“With her true, poetic and melancholic bilingual lyrics and the depth of emotion in her voice, LiLi stands as a musician who has a soul to share with the world.”
Zack Daggy: Where did you grow up? How has living there influenced your songwriting?
LiLi Roquelin: I was born in Toulon, which is between Nice and Marseille on La Cote d’Azur in France, more commonly known as the French Riviera. Live music there is pretty rare, since there’s a tendency to favor DJ’s… I was influenced mainly by artists from outside of France while growing up, like The Beatles, Oasis, Madonna.
ZD: Where do you live/perform now?
LR: I live and do music in NYC, I perform around the tri-state area, along the east coast, and I also come back to Cleveland Oh once in a while to keep my fans up with my music there. I’d like to perform in other states soon.
ZD: What are the origins of you music career?
LR: In my mother’s belly! (lol). My dad’s a musician and I remember hearing him practice for his shows when I was little… He recorded me singing some cheesy French kids song (lol) when I was 4 and I kept singing… When I was in middle school, a friend and I put together an electro-pop band, I was writing songs and doing synths programming… then I sang in several cover bands (with full instrument line-up) of different styles. I learned the guitar a bit. After the rock-pop band I was in broke up, I joined a more established band and their style was melodic hard-rock. It was challenging – especially to hear myself over the guitars on stage! – but very fulfilling, I got to explore my darker side to write songs. The big event with them was the recording of the album “Neverending Sundown” in a major studio with a top-notch engineer. I gained more confidence at that time, because of all the technical compliments he was noting about my performance. He actually introduced me to producer Sean Bilovecky, I wrote “I Saw You” with him, and continued in that direction, in my own Pro-Tools studio. Around the same time I had the vision of singing with a piano, so I started taking piano lessons…. So now I produce myself and perform live with this instrument.
ZD: When and where was your first live gig? What was it like? Were you nervous?
LR: It was in high school in my hometown in France. I was nervous of course but it was a huge revelation, I felt like my body didn’t want to get off stage when it was done, like I had done this my whole life!
ZD: How would you describe your style?
LR: Music styles categories are such a subjective thing. I’d say it’s Trip-Hop because of the beats and bass, alternative because of the lyrics and the message in every song, down-tempo because my current songs go between 56 and 100bpm, chill-out because the audience tells me sometimes it relaxes them, emotional because of my performance… A high-end producer told me the other day it’s “progressive electronic”.
ZD: Where is the strangest place that you’ve found inspiration?
LR: Mmmh… I actually do write songs in my dreams sometimes! It really comes up anywhere. I wrote “I Saw You” on a rainy day in the parking lot of Beachwood Mall in Ohio. (lol).
ZD: What is the story behind your self-titled EP? How did come to be?
LR: My new EP is self-titled “LiLi Roquelin”. I had launched a fund-raiser online in last spring and my fans gifts covered all the EP’s expenses. I wrote, composed, performed and recorded the songs in my studio. I had the chance to have a 3-time Grammy winning engineer mix and master it. I am pretty detail-oriented and I think that helped us work well together. This is the first release that I produced alone from the step of laying down the tracks to the artwork design. “Blues Alone” is one of the first songs I wrote as a solo artist; “Your Imagination” really goes in depth about letting your everyday life taking over your creativity. The song “Dare” which is half-French and half-English talks about starting a new life and not being afraid of jumping into your dreams. I let emotions take in my music and I feel the result is pretty true to who I am.
ZD: The music video for your song “I Saw You” won an award right? Tell me about that.
LR: The video was filmed in Central Park in the middle of a January under 12F! I remember running to the bathroom at Time Warner Center to put my hands under hot water! I wore all these thermal clothes…(lol). The great thing was that the background had very few people in it because it was so cold!! I sent out the video to some film festivals, it got screened and then it won a Best Music Video Award at a festival here in NY.
ZD: An intimate cafe vs a packed arena; which would you rather play and why?
LR: I love big places and small places. I must say, because I haven’t done the arena yet and it is in my vision, the arena! But I would still want to do both. I like how people are almost sitting next to you when playing in a small place.
ZD: If your life had a theme song, what song would it be?
LR: “Pick a part that’s new” by Stereophonics.
ZD: Are you working on any projects right now?
LR: Yes! I am producing songs for my next release, working on developing the idea for the artwork/photo shoot theme, and starting to talk with a video director for my next music video. While I’m doing this I’m also currently promoting and performing for my recent EP (available on cdbaby and iTunes by the way!).
ZD: Where would you like to see your career ten years from now?
LR: My music would have reached the heart of millions of people (i.e. a theme song for a movie), I would only do music everyday and every night! Also I would have the means to volunteer and head an organization for the benefit of animals.