We caught up with Petite Meller on a pretty big day in her music career. After playing a London concert last night coinciding with her first album launch, Lil Empire was officially released today after two years of writing, producing and releasing singles along with some visually stunning music videos to match. Featuring some of her earlier tracks like ‘Backpack’, which first put Meller on the map, the album is a dichotomy of jazz, piano and upbeat percussion paired with her youthful, girly vocals delivered with a loveable and unapologetic French-ness. Upon meeting Petite Meller (Petite is her real name), she is everything you’ve come to expect her to be – which is not a far cry from how she appears in her vibrant, avant-garde music videos. She is wearing a Mongolian inspired outfit with a matching hat straight from the stage of her Bestival set, her cheeks covered in her trademark pink blusher. Earnest and endearing, she tells Spindle about her Paul Simon influences, her love of discovering new countries and how Facebook helped to scout the creative team she now works with today.
When did you first start making music? Have you always wanted to be a singer and a performer?
When I was a child, my first song I recorded was me opening the tap water and recording the sound of it and then singing on top of it. It’s something I don’t do today but I think I need to re-do that. So I always had melodies with lyrics in my mind.
Has your French background influenced your sound?
Yes, my mum used to sing me French songs, like in ‘Baby Love’ there’s this melody – *sings* – it’s very French.
Who would you say have been your biggest influences growing up?
I think Paul Simon. Well it’s two – because I love the saxaphone so it’s Dizzy Gillespie and then Paul Simon, Graceland, because of all the African inspiration and the way of writing like it’s storytelling. Telling a story, I like that.
“There is a lot of pain in life and life is very absurd and all we can do is just dance and love.”
Has the obvious jazz influences in your music always been something you wanted to adapt for yourself?
Yeah. I never wanted to be indie. I think my goal is to deliver my music everywhere. Now I have lots of crowds in Brazil and in Japan and I don’t want it to be like… How do you say it, there’s a word for it… esoteric. Yeah, so I want it to be like everyone can reach it, it can touch everyone and old people, young people – everyone can dance to it and to make people happy because there is a lot of pain in life and life is very absurd and all we can do is just dance and love.
“People enjoy it, it’s like a touristic ride that I invite people to join.”
Your music videos are amazing! They really communicate your style as an artist. How do you brainstorm the ideas behind them?
Thank you. Yeah, it comes from me first because the sound is the source of the concept. So if I added a Mongolian flute in the song, I imagine immediately I am going to Mongolia! Or bongos, then I’m going to Africa, because I like to travel in my videos and to discover places that I haven’t been and that’s how I discover myself so it’s kind of like teleporting. People enjoy it, it’s like a touristic ride that I invite people to join.
Do you work with someone in particular on all of your music videos?
So I met him online. Lots of people add me on Facebook and say ‘I want to direct, let’s do something together’. I chose them, but I have the best team. The stylist and the director, everyone is from social media.
A lot of them are set in different places featuring different cultures – ‘Baby Love’ was set in Africa and ‘The Flute’ in Mongolia… What’s the reason behind setting your videos in all of these different locations?
The whole album is like a journey. So I have a song called ‘Hawaii’, ‘America’, ‘NYC Time’ and ‘Argentina’.
Did you write those songs while you were there?
Um no, for example, the song ‘Argentina’ – I’ve never been to Argentina. But I had a dream about Argentina, it’s like that I’m in a school bus there and the next day I feel like I have to write about it. But now I have so many fans there suddenly, so I might shoot a video there!
You have to now! What have been your biggest highlights while performing as Petite Meller so far?
I think it’s today. It’s really today. Because it’s the releasing of the album and it’s been a journey. My manager, he found me online actually also. He googled ‘what’s the the time in New York’ and he found the video ‘NYC Time’, my first video. And he called me and brought me here to London so it’s two years making the album with many producers and today it’s out! So it’s a dream come true!