- Every week, 20 minutes offers a personality to comment on a social phenomenon in his meeting ” 20 minutes with… ”.
- With his latest album MOVIES, star guitarist Thibault Cauvin turns into a “classical DJ guitarist” thanks to an original device combining the virtuosity of his classical playing with a system of pedals, effects and loops.
- A project born before confinement but which he was able to implement thanks to this unprecedented period of sedentary lifestyle: “We would never have gone so intensely into madness if we had had a normal life!” So, I never had so much fun as on this record. », He explains.
He is one of the most talented guitarists of his generation. At 20, with 36 international awards, he became the most successful guitarist in the world. At 36, today, he has already performed in more than 130 countries and some of the biggest concert halls in the world. And yet the general French public discovered it with his album MOVIES (Sony Music) released at the end of April. Thibault Cauvin takes up the famous themes ofArizona Dream, La La Land, or Drive but also more intimate music like those of Spirited Away, The Hours, In the Mood for Love… With arrangements and samples that transcend the virtuosity of his classical playing. An album that this “citizen of the world” produced as an invitation to dream and travel during the confinement which put an end to his life as a nomadic musician. “We would never have gone so intensely into madness if we had had a normal life!” Suddenly, I’ve never had so much fun as on this record, ”he explains.
Concerts resume after more than a year and a half of restrictions. What is your state of mind, how do you feel?
I am very happy. I gave my first concert when I was 12 years old and since then I had never gone a month without giving concerts. I lived as a nomad for more than 15 years, without a house, on a perpetual journey, on a concert hall tour, in a concert hall. Even though I now have an apartment in Paris, for me, this confinement was something completely new, which accentuated its sad dimension. Today, I am therefore very happy that it is starting again. I have the impression that every spectator is a close friend and that I find them again after not having seen them for a year. I want to kiss each of the spectators in the room!
During the lockdown, you have found, thanks to social networks, including Instagram and Facebook, a way to continue playing and sharing your music. What relationship do you have with these platforms?
Social networks have been with me in my life since they existed. I had the chance to play in almost 130 countries and so when I’m in Ouagadougou, Seoul or Rio, I want to take pictures, to share them. I try to keep it a bit like a Tintin comic and there is a community of people who follow me.
But with the confinement in effect, I found myself sedentary, without a project, with life that comes to an end. And that’s when I got home a painting that I had bought some time before in a gallery in Little Havana, the Cuban neighborhood of Miami, Florida. It is a picture painted in 1945 by a great Cuban painter called René Portocarrero. It upset me so much that I bought it. It was the first painting I bought in my life. And finding myself confined to this painting at home in Paris, I thought about the pieces of Leo Brouwer, who is a great Cuban composer.
I told myself that I was going, during the confinement, to play and share one of its 30 small pieces every day (At the time, I thought that the confinement would last 30 days!) And to accentuate the game side, I challenged two guitarists that I like in the world. In fact, it has taken completely crazy proportions! There are almost thousands of versions from all over the world, from great guitarists, but also from amateurs. There are people who have written to me saying: “I hadn’t played the guitar for ten years. It was an opportunity to replay the pieces ”. It was very touching and very beautiful.
Your show “Thibault Cauvin tells and plays Leo Brouwer” that you currently play was even born from this experience of the #BrouwerChallenge on Instagram
At the end of the confinement, I dove into a studio to record these pieces. And the great composer Leo Brouwer, who is 81 today, has heard about my record project. I wrote to him, he was touched and he wrote me three new pieces to punctuate this cycle that has accompanied him all his life. Today we have 33 small parts. It was a little boy’s dream because I discovered these pieces when I was 12 years old in the Bordeaux suburbs. This project is in complete privacy, full of unforeseen events!
This confinement was very fertile because at the end of April you also released another album of cinema music covers, MOVIES. How did this project get started ?
It’s a big project that dates a long time before confinement. The idea was to rearrange, transform, readapt with my playing and with my guitar the greatest film music.
This desire has been in me since I was a little boy. My dad is a guitarist and all day I played with him. In the evening, my mother told me stories, tales and legends from around the world. I loved it. And the next day, when I picked up my guitar, I made films in my head with the music, I played the stories my mother had told me. And it stuck with me even now.
Some time ago, at the end of a concert, a little boy came to me to tell me that listening to me he had the impression of being at the cinema, that he had seen characters, angels, decorations, monsters. When I got to the hotel, I wondered if he had seen the same images as me and I said to myself that it would be good for everyone to be connected to start from real images, real films. And to try to make everyone follow him in his dream. I then started to choose music, but it was not easy.
Do you say that you are a kind of “airplane movie buff”?
Yes, I saw a lot of movies on the plane. I spend a lot of time traveling alone on tour and I find that we are very sensitive on planes: when we are in the middle of the Atlantic, at night, when everyone is asleep and when we are all alone with our screen. , we really dive into it. I have very strong memories of intimacy with cinema and very gripping emotional memories. And in addition to, each time, I try to watch a movie which is related to the destination where I am going. And suddenly, when I arrive in the city where sometimes I only stay two days, I almost feel like I’m in the movie. There is no real border between dream and reality.
With this new album you have also become a “classical guitarist DJ” with a pedal device. Is it exhilarating to push the limits of your classical instrument? Of his technique?
Yes, completely. I still have this need to experiment, to travel in music. When my friend Matthieu Chedid invited me during his last tour in Bordeaux to come and play a piece that we had composed together, I had the opportunity to see all his incredible device on stage. I thought it would be crazy to get this whole spaceship plugged into my classical guitar!
I called my luthier. He called me crazy, like always. Then afterwards, he took his head and we managed to do something completely new. I play with classical guitar technique, with this game that has been around for centuries and at the same time I am connected to all these very current effects. There has been a great deal of research on sounds. It was passionate. In addition, the confinement meant that the whole team around me in this adventure, the sound engineers, the arrangers, had a lot of time. So we got into it thoroughly. We would never have gone so intensely in the madness if we had had a normal life! So, I never had so much fun as on this record.
In your youth, you had a very competitive approach to music as a top athlete. Finding yourself on stage with a device that you have less control over are you looking for that same thrill?
To be honest, it is true that this new device is very difficult to set up. I work like crazy at home because playing with my feet also requires the brain to duplicate itself. And I don’t want to make any concessions in my guitar playing, so it’s really an addition rather than a replacement.
Are you setting the bar a little higher technically?
I really wanted to keep this very virtuoso, very complex game and at the same time add this new installation and it’s fascinating. But it’s not with a competitive approach like I had before: as a teenager, indeed, I was clearly like a tennis player and I loved the adrenaline, the rivalry, but in the noble sense, of s’ having fun with others, pushing boundaries. Today, I no longer want to make people dream, to be with people. I was very learned and very elitist. When you do something at a high level, you can twist, be on the sidelines. And there, today my desire is rather to bring people together and to play for all dreamers.
How do you explain that the classical guitar is ultimately a little known instrument?
I do not have the answer. But it is true that this paradox concerns me. It is the most played instrument in the world, the most declined. We all know someone who plays the guitar that is not necessarily classical. We all have memories of an intimate moment with my guitarist friend… But indeed, classical guitar is little known, but I don’t know why. I have such endless love for the guitar that I tell myself that I don’t understand how not everyone can love the guitar. It’s a bit like when you discover a good wine, the thing that I can’t wait for is to invite friends to give them a taste!
With MOVIES are you trying to break down the prejudices around classical guitar? Remove labels from different types of music?
Quite even if it is not necessarily conscious because this desire to break down geographical borders or this feeling of being a citizen of the world are deeply imbued in me. With music, it’s the same. I studied at the conservatory with a high level classical musician approach and next to my father was a rocker with very electric music. And besides that, during all my travels, I have seen and met musicians all over the world, popular music, completely new, unimaginable, ancestral instruments. And then I’m a guy in his thirties, in the 21st century, there is simply a desire to be in my time.
Do you then want to explore other musical universes more pop, rock, electro?
Why not. I do not forbid myself anything. As the years go by, I start to know myself a little bit and I know that I have lots of ideas all the time, that some touch me and that I try to realize them. I had this chance to make some crazy dreams come true, so I keep dreaming and allowing myself the fantasy, without limit. So anything is possible.
On June 30, the last health restrictions should be lifted. What will your dream post-containment summer be like?
Celebrate life fully, go to restaurants, kiss everyone and travel, also do a lot of surfing…. And of course, the concerts! I am preparing this great tour around this record MOVIES which will start in October. The wish is really to have a great show that is an experience. We already have a date in Paris, at La Cigale, next May. And then, there will be plenty of other concerts all over France and abroad. I really want this tour to celebrate freedom and dreams… I hope it will last two hundred years!
“Thibault Cauvin tells and plays Leo Brouwer”, on June 15 (full), June 16 and 17, 2021 at the Galerie Eko Sato in Paris. The FILMS concert, on May 17, 2022 at La Cigale in Paris.