"Music has always been present in me and around me. I love music, listen to music everyday, can’t live without it," says Lulu Gainsbourg. As the son of legendary French musician Serge Gainsbourg, it’s only natural that he’d have a knack for music in his blood. And with From Gainsbourg to Lulu, his debut album, Lulu reimagines the work of his father, accompanied by his talented pool of friends—from Johnny Depp and Scarlett Johansson to Rufus Wainwright and Iggy Pop. "My dad bought me a piano when I was three or four. He used to play me a Disney songs," says Lulu. "The day he passed away, I spent all afternoon on piano then asked my mom to come down and played all the melodies he was playing to me, by ear. Within the next few days, I was having piano lessons." And ever since, Lulu has been exploring his musical affinities, ready to celebrate his father but show his talents as a musiciain himself.
We chatted with Lulu to talk about following in his father’s footsteps, why he chose this as his debut effort, and finding the perfect people to collaborate on the album.
Were you hesitant at all about pursuing a music career for fear of falling into the shadow of your father’s work?
I was definitely more than hesitant about having a music career because of my name, my father. But after all, I love music and this is what I do best, so let’s do it.
How was growing up as the son of someone so legendary; were you aware of his success at a young age?
I knew he was considered by one of icons in France but he has always been a father more than anything else for me, and will always be. Although when I started working on this tribute album, I was impressed by how big he was outside France as I had the chance to meet great artists who all knew him.
What else did you grow up listening to that inspired you?
So many people. Michael Jackson is one of my idols, Queen, Radiohead, Jamiroquai, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, etc. But also lots of film scores as well; I’m a huge fan of John Williams and Danny Elfman.
The album has done extremely well in France, how do you feel about the American reception thus far?
I hope that the message I tried to pass will go through. I did this album first for a gift to my father, but also to get interest of a new generation of people who doesn’t know who he was.
Why did you choose to do an album of covers as your debut album?
I didn’t choose. It just came. At that time I was thinking about doing this album, it was going to be the 20th anniversary of his death and I never gave him a gift—when he passed away I was only 5.
In terms of the artists on the album, why were these the people you wanted to work with?
I wanted to work with international artists talented from different music backgrounds to make this project more eclectic, and also to make this project traveling everywhere through these well know artists.
Do they represent something about the spirit of your father’s work?
Of course they do. My father loved Jazz and gypsy music, so I included some jazz and gypsy music in the album. He sang with Brigitte Bardot, I did the same with Scarlett. He worked with Marianne Faithfull and Vanessa Paradis, that’s why I wanted to work with them too.
You’ve been friends with Johnny Depp for a long time, how was collaborating with him on this? It’s interesting to see someone so acclaimed for his acting perform in a different medium.
Johnny has been a musician before acting. I really had some great times working with him on this. He had such great ideas and vision of what he wanted, of what I wanted and it was a pleasure to work with him. I’m sure we’ll work again together.
What attracted you to Scarlett Johansson as a performer?
I listened to her album she did with Pete Yorn, Break Up. It was inspired a bit by the Gainsbourg/Bardot duet, and I was really into her way of singing. Plus, my father sang “Bonnie and Clyde” with Bardot, who was one of the most beautiful women in their era, I just did the same with Scarlett, who is in my opinion one of the sexiest women in my generation.
Do any of the songs on the album stand out to you as favorites to either listen or have recreated?
I do have few favorites: “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Requiem pour un con with”, “Initials BB," the one with Rufus as well—but an album is like a book you know, if you miss one page then you miss the story.
You now live in New York, how does that compare for you as an artist than living in France?
I love New York. It’s the first time in my life I feel home somewhere else than Paris. And it’s quite a big thing for me as I love traveling but never felt home anywhere else before, weird.