Carla Bruni
Photo by Yoann Orhan

Carla Bruni: “The real matter is the people you love”

 Listen to Audio Excerpt Listen to Audio Excerpt
Short Profile

Name: Carla Bruni Sarkozy
DOB: 23 December 1967
Place of birth: Turin, Piedmont, Italy
Occupation: Musician

Carla Bruni's eponymous new album is out via Verve Records.

Ms. Bruni, you have lived many lives over the years: you’ve been a model, a musician, and the First Lady of France. How were you able to make these transformations?

I am very adaptable, and certainly very lucky: a mix of the two. I was born lucky. I'm touching wood, every time I say this! I'm actually always afraid something will happen because I've been so lucky until now. I have had many occasions to try new things, to meet new people, I could change my job and have an evolution. It's fun to have a change of jobs in life, a new opportunity. I wasn’t scared. But I was… How could I describe it… Fatalistic?

That is a good approach to embracing change.

It’s a good mentality somehow because otherwise, you'll fight against yourself and there’s no point in doing that. There are enough things to fight in life. In general when you take a step back, things are different. That's the whole story of life though, right? It’s always like that.

“It was me deciding on my own life, instead of living a life that was already been written down for you. It was about being free.”

What do you mean?

When you step back, something changes in the way that you perceive things: sometimes the past is terrible when it's present, and then it becomes the past, and it isn’t so bad. For instance, I wrote the song “Your Lady,” from my new album, about a strong love that cannot happen. My mother, she’s 90, and she always tells me it’s nice to be heartbroken — so maybe the pain that causes a song like that to be written will be a fantastic memory when we’re 90 years old! (Laughs)

Your mother was a pianist and your father played classical guitar. Having grown up surrounded by music, was your choice to start modelling an act of rebellion?

A little bit, yes, but it wasn’t exactly rebelling because my family was very cool about that. My parents didn’t really get involved in our choices, they were only worried for our safety. They wouldn’t say you should do this, or that… But my choice to start modelling was a symbol, it was me deciding on my own life, instead of living a life that was already been written down for you. It was about being free. And also being independent, because modelling brings you a salary quite fast. It's not like when you study, you have to stay at your parents‘ house, ask them for money when you want to buy a coffee. I wanted to be free. But even throughout the modelling years, I was always travelling around with my guitar.

What made you turn to music during those times?

I’ve been turning to music all my life! I write very much from my life — not my real life, but my dream life, which is reality for me. Music was always a constant in that way. From the beginning of my childhood, I would say from five years old until now, I was rushing to music as a shelter, every time things were difficult. It's like a bubble. Sometimes I would listen to music from other people, and sometimes it was about creating music myself — that often helped me solve or cope with certain things.

Like what?

Like grief, for example. I wrote “Darling,” about my friend François Baudot, and “Salut, Marin,” about my brother, Virginio. With François, it was a suicide on top of it, it was a very shocking death because you wonder if you did something wrong… I sometimes dream of people that are not with us anymore, and I love that. You feel like they're not dead, that they're just in the next room. I like this sensation that may be when we die, we’re just in the next room, you know? You don't see these people anymore, but you can feel their presence, right? Writing and singing also helps with that.

“I don’t really believe that art is therapy; I believe that songwriting is something that gives you relief.”

Emma Stone says performing has always been a therapeutic outlet for her, especially while growing up.

I also started doing that at school, you know, I would go away in my head and dream of other things. Later on, when I was First Lady, I had a major music bubble — an invisible bubble that no one could see. But it was there, and made out of very thick glass. (Laughs) But I don’t want to call it therapy because I don’t really believe that art is therapy; I think therapy is more complex, and art is more complex. I believe that songwriting is something that gives you relief.

You were already writing lyrics for Louis Bertignac before deciding to start singing your own songs. How did you experience the transition to pursuing music fulltime?

That actually happened quite naturally. I wasn’t scared. You know, I’m nervous all the time — just being alive makes me nervous! (Laughs) But I’m never really nervous about achieving or failing. You know what makes me nervous? Not doing stuff. That makes me nervous. And I didn't really want to cut off my way of working until then, because I loved working! So I decided to start playing music more and more.

Do you still see a lot of that songwriter in the person you are today?

I haven't really changed since my first album, Quelqu’un M’a Dit. I'm sort of a very mature type of childish person. I mean, of course my life has changed, I have two children now… But the person that writes the songs didn't really change. What I have realized recently is that love is my favorite thing, because it's all over my songs. What makes me really happy is when other people are happy. The older you get, the more you see that the real matter is, rather than being loved, the people you love.