Louise Mathilde is a French singer/songwriter who recently released her beautiful debut single entitled ‘Septembre’. It’s been a while since a piece of music in another language has affected me to the extent that ‘Septembre’ has. I feel as though I’m walking the streets of Paris along with the artist when I listen to it. I was thrilled when Louise agreed to an interview with Indie Top 39, and to chat about her debut release, what success means to her, and which artists she’s been listening to lately. Please welcome the super talented Louise Mathilde!
Hello and welcome Louise! We’re so thrilled to introduce you to our ever-growing audience today. Congratulations on your debut single! How does it feel to have your very first song out there in the world?
Hi Indie Top 39, thank you for giving me this space to talk about this new project.
If I had to describe the emotions I’ve been feeling since the release of ‘Septembre’, I would say a lot of joy, relief, gratitude, and pride. I’m happy that it no longer belongs to me completely. Happy that everyone can now make it their own, give it meaning, and make it live a new story.
I also sometimes feel like it’s not really real. I look back and see what I’ve done and I still wonder how I did it. And let’s face it, looking up your name on your daily music app and coming across your single… It’s all very strange.
I said to you previously that, though I don’t understand French, something just instantly resonated with me when I first heard ‘Septembre’. I think I’ve listened to it daily ever since! It’s truly beautiful! What does the song mean to you?
That’s lovely, thank you.
‘Septembre’ is a special project. Very personal and at the same time very common.louise mathilde
I wrote it between August and September 2021. It describes the days before a breakup, those frozen moments. ‘Septembre’ is about the void left by the loved one. But it is, above all, about the person who remains. It celebrates every smile, and every victory while welcoming grief and pain.
After having stopped playing music for some time, I found the urge to play and sing again. I found myself again. The idea of recording only came to me in February. I didn’t hesitate for a second about the choice of song. I needed to prove to myself that I could cope. That I could make music and be proud of it. That is what ‘Septembre’ means to me: a cure to my grief, a cry of victory.
OK, let’s take things back to the start now. You spent many years writing and performing before eventually releasing ‘Septembre’. What are some of the events that have led you to where you are today musically?
A breakup. It’s so cliché that I’m almost ashamed of it. I’ve always sung, ever since I was a little girl. I was in choir for many years before I took singing lessons and learned to play the guitar. I started composing and performing in 2016 in Paris and since then I’ve had a rather…tumultuous relationship with music. I never really dared. I stopped, went back, stopped again. It became painful to go on stage, to expose myself to the look and judgment of others. And then there was the breakup.
As I mentioned earlier, I needed to find myself again. Music being part of my identity, I came back to it and it felt really good. I had this song and I knew it had potential. After some feedback on ‘Septembre’ at the end of Open Mics, I decided to dare, finally, to assume my position as a musician. I needed to go through the whole process, complete the project, and prove to myself that a year later, no matter what state I was in, no matter how far I had come, I had recorded and released a song, something I thought impossible not so long ago. I wanted to be able to look back and be proud of myself.
It may be selfish, sad or pathetic, but it gave me the push I was missing. Now I feel like I want to keep on going. Not because of a breakup, but because I enjoyed it and still have a lot to say.
Have you ever written lyrics to a song in English, and are you planning on releasing any songs in English? Or perhaps a combination of French and English?
I’ve never written a song in a language other than my own and I don’t know if I could. I have a rather special relationship with the words I choose. I work a lot with images, and with evocation. I don’t know if I would be able to achieve a satisfying result in another language, no matter if it’s English or German.
Nevertheless, I am not at all against the idea of working on a bilingual song with another artist. It could be a very interesting exercise. I’ve been moving between languages for quite a long time now so why not, with a little help, integrate it into my music one day?
I know that musicians like Barbara, Pomme, and Joan Baez are all big influences on you, but is there anybody else that you would credit, or give a shout-out to, for helping shape your overall musical soundscape?
I’ve been living in Berlin for three years now and I must say that the folk scene and all the artists I’ve come to know and who are now my friends have helped me assert my musical style. For ‘September’ in particular, I think of Brea Robertson, Dave Stewart Ingleton, Tomas Peralta, and Denise Dombrowski who worked with me on music and arrangements. ‘Septembre’ wouldn’t sound the same without them.
I also listened a lot to Barbara Pravi’s album On n’enferme pas les oiseaux during the whole project (me and Barbara’s)! It was she who made me want to give this impression of anchoring, of strength that comes from within, with both feet planted in the ground.
In general, I have surrounded myself with many female voices this year, which not only gave me great comfort but also made me really want to find my voice and have confidence in my choices and my sound.louise mathilde
If I stole your cell phone and opened your streaming service of choice, who would I see under your recently played section?
You would find Steve Wallis’ latest album Nothing Stays the Same Way for Long which also came out on September 16th. This album really blew my mind. You would also find Barbara Pravi’s Prière pour Soi which is my anthem of the moment and many (too many?) French songs and true crime podcasts.
What would being successful in the music industry look like to you? And is it something that you focus on when creating music?
It was always clear to me that I didn’t want to make music my main income. I know how much work and pressure it takes and I’m also aware that I don’t have the mental resources for it.
I want music to remain a pleasure. Something I decide to do and not something I have to do.louise mathilde
I make music for myself, to express what I feel, to convey ideas, and sometimes struggles, and to raise awareness for causes that matter to me. I make music to share it and to make it resonate with someone other than myself. For me, every feedback I get after someone listens to my songs, or the attention of the audience at a concert is a success.
Is there a show or concert that you attended (or perhaps even played at) that just stands out from all of the rest? If so, please do tell.
Two concerts come to mind immediately. Firstly, Joan Baez’s concert at the Olympia in June 2018. I went with my mother, for whom seeing Joan Baez on stage was a teenage dream. I remember her entrance and my disbelief. Beyond the artist and her music which move me deeply, I admire the woman and her engagements. To have her on stage in front of me was incredible.
Ten days before the recording of ‘Septembre’, I went to see Pomme at Kantine Berghain in Berlin. What a presence. I had in front of me, alone on stage, the proof that making soft and melancholic music is anything but an obstacle. That singing quietly doesn’t make us less legitimate or less strong. She proved to me that a song could be both powerful and sad, take up all the space, even without a lot of instruments and that it was ok.
When you’re not working on music, what does a day in the life of Louise Mathilde look like? What keeps you busy and what do you enjoy doing?
I am pretty busy actually. I work full-time as a project manager for inclusive cultural mediation. It’s a job I love and which has been a real revelation for me this year.
I often get lost in books. The bigger the better. For several years now, I have developed a passion for collage, sewing, knitting, analogue photography and silent movies at Babylon cinema. As my sister says: I am not old. I am vintage. I also started pole dancing last year and when I have a bit of energy left I am up for a night out, dinner, or any other activity with friends.
What song do you love that you wish you’d written?
La ligne droite from Georges Moustaki and Barbara (two songs out of one)! I used to sing it a few years ago and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. It’s about an uneasy love, its failures, its mistakes. It’s about going apart to find each other back later.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” What would your life be like without music?
Music has always been a part of my life. My parents always had tapes and CDs at home. They took my sister and me to concerts as kids. My mother always sang to us and made playlists for the holidays. No really, living without any access to music would be awful. As for a life without making music, I have more or less experienced it, and I can tell you that it was not very pleasant and I don’t want to do it again soon. Music is part of me and giving it up would be really painful.
Louise, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you! I have no doubt that there are many more songs up your sleeve, and I truly can’t wait to hear what else you have in store! In a broader sense though, what do you hope for in your musical future?
In the near future, I still have a few things to finish up for ‘Septembre’. On the 16th of October, a video will be released and I’m also planning to do a release show in November. Info about that should follow in a few weeks.
I also plan to work on a new, slightly bigger project: an EP. I know what direction I’d like to go in, what aesthetic it could have, and who I’d like to work with. In the meantime, I’d like to do more scenes and collaborations and continue to learn to trust myself.
We added Louise Mathilde’s single ‘Septembre’ to the playlist of all the artists we interviewed so far.
Don’t be shy to give it a listen!