Award winning singer and actress Camille O’Sullivan is taking her latest critically acclaimed show, Where Are We Now?, on tour around the UK in November.
The incredible French/Irish performer, who enjoys a formidable international reputation, takes on our suddenly crazily-changing world. Framing this question through the arresting, final songs of Bowie and Leonard Cohen, and other crucial writers such as PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, Camille explores the beauty of the age as well as its turbulence in a narrative told with her fierce and mesmerizing voice to give you an unforgettable night of madness, beauty, darkness and love.
You’re taking Where Are We Now? On tour, what can you tell us about it?
Well, that’s a good question and there are several reasons. I think it was a personal thing. I was such a massive fan of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen because they were beacons of light and they made me believe in myself when I was younger. They made me want to sing. They died and at the same time the world was off kilter. Everything they stood for was anti Brexit and Trump so the whole world felt a bit scary once they were gone.
My decision to do the show was a reaction to what was happening around us all at a time. It came from a need for humanity and spirituality in a world where everything isn’t what it was. The show is a love letter to them both and a way of showing us all that we can care for each other and look after each other in the darkest of times.
Writers have always held a mirror up to society and people like Bowie and Cohen made me interested in the world when I was growing up. I want this show to look at the world and where we are in it. The last album was called Where Are We Now and that’s the question I’m asking. I think we’re used to living in a heightened place of fear and seem to have normalised all the terrible things that have happened in places like America, France and England recently. For me I’m a spiritual person and the songs I sing in Where Are We Now? are giving me spirituality, in the same way that they have many people.
Where did the inspiration for Where Are We Now? Come from?
The loss of Bowie and Cohen was the start and then further inspiration came from watching what was happening around the world at the same time. I was devastated to lose my mentors. I remember the day when I was in Soho and heard that Bowie had died. I saw a grown man with headphones looking at me in a café crying. Then with everything with Brexit and America I felt things colliding and going the wrong way in all aspects of life. I spent weeks connecting with people and listening to what people were saying about Bowie and Cohen and people were discussing the world and sharing their thoughts, which helped me put this show together.
How did you choose the music and artists featured in this show?
I suppose it all has to come back to listening to my favourite artists and the music that moved me. I’m the biggest fan of Brel, Cohen, PJ Harvey and Radio Head. Choosing songs that unlock the happy and the sad sides of me and of all of us. These guys are masters of storytelling and they add drama and character to the songs. The songs are different so you don’t go down one long dark avenue as I will take people down that path but then bring them back to the light. The audience can be sad and reflective and then animated and happy then next.
What can audiences expect when they come to see Where are We Now?
It’s probably more poignant and moving this time, so not so crazy as my other shows have been. It’s a love letter so it’s generally more respectful with some parts that are rockier and some songs are hymns and some songs are more joyous.
You’ve worked extensively in film and television. What is it about live performance that keeps bringing you back?
I don’t know, but it’s driving me crazy me at the moment. Many years of touring makes you bonkers but it’s magnetic and terrifying, it makes you feel alive and it’s the most extraordinary thing in the world. If I had the chance I’d have a one-way mirror so I could sing to myself without anybody watching, but there’s something electric about singing in front of others.
When I started singing in church we were all out of time with each other, but I loved it. I’ve seen that when you make mistakes the audience love it because they see you’re real like them and I love that. I like the unknown aspect of what’s going to happen next in a gig. I’m very Irish as a performer and get up to all this madness on stage but then after I’m like ‘did I do that’ and when people see me after the show they see that I’m so different in real life. You feel the electricity on stage and the love of affection which you can’t get by yourself, so you have to get scared by being in front of people when magical things can happen. You’re only as good as your last gig, after all.
What are you looking forward to most about taking the show on tour?
I just want to make it a really great evening of music and celebration of the people I love and have great respect for the artists. And I love the places I’m going to play at so I’m excited by that. I hope to meet lots of lovely people after the gig. I’ve got to be careful to not go out after each gig with audiences as I’ll be out all night as the people who come all love the music and artists I do, so it’s easy to chat away for hours about it all. I’m playing some places that are so beautiful and I look out and it’s magical. I’m swimming in the memories of the people who have come before me. You roll into town like a gypsy and no audience and no show and no band are the same – it’s the one moment we’re all sharing together and let the madness begin. Don’t be scared, we will be OK.
Camille O’Sullivan’s Where Are We Now? UK tour is at venues across the UK from 13th November to 29th November. For more information and tickets visit: www.camilleosullivan.com/gig/