Following the release of Glass Figure’s ‘I Need You’ featuring Stella Le Page, Tim Higgins caught up with the Paris-based songstress ahead of her debut solo album, produced by Glass Figure and Chateau Marmont’s Julien Galner.
Music has dominated the life of Stella Le Page from her earliest years. She fondly recalls listening to her dad’s jazz records, going on tours with youth orchestras and even making her own mix tapes (I know, we all miss the 90’s). She took lessons in piano and ‘cello, eventually winning a place to study the latter at the Royal College of Music. She’s philosophical when asked about the effect that this classical training has had on her music. ‘There was a lot of rigid practicing and technical restrictions…I always craved something more free and being able to create my own rules and sounds, instead of conforming to the classical traditions.’ I feel I had to rebel against or forget many things to make the transition from classical to what I do now.’ The ‘cello itself has drawn comparisons to the human voice for centuries and in her voice Stella creates a beauty reminiscent of a stringed instrument. Perhaps I’m searching too desperately for comparisons, but have a listen and make up your own mind.
Her stepping stone into a more modern world of music came when she was selected to play the ‘cello on Plan B’s ‘Ill Manors,’ but it was her touring with a band called Primary 1 which seems to hold the fondest memories. ‘I was doing keys and backing vocals for a band called Primary 1 and we were lucky enough to support someone up-and-coming (Ellie Goulding) and selling out venues all over the UK, so it was pretty cool to play to a full, young, excited audience every night and to experience life on tour and play good venues around the country. Many good and funny memories, that’s for sure!’ Since then, it’s Stella’s vocals that have been exciting producers, most notably in France, but more on that later.
This track, ‘Heat Wave’ was released as a free download, as ‘it was a kinda fun joke track I wanted to give away free because it wasn’t going to be used on the album and it seemed appropriate for the summer weather.’
Most artists reel nervously when asked to define their own music, and Stella is no exception. ‘It’s so difficult trying to describe your own music or make connections with other artists, you always hope that it stands on its own…I really don’t know, I’ll leave the comparisons to others when they listen and hope they’re kind!’ She writes with real diversity, making any kind of general statement about her music a little ludicrous. But her capabilities are perhaps best demonstrated in hotly-tipped Parisian duo, Glass Figure’s, ‘I Need You.’ Her sweet, soaring vocals compliment their futuristic R ‘n’ B sound perfectly. It’s unashamedly influenced by the French electronica scene, which suits Le Page’s voice to the ground.
Whilst Stella may care very little for comparisons with other artists, she’s excited by the thought of touring with them. Her first pick would be the magnificent Lykke Li, but when I suggest the idea of resurrecting an artist to tour with, she jumps on the idea of a trip with Amy Winehouse, who she describes as ‘a massive influence on me and the reason I started writing songs.’
There are few in human history who would claim to find song-writing easy, but I’m possibly pushing it when I ask Stella to imagine releasing a whole album solely in French: ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I can sing credibly in French and not be laughed at! In fact, I have one joke song that I wrote in French teeming with errors, but to really write lyrics well in French you have to be a poet. It takes me long enough to be satisfied even with my English, so I guess not, not right now anyway!’ We are privileged as English speakers that the world is happy to listen to our lyrics, whether they can understand them or not. But the success of the likes of Sigur Rós suggests that we aren’t totally resistant to foreign language in music. Hell, even Lady Gaga tried French. If, and when, Stella Le Page ventures down that road, the results will definitely be worth exploring.
Interested by her French experience, I ask Stella if her move to Paris was planned: ‘No not at all planned, I started coming over spontaneously, wanting an escape from London and desiring a big change. Then, over time I met the producers I am working with now and plus I adored the city and the promise of a new life, so in the end I just took the leap.’
Whatever her reasons, her new home has been fruitful for Stella. After securing the attentions of producers, she was offered the opportunity to make a debut album, produced by Julien Galner and Glass Figure. And her upcoming offering certainly promises variety:
‘I think each track has its individual universe and influences so it’s difficult to make a general statement..there’s still a lot of work to do to make sure the finished product is something I can always be truly proud of. Mostly songs I wrote after arriving in Paris and trying to make my life here, some rather moody and dark songs I guess but I always felt happier writing that way, in contrast to Heatwave! I can’t really tell more than that, just hoping it will be received well and that the atmospheres will resonate with anyone listening.’