Oriana Curls is a French singer-songwriter based in London, with a style that spans jazz, French chanson and cabaret. Neil Dowd caught up with her to discuss musical development, feeling out of place and her first foray into the world of reality TV.
Tell us more about your background in music – how did you first get into music and how have you developed as an artist through the years? I’ve known that I had an ability for singing, acting, dancing and drawing from a really early age, and I was lucky to start studying classical music at the age of 10 – I play the violin and the piano. I then got interested in other musical genres like pop, soul or electro, so I studied jazz and contemporary music.
As a fellow singer, I was very impressed when I discovered that your vocal range covers an astounding four octaves. What would you say are the factors that helped you achieve this and what advice would you give singers looking to expand their ranges? I think exploring many different types of vocal techniques with lots of different teachers has helped me to understand how my body works. I think talent has no limits, but we have to know what we’re doing and ‘feel it’.
Who are some of the artists that inspire you? Are there any particular musical genres that have heavily inspired you and your development as an artist? I think some artists like Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey or Lady Gaga have really inspired me in the past decade. If I go back to deeper roots I would always refer to classical music. I used to love Mozart as a child. I’m also a big fan of movies and their soundtracks. Amelie, The Piano and Charlie Chaplin are some examples of this. I’ve been lucky to write tracks for independent short films and I think it’s magical to be part of a cinematographic project. Regarding jazz, I first fell in love with Ella Fitzgerald. My love for music is endless: I can just turn on any radio station and be inspired in many ways.
If you could trade vocals with any established vocalist (current or former), who would you choose and why? I’d probably go with Christina Aguilera! The girl can sing anything and has such a strong vocal identity. I love how adventurous she is as an artist.
In your biography, it states that you have felt as though you were born in the wrong place, could you explain this feeling? I think looking back on this, I would slightly rephrase that statement as I believe that everything happens for a reason. What I meant by this is that I was not connected with the music industry at all in Strasbourg, which is my hometown. For this reason, it’s been a really long and tough journey to establish my connections to the music industry. I also always felt like I never really belonged anywhere because of my roots, and I somehow felt ‘adopted’ by the English language and culture. I also found out later on in life that I have some Irish descent, which is interesting!
Your biography also touches upon your personal issues regarding selfconfidence and body image. How heavily have these issues affected you? Would you say they ever affected your musical progression?
Oh, completely. I always thought that in order to succeed in the music industry you had to conform to the ‘perfect’ beauty standards that are shown and expressed on TV and other media outlets. It took me a very long time to build up the confidence and self-love needed to accept myself for who I was and just go with the flow. There is no such thing as perfection.
You began dancing in clubs and Parisian cabarets. Can you tell us more about your transition into the dance world, what it entailed, and how it affected your situation and mindset? I think it allowed me to broaden my horizons and connect with people I never thought I would meet in my life. It definitely took me out of my comfort zone, and sometimes that’s the only thing we need in order to grow. I had to look at myself differently, knowing that it was all about my personality. Being unique and not being afraid to stand out are what makes an artist successful.
Another accomplishment in your arsenal is your appearance as one of ‘The 100’ on the latest series of the BBC’s All Together Now. As the show is fairly new, would you mind explaining the concept for anyone who may not have seen it? The show started at the beginning of last year and has won a broadcast award for the fastest travelling format of 2018 worldwide. There is a judging panel of 100 singers, all from various different musical backgrounds. The panel is captained by the Spice Girls’ Geri Horner and the show is hosted by Rob Beckett. If we like a particular contestant, we stand up and sing along gaining them a point. The one who gets the highest score wins £50,000.
The first few episodes aired from the 2nd of March. How has the reception from your family, friends and fans been? I think they’ve all really enjoyed watching me on their TVs so far! I think for my fans it’s another way for them to connect with me outside of my music and gives them a closer look into who I am as a person. The show has been a massive success so far, so my family and friends are really happy for me.
Many viewers have said online that they enjoy the easy-going nature of the show and the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Would you agree with this? Absolutely! We’re all in there to have a good time and have fun, so I think that’s what people feel when they watch the show. Of course, there is a big amount of money to be won at the end of it and the show can really lead the contestants to some serious opportunities, despites its easygoing nature. We’re also really proud that Michael Rice, the winner of the first season is representing the UK at the next Eurovision.
In addition to All Together Now, you have also been busy working away at your debut album, ‘Because I’m French’, which I’m happy to say is fully completed and set to be released on the 26th of April. How are you feeling in the lead up to the release?
I can’t believe it’s finally ready. It’s been a really long and intense journey and it’s an absolute relief for me to get it out there! It’s been an important part of my life and I look forward to starting a new artistic chapter.
Tell us about the process behind the album. How does it compare to your previously released EP both musically and in the writing and recording process? My first EP was recordings from a live acoustic performance, so it was a completely different process as it was all recorded pretty quickly. For this album I’ve been working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Koby Israelite. When I heard his previous work, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the songs I had written. The album was then mastered in Israel by LA based Helik Hadar, who has previously worked with Madeleine Peyroux and at Abbey Roads Studios by Geoff Pesche who has work with the likes of Lily Allen and Kylie Minogue.
Do you have any shows planned to support or promote the album? Yes, I do! My album launch show will be on the 25th April at Morton’s Club in Mayfair. It’s going to be great to finally unveil these songs to the world and perform again.
Speaking of concerts, you have a very impressive gigging history, playing renowned venues across the continent such as Wembley Stadium, The Royal Albert Hall and even the Eiffel Tower. Do you have a personal favourite out of any of the shows you have played? It was incredible! It’s always a special thing to perform in an iconic building and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunities to do so. I think my personal favourite was performing at the Eiffel Tower as we were performing to support the release of the movie ‘Freedom. L’envol d’un aigle’, with a real eagle flying from the Eiffel Tower. It was pretty impressive!
If any of your current achievements are anything to go off, the future is looking very bright and extremely busy for you. Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time? It’s hard to predict exactly what will happen, but I see definitely more albums and videos in my future! I would also like to perform abroad a bit more with my band and keep on writing music for movies. I’m also always happy to develop my career on TV, fashion and acting if the opportunities to arise. I guess we will see where my career takes me!
How have you worked on building your image? As I know your readers are into fashion, I hope they might also be interested in the way I’ve developed my image, as this is an extremely important part of being an artist. I’ve of course partly been influenced by the French chic of Coco Chanel, but also the whole vintage scene that’s quite prominent in the UK. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing new emerging fashion designers like Nicolette Toddor and Chika Wear for my videos or artworks. Combining some vintage pieces with more modern ones has become second nature for me and using this image and my music to support charities like BBC Children In Need, Barnardo’s or Kawasaki Fund is really important for me.
See more from Oriana at orianacurls.com
All images by Ian Clark