French musician says she works best when she works alone

By Chris Lau

Joyce Jonathan tells Chris Lau she needed some alone time to make her best music

By Chris Lau |

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Ask French singer-songwriter Joyce Jonathan about the inspiration behind her music, and she will admit that solitude plays an important part in the songs she writes.

Not only does some quality alone time help the singer to focus, but Jonathan says it also helps her contemplate life. It has helped her mature as an artist.

Her recently released second album Caractère - or Character - is solid proof of this.

"I cannot compose a song if there is someone next to me," Jonathan tells Young Post. "I need my moment of intimacy."

The singer continued her usual songwriting ritual when she wrote Caractère: she locked herself away from the world whenever she felt those creative juices start to flow. And slowly, in this confined setting, she began to realise that spending time alone was helping to bring out her inner voice.

"It's like all of my inner characters were telling me how to write my songs," she says.

For this reason, she felt she had no choice but to call her second album Caractère.

Jonathan launched her music career online in 2008. Her talents were soon discovered by acclaimed French guitarist Louis Bertignac, who Jonathan worked with on a project.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the then 19-year-old had already released a series of singles that had proved popular in France.

Caractère is different from the singer's first album, Sur Mes Gardes [ On My Guard], in the sense that these tracks were written after Jonathan had already experienced life as a professional musician.

"My style hasn't changed, but I have grown up. When I wrote my first album I was really young. All the songs were written when I was between 13 and 18, so that album really grew up with me, and that's life."

But since then, the singer has become a lot more independent, she says.

In Caractère, Jonathan - who played a gig in Hong Kong back in 2011 - says there are more emotions involved.

"I really like Sans Patience [ Without Patience]," the singer says. "It's not a very happy song. It's melancholic, but I like to sing it because I really like the melody."

Relaxing mid-tempo tracks are the new album's dominant force. One of these, Ça Ira, is the singer's favourite on the record.

"[It's] a song about a person who has found another good person, like a boyfriend," she says, adding that it's a song full of happiness, a true reflection of her own optimistic character.

So what does the future hold for Jonathan's music? Although she has focused on folk and pop so far, she would like to explore other genres. However, she says she won't sacrifice her organic sound in the name of a new style.

"I compose with my guitar, with my piano. I don't want to go too far away to become something completely different," she says.

"I want to keep the artistic sound."