I got to admit that I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered divine&acajou‘s song ‘Viens’ that she submitted to us directly. Straight away I fell in love with the track and started to spin it on repeat. And as it happens with songs that are not performed in English, I can’t really understand much, however there is so much magic about it. I simply dive into the sounds and the rhythms and get totally lost in this wonderful dream that divine&acajou has created.
It was no surprise that I wanted to get to know the person behind this project and hear her story. I am thrilled to introduce you to one and only divine&acajou.
Congratulations on your debut release! Tell us about the journey until the moment ‘Viens’ saw the light of day!
Thanks! I’ve actually achieved one of my biggest dreams and it means a lot to me. I’ve been into music my whole life and I’ve been singing in a choir for several years as a child, doing lyric pieces mostly, even singing small parts in Opera pieces (The Nutcracker or Wozzeck among other things). As a teenager, I was dying to audition for singing competitions, but I lacked confidence and I never dared to do it. It got worse and I stopped singing in public for years. My siblings and my friend Emilie were the reason I came back to public singing. Then I got the opportunity to sing for Etat Limite’s album ‘L’Amour n’existera plus’ at the end of 2020 and it got me back into music.
Tell us more about how ‘Viens’ was born. Do you remember the moment you got inspiration for it?
For ‘Viens’, inspiration came at different moments actually. In summer 2020, I was very im(patiently) waiting for someone, thus the frustration and desire in the song. I had already put together some instrumentals for this song and then the lyrics came to me while I was asleep. I quickly got up at 3 AM to record them! The slam verses were then added in October 2021. My arranger Arnaud Hergès and I were going round in circles with the song. It was mesmerising but too mysterious and I felt compelled to say more, which I did. I don’t like to write additional lyrics because of my creative process but I managed and the song got even better thanks to that.
You will always be remembered by the very first song that started your career. How did you know that ‘Viens’ is the one?
I think ‘Viens’ says it all. It encompasses everything I wanted to say in my future EP, it’s written in both English and French and it’s the most comprehensive song I’ve written and the most accessible one. I guess it’s a great overview of what will be in my future EP.
It is beautiful to see how you embrace your origin and sing both in English & in French. Do you have a preferred language while writing songs?
I definitely prefer to write in English. It comes naturally. It’s really my heart’s first language. I’ve always loved that language and I worked hard to become proficient in it. French is important to me though and the way I sing or slam slightly differs depending on whether I use French or English.
You mentioned that divine&acajou project is rooted in the movement of women empowerment. It is such an important message. What do you think we could all do to empower women in the music industry?
I think that giving more opportunities to women would be a good start. But I also think it shouldn’t be limited to women. I feel it’s crucial to include the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole and give everyone who wants it access to these same opportunities. I follow associations that work to achieve this goal and fight sexual violence and sexist behaviour. Some of the associations include Connect’her, Mewem, She said So, Women of Live Music, Musiciennes&Co, Les Femmes s’en mêlent, Salut les Zikettes, Change de disque, Peaches & witches, Women Metronum Academy and many more.
As many women have, I have suffered from misogynist behaviours, assaults and I have been bullied in my day-to-day life. I think education is key to change things, and through behavioural changes in society changes will come in the music industry. I don’t pretend to know everything on that matter but a good place to start would be to inquire about all this and educate oneself. At my level, I try to do that.
Through behavioural changes in society changes will come in the music industrydivine&acajou
I’d love to hear more about your creativity as you describe composing as something that is beyond you.
I always start with the instrumentals. I never have a clear melody in mind for the lead. Some days, I find nothing and it’s difficult. Then one day, everything comes to me very quickly. Sometimes, I can write and record a song in 2 or 3 hours.
When it comes to lyrics and melody or slam, I wait to be in a certain state of mind and then I just open the mic and it pours right out of me. I almost never write a single verse before recording. I write the lyrics down once I’ve sung and recorded them once. I guess that’s why people say my music is heartfelt and visceral. It’s because it really is.
Elizabeth Gilbert in her Ted Talk ‘Your Elusive Genius’ talk about something similar which she describes as having someone ‘a spirit’ help you create. Is that how you see your creativity too?
I guess it is. Actually, I think it’s not one spirit. There’s probably a whole team of writers up there ! It’s true that in these moments of creation, I feel that something is really taking over me, it’s strong, I can’t lie and there’s nothing I can do about it. It has to come out. But the communication isn’t always crystal-clear contrary to what Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her talk. It can be messy sometimes but I sort things out and rewrite bits that don’t make sense.
What does it mean to you to be launching your music career in this challenging time?
It means so much to me and it gives me so much hope in these challenging times. This crisis has really reshuffled the deck and I feel it has given me more opportunities than it has taken away from me.
This crisis has really reshuffled the deck and I feel it has given me more opportunities than it has taken away from me.divine&acajou
You already been featured on Etat Limite’s album ‘L’Amour n’existera plus’. I have to admit that the sound is very different to what you are doing. Was that ‘step out of comfort zone’ experience or you are planning to experiment with different genres moving forward too?
My music style is definitely always evolving and I love so many different types of music that it wasn’t a long stretch for me to sing for Etat Limite’s album. It really was a great opportunity and I had a lot of fun being part of it! I love this album! It’s so powerful! Although I don’t usually listen to Italo Disco music, I’m really fond of this project and grateful to have been featured in it. The music is beautiful and the lyrics are incredibly profound and beautiful. There are very few genres I wouldn’t explore if given the opportunity. I’m very curious and eager to learn and experiment.
Did the lockdown have an influence on how you create music?
It changed everything for me. I had to stop my main job for a few months and was given plenty of free time to create. During the first lockdown, I was staying at my mother’s where we had a small music studio. It really was a special moment for me. Although the situation was tough, I was grateful to have been given the means, space (and food!) to create, and that wouldn’t have been possible without my mother and my brother, for sure.
Lockdown changed everything for me.divine&acajou
On the 1st of January you shared a very beautiful photo of the art that your mum did. Would it be correct to say that you come from the family of artists?
I would say that I was given every opportunity as a child to learn about culture, music and art in general, but I wasn’t encouraged towards creation. Both my parents loved culture and my mother really is an artist, but I guess she lacked the confidence to focus more on that part of herself. My brother on the other hand has always been very creative from an early age, and we explored through numerous games. We have countless memories with my siblings playing, singing, creating. All of us three were taught how to play an instrument and how to sing, and that’s very precious. We were part of the same choir and we can still sing some pieces together today!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about modern French music?
It may be that only French people can listen and enjoy music written in French. It’s the groove, not the language, that matters.
Do you have a song that when you hear, you’d be ‘Damn I wish I’d written that’.
My first instinct would be to say that there isn’t because everything I love to listen to seems so wonderful to me that I wouldn’t even have dared to dream about writing it! I’m often obsessed with a few songs for a couple weeks, then other songs for the next couple weeks etc., so at the time I guess I wish I had written the main theme song of the movie ‘La folie des Grandeurs’ (a famous French movie directed by Gérard Oury) which was written by Michel Polnareff. I just can’t get enough of movie soundtracks in general. In pop music, I wished I had written the song ‘Je crois toi’ interpreted by Celine Dion.
What would you like to be remembered for?
It’s more a question of who I would like to be remembered by, and that would be by the people I love and who love me. I don’t do things to be remembered but to try and change things at my level, by starting with me and bettering myself.
Music to me is… necessary!DIVINE&ACAJOU
How would you define success in the music industry?
It would mean being able to live from music, to be able to continue to express myself freely and share my music.
What is one advice you could give to your younger self when it comes to the music business?
You can sing and you can write, go for it! Mistakes will be made and lessons learned, and that’s ok.
You are planning to release one more single and EP in 2022. Can you tell us what can we expect sound wise?
My second single will be released within the next three months. It’s called ‘The Edge of my Mind’ and is more electro and cinematic in style than ‘Viens’. It’s all written in English. Some parts make me think about one of the songs from the movie Drive but I’ve been told it sounds a bit like some of Ennio Morricone’s songs. It’s very intense. There are slam verses and lyrical choruses.
As for the EP, it will come later this year, hopefully before summer but that’s yet to be confirmed. I’m working very hard on it! There should be seven songs on it!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
I’d like to thank all the people who have supported me so far during this journey. It gave me strength when I was doubting myself. Also, I’ve written a lot of songs so get ready! It’s coming your way!
We added divine&acajou to the playlist of all the artists we interviewed so far. Don’t be shy to give it a listen!