that I’ve conveyed through my songs. So whether it be unhappy love affairs that I express in Bad Men, or the remedies to bad men in ‘Magnetic’ and ‘Vivement la joie’.
Is this a start of a new career for you? Or is this just you fulfilling a life long dream?
I would say this is both a new career and a childhood dream, and this is not a one off project, it is something I can carry on with.
Have you always liked making music? When did you discover this passion of yours? Do you play any instruments?
I play the piano, but I prefer singing. I’ve always been surrounded by music growing up, always been transported by music, even by classical music which was playing around my house a lot. We would often go to concerts and opera. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different kinds of music and I would always remember all the lyrics, which showed how much music meant to me.
You say you got most of your inspiration from 40’s and 50’s French variety, what makes that era so attractive to you?
I think it’s the romance, the passion and the fact that love is expressed in a very intense way, but is always delicate. I am just a massive romantic and that is why 40’s Paris appeals to me. This love of post-war romanticism start when my father would sing “Mon amant de Saint Jean” and “Nuit de Chine” to me as a child.
Having lived in Paris, did living there live up to the picture painted by the songs of Brel and Piaf?
I found that as a student, I really could abandon myself to imagining that the old and the new Paris had merged. But when I started working there, life became more hectic, and I struggled to see my vision from before.
One song stood out for me in the samples you offer on your website, and that song was ‘Je ne regrette rien”. Where did you get your inspiration for the Caribbean style reinvention of the song?
That was one of the crucial elements of the album that I insisted on. My producer wasn’t as enthusiastic as me about it, but it was very important to me. It’s a refreshing take on the song; it’s about being relaxed and not having any regrets.
Tell us a bit about recording with producing legend Andy Wright. Am I right in assuming he helped you discover you song writing talents?
It was fabulous, he is a very grounded yet immensely talented, which made the whole recording process all the more fascinating. Being able to watch such a gifted man at work was very fulfilling. He was very organised, very meticulous, and all the chord arrangements were gorgeous.
Initially, the album was only meant to be covers of French chansons. One day, while recording, Andy and I sat down and he encouraged me to have a go at song writing. We worked together at first, he walked me through the process, and he then sent me home for the weekend to finish the song, to write something genuine, that he could believe. So I went home, I cried my eyes out, and wrote ‘Beautiful You’. I’m truly grateful for Andy, and all the support he gave me.
Half the songs on the album are covers of French classics, where do you get the inspiration for your original material?
It was different for every song. A few of the songs were commissioned. The creative process was therefore slightly different, whereby you focus your thoughts on a specific subject and try to get it full of your own emotion and poetry. Compared to my other original songs, which were just free, were all about different moments in my life.
What music do you listen to today, what is your favourite album to have been released this year?
Hard to say, there are so many. I listen to the charts with my daughter, but I also love listening to Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin and a whole range of other artists and genres.
Tell us a bit about your gig at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital.
Every Thursday the hospital organises an artistic performance (music or acting), part of their healing arts program. It was a fantastic experience, and at the end someone came up and gave me flowers and I was asked to sign autographs. It was all very surreal.
Where can we expect to see you up until the release?
I’ll be doing the album launch at the Southbank Centre in the Purcell Room, on the 27th of January.
Do you have a tour planned after the release?
Yes, there are a few events planned over the year, although the specific have not been finalised, we have been contacted by venues in the US, UK and France.
We will make sure to keep an eye out for the very promising and talented Miel De Botton.
Find Miel on social media: