Regular reader of this blog will have been grooving to the music of Pollyanna recently. I met her via Instagram earlier this year and I have been enjoying her music [and her lyrics] since. I can heartily recommend the LP Polly and the Feathers - it's fantastic. But enough from me, let's hear from the star herself!
Music, poetry or film? Which speaks the most to you?
Obviously, I'd say music, but as my favourite genre is songs, I guess it's a little bit of poetry and literature too.
Songs are both verbal and non-verbal. This is what I like about music: it addresses another part of the brain, more emotional (or more mathematical?) even when you can't put these emotions in words. What I like with songs is that it is also words, but words are not primary in it. First you get the sound, then the melodies/harmonies and then the words. It's a bit less intellectual, it doesn't need to be sophisticated, it's more humble than “hard poetry”, I'd say.
What do you want to evoke in the reader/listener?
I want my songs to get into people's mind and heart, and see if we can resonate together. I'm looking for some sort of verbal and non-verbal communication. I believe songs can heal, and can make people feel loved. I also have in mind the courses I had about Virginia Woolf in college. We were studying The Waves and streams of consciousness, and how literature and poetry were also an attempt to find some unity in the world that is, otherwise, a collection of sometimes contradictory perceptions. I believe songs can provide that feeling of unity. Especially when you play an instrument: body and soul are then working together, which is probably something I need. Maybe even for my mental health.
What's the typical career path of a singer-songwriter?
There may be early or later success or no success at all. But I think it is important to keep this idea of success at bay: if you have some, you need to remain independent from it, and if you don't, you shouldn't be bitter. As far as I'm concerned, I'm between waters, I don't really have success but I have enough to make a living out of it, which is already a great form of success when you think of it. It is not really due to the quality of my songs (though I hope it's not bad), but rather to my social skills, my stubbornness and my lack of distaste for paperwork. I think these things are all connected, though: it all comes from the fact that I really want to share what I create - but at the same time I don't want to impose. I'm also always surprised to find people who really like what I do – so, it's a delicate balance. My path is all about that: being intermediate, finding a way to exist, share my songs, if not with a lot of people, at least enough of them to get the real game.
How has the poetry business/scene changed over your life time?
They say everything has changed about the music industry: MP3, the rise of socials, streaming, plus several economical crises, touring... But in fact, I'm not sure things have changed so much for musicians. Producers complain a lot but for us, it is still more or less the same long struggle: build an audience, don't let yourself be screwed by crooks or mythomaniacs or your own illusions about your own appeal. The difference, maybe, is that now you can handle a lot at a very small scale: recording (at home or with cheap studios), touring (my acoustic amp has literally saved my life as I can perform ANYWHERE with it with a very nice sound, even if binds me to a solo line up), and promoting (with socials). So, today, you'd better also be producer-minded, not only an “artist”. But, when you think of it, back in the day, you could also not build a lasting career without some sort of entrepreneurial mindset. It is sad, but maybe not that much. Maybe it's especially strong in the French culture, but I personally am very tired of the image of the “pure” artist who should not be pragmatic. I think it's a producer and media's scam, to justify the exploitation of people's talent and also a toxic myth for the audience (who is led to think talent is some kind of magic only professionals can reveal). It's a closed workshop, a money competition. In France, you sometimes feel less talented if you dare to care for your business, business being the opposite of art. It creates herds of lazy so-called talented people who make a point to be irresponsible and unpleasant. I think THIS system is going through a huge crisis. I'm not sure producers can still finance that model. So the future might be DIY.
What makes you angry?
Stupidity, and the taste of many for fake things: fake talent, fake quality food, fake love, fake news...
Given the state of society at this point in time what is the role of the poet?
I think now religion is declining (well, not everywhere, but you get my point), art and culture are crucial. With the economical, ecological and sanitary crises we are going through, art provides a service, an experience that can and should be outside the ever-growing “capitalist” logic. The system is unsustainable and we know it. It doesn't make us happy as we have never enough.
I'm convinced my so-called low-key shows are a proper answer to this “ever more” addiction. It's cheap, if not free, it's low-carbon, and yet it's a luxury – I mean, not my shows specifically, but live music in general. It's an easy way to live something special with your friends or meet new people, or look at life from another angle. And value yourself.
I met a few people who had, for instance, deep depression issues and told me music (even mine sometimes) helped them take less drugs! So, why take more and more expensive chemicals where music can help with no unwanted effects? Smaller, friendly shows can reconnect people between and to themselves, which is probably an issue in post-Covid, polarized society. “Religion” means “binding” in Latin (it's a tongue-in-cheek piece of knowledge, I know). It binds humans together, and each one to God. Well, you can change the word God if you don't like it but, then, music is a religion: it gathers and binds people and also connects them to some sort of transcendence. Like sport, food...
That works with all kinds of art, but music is a potentially popular and accessible form, that can transcend cultural and social barriers (well, I'm aware it does not do this easily, but it's still more universal than theatre for instance). That makes it strong.
If you were not a poet what would you be?
A cook, of a wine-maker. That is going to sound really French but I mean it: I find the same kind of sensual + intellectual unity in food and wine. And we probably have more talent in these fields in France that in singing and songwriting. In my country, people are more artsy about bread than about music.
(And yet, we still have a lot of bad bread)
Thank you Pollyanna.
I leave you with Pollyanna's music.