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Carla Bruni On Bringing The 'French Touch' To Her Cover Album


CARLA BRUNI: (Singing) I don't want to talk about the things we've gone through.


That's Carla Bruni. She's been one of the most famous names and faces in the world, an international model and celebrity and, of course, married to the president of France. But Carla Bruni's been a well-known voice as a singer and songwriter in France for over a decade. And her latest album is something different, some of her favorite songs in English.


BRUNI: (Singing) The winner takes it all. The loser's turning small.

SIMON: Of course, that's an ABBA song, "Winner Takes It All." This new album is called "French Touch." And Carla Bruni joins us now from the studios of the BBC in Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRUNI: Thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: Are these all songs that have meant something special to you?

BRUNI: Well, most of the songs I was playing, you know, on my guitar when I was a teenager. So they're like memories somehow. You know, they're like perfumes to me, you know? They sort of bring me back to my young years when I wasn't writing my own song yet, and I was dreaming of becoming a songwriter and still played over and over and over other people's songs.

SIMON: Interesting assortment of songs on this album - it is irresistible to point out that you have a version on this album of a very famous Tammy Wynette song. Let's listen to it.

BRUNI: Yeah.


BRUNI: (Singing) Stand by your man. Give him two arms to cling to and something warm to come to when nights are cold and lonely.

SIMON: OK. Got to get this out of the way - is the song you're singing to your husband, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France?

BRUNI: (Laughter) Well, actually should - you know, I should sing to him (singing) stand by your girl, you know?

SIMON: All right. Yes.

BRUNI: Yeah. I mean, it's a classic song. You know, the funny thing is that I checked on Tammy Wynette's biography, and I realized - because I thought she wrote this song as something from her personal life, right? But not really because she actually got four divorces - so she didn't really...

SIMON: Oh, my.

BRUNI: ...Sort of - she really...

SIMON: She stood by her man and pushed.

BRUNI: She didn't really accept much, you know, from her man, you know? And I find it very interesting to see how - what a contrast there is, you know, between this song which is such a non-feminist song. And then her life was obviously full of freedom. And, you know, it was not a very calm life. So I like because the song - maybe she hoped to stand by some man, but she never really did, you know? And that was the funny part when I read her biography, you know? People don't really look - I mean, people sometimes write stuff that doesn't really look like them.


BRUNI: (Singing) Keep giving all the love you can.

SIMON: I read the lyrics afresh for the first time in years or heard them again afresh for the first time in years listening to your album.

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIMON: And I understand why people think it's not a feminist song. But it just seems to me this song is about if you love someone, you give them breaks.

BRUNI: Of course.

SIMON: You know, you cut them a little slack.

BRUNI: Sometimes. Yeah, I agree. I agree. And I love the song for that reason. It's not a feminist song, but it's a very feminine song. And it could be related to a man, even though I think I'd kill my man if he cheats on me if I catch him, not stand by him.

SIMON: (Laughter).

BRUNI: Cut throat - I'll cut his throat while he's asleep. And then I become a happy widow.

SIMON: Well, I hope the gendarmerie don't hear this...

BRUNI: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...But in any event, I'm sure that that would never come up.

BRUNI: No, no. I hope so. I hope.

SIMON: Since - I have to take a minute to ask you about - I don't want to call it politics but current situation.

BRUNI: Right.

SIMON: May I ask, have you ever met Melania Trump?

BRUNI: No. I never. We never met. No, no, no, no.

SIMON: Would you have something to tell her about some of the challenges of being in such a public position, people judging everything - everything you wear and say?

BRUNI: The only piece of advice I would give to someone in that position is the same advice I told Madam Macron here who's a very nice lady - is not to take it personally. Critiques - and they go with politics. That's the way it is. They go with everything, you know? - even with creation, with art. And that's just the way life is. So I think the most important thing would be not to believe it has something to do with you as a person, you know? It has something to do with that position. It was not an easy position to keep.

SIMON: Were your feelings ever hurt?

BRUNI: Not really. You know, I was mostly worried for my husband because he was the one that was carrying the, you know, weight. And he was - but he wanted that. No, no. I've had very, very happy time. And for me, it was really a good part of my life.

SIMON: You have a really lovely version on this album of, I must say, one of my favorite songs. Well, let's just hear a little of "Moon River."


BRUNI: (Singing) Moon river, wider than a mile. I'm crossing you in style someday.

SIMON: So what are the memories that this song calls for you when you first heard or sang it?

BRUNI: I first heard it in "Breakfast At Tiffany's," of course, and hadn't ever recover from it. I mean, it was such a - I was so surprised by her grace, her beauty. OK, Audrey Hepburn is sitting on this fire exit in New York, you know, the stairs outside. And she's hugging the ukulele, and she's wearing sort of a towel in her hair.


AUDREY HEPBURN: (Singing) Oh, dream maker, you heart maker. Wherever you're going, I'm going your way.

BRUNI: She sings with shyness. And she's just so charming and adorable that I completely fall in love with the song and fall in love with Audrey Hepburn, of course, like most people. And yeah, so I started playing the song which is a masterpiece. It's such a perfect song. I don't really know what it says, you know? I don't really understand everything about the song. It's full of mystery. And there's like if it's - there's a story behind, you know, that song. And every time I hear it I just fall for the song, so I couldn't resist. And I made a cover. You know, maybe it's number 130 cover of the songs. But I like it so much that I couldn't resist.

SIMON: Yeah. What - as a songwriter, what do you learn by singing the songs of others?

BRUNI: A lot. It teaches you. That a very good songs sometimes can be very simple, you know? You don't need to search and look for something strange. And it teaches you that inspiration probably is the only clue. Production doesn't mean much, you know? What means a lot is how inspired one is.

SIMON: Carla Bruni, her new album "French Touch" - thanks so much for being with us.

BRUNI: Thank you for inviting me. Thank you very much.


BRUNI: (Singing) I'm crazy, crazy for feeling so lonely. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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