Two years after setting to music an anthology of English-language poems from the 19th and 20th centuries, Carla Bruni has once again taken up her pen to write a new album of original songs, the first since her inaugural and highly successful CD, Quelqu'un m'a dit (Someone Told Me), in 2002. What immediately strikes you when listening to Comme si de rien n'était is its lush instrumental palette. After recording two CDs with an uncluttered, folk-blues style, the singer explores a wide spectrum of genres ranging from pop to bluegrass, with nods to jazz and flamenco. Bruni's touch, however, is immediately apparent in these compositions that again focus their gaze on emotion. "I've been following the same thread since I started writing songs", she says.
Centred on a core of accompanists who recorded the titles live (bass, drums, guitar, keyboard, harmonica), Comme si de rien n'était sounds almost like an album recorded by a band. Despite this group aspect, however, the album actually seems more personal than its predecessors. "There are more participants, but the CD is just as much mine as the first two. I don't have the impression at all that my songs were taken away from me and changed", says Bruni.
Responsible for the album's sound, producer Dominique Blanc-Francard adorned Bruni's new compositions with rich and varied accents. "When songs come to mind, I take care of their essence; I don't dress them up", explains the singer. After working exclusively with Louis Bertignac on her first two albums, she turned to a colleague she had met during the sound recording of her concerts at the Trianon Theatre in Paris in 2004. "I would find it very hard to work with a complete stranger. It's really important for the recording to go smoothly".
The album wrapped last winter at the Labomatic studios near the Champs-Elysées. Benjamin Biolay did the string arrangement for the song L'amoureuse. Julien Clerc, who has collaborated with Bruni for a number of years, having been the first to set to music her lyrics for the album Si j'étais elle (If I were her), composed a superb melody for Bruni's gentle lyrics in Déranger les pierres: "Et je veux déranger les pierres / changer le visage de mes nuits / faire la peau à ton mystère / et le temps j'en fais mon affaire". ("And I want to shake things up / change the tenor of my nights / strip away your mystique / and make time my affair").
Many of the words focus on the sensation of passing time (My Youth, Passing Time, The Antelope). A melancholy tone offsets the lyrics' playful side, lending this album a nice balance. "I'm sombre and rather playful myself", Bruni happily concedes. "I delight in despair".
In addition to the 10 original compositions penned by the songwriter, the album includes a musical adaptation of a poem by French author Michel Houellebecq called La Possibilité d'une Ile, a transcription of a Lied by German composer Robert Schumann on Je suis un enfant (I'm a child) and two songs in a foreign language: You Belong to Me, an American classic popularized by Dylan, and Il Vecchio e Il Bambino by Italian anarchist Francesco Guccini. "English and Italian are ideal languages for singing", says Bruni, "but French is ideal for writing".