Exclusive: Lulu Gainsbourg's Lady Luck
Diana Vreeland once said "the best thing about London is Paris" and, when he phones from the former on a dreary Monday morning, Lulu Gainsbourg seems to agree.
"There’s good stuff about London," says the 28-year-old in a heavy French accent, "like it’s very close to Paris, so I can go and see my mum…"
He trails off.
"I suppose," he says after a while, "that I prefer New York."
Gainsbourg, the youngest son of French icon Serge Gainsbourg and French actress and model Bambou, has always been a little nomadic. He left his native France when he was 20 to live in London, Los Angeles, Boston (where he studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music) and New York, before settling back in London last year where he wrote and recorded much of his new record, Lady Luck.
The album, which features collaborations with a string of famous names, including Anne Hathaway and artist Ara Starck (daughter of designer Philippe Starck), is an eclectic blend of sexy pop songs, introspective ballads and atmospheric instrumentals and is Gainsbourg’s second, but his first collection of original compositions, inspired by, he says, "my world".
"Well, maybe not my whole world, because it’s such a complicated world in my head," he laughs, "but I hope people will understand who I am and what I can do."
“I started writing the album after a difficult break up, so all the songs are from my vision and my point of view about a relationship that I had, a relationship that we all have. It’s kind of a concept album because it tells a story from the top to the end.”
Gainsbourg’s debut album, From Gainsbourg to Lulu (2011) paid homage to his father and his most famous songs, and saw him team up with friends such as Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop and Scarlett Johansson, who performed on the notorious Gainsbourg-Bardot duet ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ (he’s yet to collaborate with his half-sister Charlotte Gainsbourg, but hopes they’ll work together in the future).
Once he’d finished From Gainsbourg to Lulu, he was determined to carve his own niche and create something “personal and original.”
“At first, it was important that I pay tribute to my father’s work, but I don’t want to be the son who revisits his dad’s repertoire indefinitely,” says Gainsbourg.
“My father is still a huge inspiration, of course, and I am aware that because my last name is Gainsbourg I have a lot of opportunities and I’ve been able to meet a lot of people. That can open doors, and I’m sure a lot of people think ‘oh it’s too easy because he’s Gainsbourg’s son’ but if your father is a legend, there’s difficulties, because what is your goal? To become a better legend? That’s impossible! I had to find myself.”
To bring Lady Luck to life, Gainsbourg recruited musicians he admired, including Paul Turner and Derrick McKenzie of Jamiroquai and Drew McConnell of Babyshambles, while recording the duet ‘The Cure’ with Anne Hathaway came about more organically. The album was co-produced by Grammy award winning sound engineer Jeremy Loucas.
“She is so sweet, so lovely,” Gainsbourg says of Hathaway.
“We met last year after she got her Oscar. I’d read an article in a French magazine that said she loved my first record, so we got in touch and then talked about collaborating. She loved the idea so we just did it.”
Though he never toured with his first album, Gainsbourg says he’s looking forward to taking Lady Luck on the road, and hopes people connect with it.
“It was a labor of love, for sure,” he says, “but I have learned that as long as you know who you are and you fight for what you love and for your dreams, then it all comes together.”
Photography by Jean Baptiste Mondino.