Woodkid at Vieilles Charrues: “I believe artists are somehow witnesses of the world”

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Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021
Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021 - @ Sébastien Martinez

Woodkid is one of the few French artists to have an international tour this year. The artist played at some wonderful venues like the Acropolis in Greece, Noches del Botánico in Madrid, and now at Vieilles Charrues in French Brittany. We had the chance to have a talk with him about his new show and his vision of music and art.

Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021
Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021 © Sébastien Martinez

How do you feel about playing at the Vieilles Charrues ?

Woodkid: It’s incredible because it is the first time I ever play here. I have always heard of it and I know it is a place that’s so important for the festival culture in France. I am very excited to be here and to go to Brittany as well. Then, it is our first show in France on this tour. I will meet my French audience for the first time for this album, and it is very moving for me. 

Is playing in France different from playing in some other countries ? 

Woodkid: Of course! French audience knows me a bit better, because I am French and most of the work is done from here. Also, I think that this audience is sometimes hard to catch, but when you have them, you have them with a lot of commitment. I really like that. I always need some time to deliver myself, give a bit of my intensity and be a bit vulnerable, to show people that I’m defenseless, that I’m ready to fall if I have to fall. When people understand that, they also let go of their cynicism and distance, and they are even more ready to jump and dance. And when you have that connection with the audience, when you feel like you catch them, you start the big songs and make them dance, and they dance even ten times stronger.

Woodkid's crew at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021
Woodkid’s crew at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021 – © Sébastien Martinez

What are the differences between this show and the ones you had on your last tour ?

Woodkid: First, I had to change a little bit the formation because the music I wanted to make is a little bit different. I brought some instruments that are important to me, like the bass clarinet. I also have strings all the time, which I did not on the first record. To me, when the audience feels that there is a strong interaction between the musicians, they are connected to them.

I’ve brought some tracks on stage like On Then And Now. This one is an instrumental track that I wrote for Louis Vuitton. It was a great occasion for my musicians to have fun. This song is very deconstructed, crazy and experimental. There are two drummers, they have a lot of fun with it and they bounce back at each other. I feel that the audience feels connected to them because it is joyful to watch. It’s also about how we transform the songs and how we perform them. Everything is about bringing a little of soul and unicity to every show. 

I think you have a special relationship with the stage. You are interested in mixing design and music for the show. How do you represent all your emotions while performing ?

Woodkid: It is the only reason that I make music for, really. It is the ultimate kind of form that music can take. It is the place where I can be a music director, a musician and a set designer. At the same time, I can also be a musician. For that reason during the pandemic I felt I was a little bit incomplete. Being on stage is a love story, with the public, the mechanic of what it is to be on stage, the whole tension before you come on stage, the whole preparation… It is a whole job even if it is a passion. It is something very natural that comes to you and I really believe that I have a real and strong love story with the stage for that reason. 

You just played at the Acropolis in Greece. It was a show that was really important to you.

Woodkid: The place is charged with all the history and meaning so it is a privilege to play at the Acropolis. It is mythical and very special for me. I have played in Athens only once at Rockwave festival a long time ago. This time was difficult for Greece because it was right after the bank crisis. A lot of the public could not even afford to come to the show. This time we made up for that. It was a really special occasion to finally and properly meet my Greek audience.

About another show: we’ve seen you at Noches del Botánico and it was your first show since months. 

Woodkid: From the moment I was on stage I felt like I was back on tour and everything went back to normal for a second. There is something about being on stage that is very special. It is a little bit like riding a bicycle. You do not need to learn again even if you have not been on a bicycle for years, you just take one and it goes on again. It felt a bit like that, and I was surprised because I was expecting to be extraordinarily moved and unable to sing, because I would be paralysed by stress and emotion at the same time. I was obviously moved, it was beautiful to be there but it felt like there was more joy than suffering or empathy for the situation. It was just joy. 

You start your show with Iron. How did you choose the order of the setlist, starting with the songs from the first album?

Woodkid: I am still working on the setlist, but it was obvious that I would open the show with Iron. That is what is great with having a second record, which I now discover. You have enough songs to make a choice, and you can open the show on something already heavy, strong and uplifting. You do not have to save the big songs for the end which is what we had to do on the first tour. I think I really like the impact of Iron, and that it is the entrance of the show. People suddenly reconnect. It’s almost like you plug the plugin and suddenly the electricity comes full voltage. 

Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021
Woodkid at Les Vieilles Charrues 2021 – @ Sébastien Martinez

You said in another interview that “the pandemic will be the breeding ground of an immense movement in art”. Can you explain it?

Woodkid: I believe artists are somehow witnesses of the world, and what happened in the world is massive, and still is. There’s no other option that it is gonna be like that. When you think of the great traumas, or moments in history, like 9/11, it has been creating a whole wave, and a whole generation of young contemporary artists who reacted to this movement, in an intentional or unintentional way, but I do believe it is where artist have the most to say. Because there is a lack of understanding, there is anger, there is shock of the political and social repercussions of the pandemic, because it highlights so many dysfunctions of the world. I think we would be completely blind as artists not to notice these dysfunctions.