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Petite Meller is like the lovechild of Lady Gaga, David Bowie, and Cyndi Lauper.
But to offer only a description of comparison would be to do a disservice. Petite Meller – like those flaxen-haired artists – is a complete, complex individual, sans comparison. And like those artists, she is an eccentric whirlwind of color, vibrant energy, and memorable sound.
Her hit single “Baby Love,” has been viewed over 8.4 million times on YouTube, and her album Lil Empire is out now. Singles from the album like “Baby Love,” “Milk Bath,” and “The Flute” all add to the whimsical element of the record. It’s quirky, fun, upbeat, and fantastical.
Meller has a background in philosophy studies, and is a smart, savvy performer and businesswoman. She just wrapped her UK tour, where she performed in London, the Isle of Wight, and more.
I was lucky enough to speak with Petite Meller from Paris, where she was fresh off her tour.
Did you always want to be a singer?
Petite Meller: I was always having melodies with lyrics in my mind. And as a child I was attracted to the jazz music of Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. I loved the saxophone, and I loved Paul Simon’s Graceland album. I was into dancing and photography. But it wasn’t until I was in uni, when I started to study philosophy, that I realized I wrote many songs during classes and wanted to produce them and give them a visual story.
Who are some of your favorite French singers?
PM: My mom always used to listen to French chansons like Charles Aznavour and Brell. I loved Brigitte’s “Moi Je Joue” and Chantal Goya’s sound Track for “Masculin Féminine” of Jean Luc Godard. I love Vanessa Paradis too, and today I like Kungs and Cassius. French music isn’t afraid to have self of humor.
From where do you find inspiration for your songs and music videos?
PM: Sometimes I go to The British Museum to stare at Bosch’s paintings. My video “Milk Bath” was inspired by Vermeer’s milk maids, but for me, inspiration always comes first from cinema. During my teens, I spent a lot of time in classic old movies at the cinémathèque.
“NYC Time” video was inspired by Antonioni’s long intro of empty spaces for “L’Eclipse.” In “Backpack”: the 60’s swimsuits of French movie “L’enfer” of Romy Schneider. I traveled to the movie location, Garabit, in the south of France, to waterski in the lake where they shot the scene.
In the video for “Baby Love,” I was mind blown by the gingham scarves that are sold on Nairobi’s streets, a combination of the Massai and Scottish remnants together with the yellow giraffes.
But it’s actually my ear which leads me to my aesthetic. It makes sense since God created the world first with just a sound. When I’m in the studio listening to a song I wrote, I have a clear vision of where I will travel to shoot the video, which colors it should have, and what the story is about.
The sound of “The Flute” brought back to me a memory of seeing as a child, in one of the family albums, a blushing Mongolian girl.
I felt a strange connection to this image, since I was hospitalized from a heavy sunburn– which was really traumatic. In my teens, I started putting on lots of blush as a symbol. As an artist, this mark became part of my identity: I’m wearing my trauma proudly. In the video I find my own tribe of blushed-cheeked girls in Mongolia.
This time I was actually inspired by a ballet dance, the famous avant-garde “The Rite of Spring” (1913) by Stravinsky and Nijinsky. I wanted to bring its folklore back to life. But in my own interpretation.
Where are you from in Paris?
PM: My family is in Cadet.
Do you feel like being a parisienne influences your work in any way?
PM: I think French music and playfulness inspired songs like Baby Love: the “Ta da da da da da da” melody.
What are your favorite things to do on a lazy day in Paris?
PM: I love going to Beaux-Arts University. There’s a secret room there where I sing to myself and read books.
Your style is so unique – who or what has influenced your look?
PM: Mostly cinema, and larger-than-life women, like Mia Farrow. Someone told me: “If Brigitte Bardot and Paul Simon were to have a baby, it would be you.”
What do you like best about your fans?
PM: They are very open about feelings, and they are unique. They want to collaborate and create things together. They write to me on social media, and actually that’s how I’ve met all my team – from directors to stylist to photographers. It’s our lil empire of creativity, and that’s how I called my album: Lil Empire.
Where can people find more information about your tour schedule and new music?
After two years of working with lots of producers, I found my genre of jazzy pop, with flute, sax, bongos and Italian piano. It’s a ride through lots of countries, and I invite you all to listen and dance all your pain away!
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
PM: Try to be the muse of your muse. Try to always be imagining your dreams to the specific scenes and you’ll get there. And dance and laugh because life is so absurd sometimes!
Lead photo credit : album artwork for Petite Meller's "Lil Empire"