“Music is like a happy color of life,” says singer-songwriter Carla Bruni, calling from her home in Paris, France. Since starting her musical career more than 20 years ago, Bruni has become immensely popular, particularly across Europe, thanks to her uplifting, beautiful folk-pop songs. She continues with this soothing vibe on her self-titled sixth studio album (released on October 9 via Verve Records/Universal Music Group). “It was full of light when I wrote it,” she says.
Bruni began writing this new album well before the pandemic – but she admits that a brush with a different kind of danger inspired her to create these hopeful songs: “I almost had a car crash a year ago,” she says. “Every time you go near death, you feel more alive.”
To be sure, Bruni does not have to work so hard at songwriting – it is clearly something she wants to do. After all, prior to embarking on a music career, she was one of the most high-profile models in the world, but she mostly stopped that work after releasing her debut album, Quelqu’un m’a dit, in 2002. In 2008, she married Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then the President of France (he remained so until 2012) – but Bruni has continued writing and recording albums without interruption.
“I need to work. I like to work,” Bruni says, “and then for me there’s something else that is important, is that it’s a sort of shelter for myself, to write music. And also, something else that I really love is that it is an emotional way to talk about things.”
With the songs on Carla Bruni, she says, “I was just writing so much and I felt very much inspired. I’m usually going to search for inspiration. But when it comes to you, I guess it’s a sign the time has come to go into something new. That’s how I felt. I felt a lot of vitality.”
Bruni usually writes all of her own material. Her lyrics – which are mostly in French, though translations are readily available with a Google search – are often poetic and clever, and she is strategic about how she incorporates them into her songs. “Most of the time, I have some lyrics and bits of melodies, and then I try to make them match. Like a couple! I try to make them kiss!” she says with a laugh. “It’s very metaphorical.”
As for how she came to write this way, Bruni says, “I’m very romantic. I like romantic films. I like romantic poetry. I like romantic books. I like romantic ideas. I like when people are heartbroken – I know I shouldn’t say that, that’s not nice! But I’m such a romantic, so I guess I’m writing from that side of myself.”
Bruni says she wrote her first song when she was six or seven years old. “It was a song about slippers! That’s so unromantic, my God!” She pauses to reconsider before adding, “But it was kind of romantic, because it was a story about a slipper who had lost the other slipper. Two slippers torn apart, like Romeo and Juliet!”
Writing lyrics like this has been Bruni’s signature ever since. “Sometimes lyrics are very dark and then the music is very light – oh, I like that when there is contrast,” she says. “Like when you see a couple with one person very, very talkative and the other person very shy. I like the same with songs.”
Another personal rule that Bruni follows when working on a song, she says, is that she will “try to write from my emotions and never from my brain. I really try to write from my heart. I try to write with my soul breathing. I always get something coming from personal emotion, even if I’m writing about something that is not related to my life. It doesn’t have to be my personal life, but it has to be something that I feel.”
Although Bruni first came to international stardom because of her phenomenally successful modeling career, she actually always seemed destined to become a musician: her parents were noted concert pianist Marisa Borini and classical composer Alberto Bruni Tedeschi. She says they encouraged her interest in music, even though she decided not to follow them into the classical realm.
“Me, I do not know how to write music,” Bruni says of her choice to become a folk/pop musician. “Most people in pop music are like me, they’re completely autodidact: self-teaching. But that’s impossible in classical music because it’s too complicated. So that’s how I knew I was going to go for folk and pop music, because I was teaching myself.”
While she respects the classical world after being raised in it, Bruni says she does not believe that following a popular music path is less valid: “I wish that someone had told me [at the beginning] that there’s no point to try to make a song that is complicated, that the song can be simple and that’s lovely,” she says. “Some songs are made on three chords, so you don’t need to be a major musician to be a songwriter. It can be really simple and really good. You don’t need to be a virtuoso.”
On Carla Bruni, as with all her previous albums, Bruni makes that point with each song – and, no doubt, she will continue to do so with her music, no matter what other remarkable twists and turns happen in her life.