In the 15 years since the breakthrough success of her ‘Careless Love’ album, which sold no less than a quarter of a million copies worldwide, Madeleine Peyroux has become known as an artist who seems as intent to escape the limelight as embrace it. An artist so often mentioned in the same breath as greats such as Billie Holiday, her brand new single ‘No Meanness’ effortlessly demonstrates a reflection of her raw, bohemian upbringing – forged in two of the world’s most creative cities.
When Madeleine was discovered at the age of 16, busking on the streets in the Latin Quarter of Paris, the young singer and guitarist didn’t have a clear direction in life. Demonstrating the steely pragmatism of her Brooklyn upbringing, she recounts, “I was really broke and just needed to deal with it, so a friend of mine walked me down to the terrace and I played three songs, he passed the hat, and we got enough money to get high.” Despite an unsettled childhood, both she and her mother had enjoyed the calmness music brought to her household, and, having uprooted to Europe, so began first steps on a journey for a singer that would become one of the world’s boldest and deeply insightful performers.
“Watching the sun set over the horizon from the boat outside Paris where the band lived, I realised I was looking back at the US and I think I fell in love with like on the road because of that perspective. I really belong on the road now. Leaving home, leaving New York, leaving Paris all gave me the best view of who I was and where I come from.”
In keeping with her self-confessed love of birds, Madeleine is a star who doesn’t seem to revel in fame. Within weeks of having wowed audiences following the release of both her debut record ‘Dreamland‘ (1996) and then later ‘Careless Love‘ (2004), she simply vanished into musical wilderness for years at a time. Echoing her rejection of a more traditional path, Madeleine’s love affair with the City of Light had first begun when she dropped out of school to join the aptly named group Lost and Wandering Blues & Jazz Band. In essence, she had abandoned near-guaranteed fame and fortune for the life of a street busker.
‘No Meanness’ appears in part to be a spiritual successor to her thought-provoking ‘Anthem’ record, which itself observed a deep exploration of people’s allegiances – to country, family, morality, money, drugs and, ultimately, self. In a disillusioned world unsure of how to move forward into the 21st Century, ‘No Meanness’ is the heartfelt reflection of an artist who has experienced both kindness and hardship – reminding us of what truths remain when all else is stripped away.
“She is who she is and does what she does.”
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