Prior to her new album ‘Surrender to the Feeling’, to be released on 5th April, Poppy Watt speaks with the Swiss singer-songwriter, Miel de Botton, to find out what influenced her love of music.
Born in Kilchberg, near Zurich in Switzerland, Miel grew up surrounded by nature in a wonderfully calm, tranquil environment by a lake. This access to peace provided a much-needed escape for Miel, being raised in a busy family environment with her younger brother Alain.
“I wanted to be a singer from as far back as I can remember – it was a beautiful dream and I did not dare to believe that one day it may come true. Madonna’s vibrancy particularly inspired me and I admired the great lyrics of Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison” says Miel. “I also love classical music, inspired by my father, who loved to listen to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven and played it all around the house. In addition to this influence at home, I sang classical music in the choir at school.”
“I did not consider music to be a realistic career option though and when I was about 11, I decided that I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I could not figure out how to do this without studying medicine but later realised that I could study to be a Clinical Psychologist, as it does not require a medical degree. But my father convinced me that I should be a lawyer because we had impassioned discussions about politics etc. He pushed me to study law and did not agree when I wanted to change my degree halfway through. He persuaded me to finish my BA before I went on to study clinical psychology in Paris.”
“I practiced psychology for 6 years and found it fulfilling and very useful in the understanding of daily life, but the practice of it, whilst rewarding, turned out to be very challenging at a difficult point in my life. I took a break from it and was so happy when music came into my life later on and was a joyful freeing force.”
Miel’s first gig was as a disco backing singer at an electricians’ ball in Kent! To her amazement and awe, doors then opened and more gigs were offered. Sometime later Miel was introduced to her current producer, Andy Wright (Simply Red, Simple Minds, Jeff Beck), who encouraged her to write her own songs, and together they crafted her first album ‘Magnetic’, released in March 2015. Andy is now Executive Producer of her second album and also her Manager.
“Outside my music career, I am very interested in art, mainly Renaissance to contemporary. I was dragged around museums from a young age and eventually began to appreciate it! I look for art that touches me emotionally, generally where the artists themselves have made the work and have put their soul into it. I very much enjoy Land art where nature and art are combined. In Switzerland, people are very ecologically minded and I was always made very conscious of the beauty of nature.”
“French is my first language and English I learned from the age of 11, so they are both languages that I love, but I think they come from different parts of me. My father sang French chansons to me as a child, so they have a special resonance. When I write my own songs, the words either come to me in French or English, so it is an instinctive choice.”
“My inspiration comes from love, nature, social issues and also Paris, where I lived for ten years… I write mainly when I am overwhelmed with emotion and I put order into it afterwards. It is a cathartic exercise.”
“My new album ‘Surrender to the feeling’ is based around the theme of healing, whether through nature or our own natural emotions. My songs are about being contented in silence and enjoying stillness, but also about dancing in joy and, in fact, appreciating anything that brings joy.”
Naturally, Miel’s musical talents have been an influence on her children. “My son loves the guitar and learns it with the guitarist from my band and my daughter sings and dances beautifully. However, at this point, she says she has no desire to pursue it as a career.”
“I try to find a balance between my children and my music. This can be tricky sometimes, but vitally important. My children are a bit older now so it is easier. However, this can still be challenging when I am on tour or before big concerts.”
Miel has recently developed an interest in acting and says “I would love to integrate acting into my musical career somehow; perhaps in musical theatre.” She has signed up for some RADA classes, so watch this space!