SCHMIDT - Something beautiful
I’m everything you want to see inme”, she says, through the veil of smoke from her cigarette. Gently, but determined. With a voice that sounds like birdsong. “Isn’t that my job as an artist? To seduce, to fulfil your fantasies?”, her big, smoky eyes blink imperceptibly, “and I do very much like to seduce.” A silence by way of challenge, then she laughs. ‘Coquettish’ – that’s what they used to call it, when a man didn’t know where he stood with you. – Is she for real, or playing a game? “Do you want the
truth or something beautiful?” she retorts disarmingly, with a quote from Paloma Faith. SCHMIDT is playing a game. A captivating one. With graphic allusions and quotations, optimistic, atmospheric and musical. References to 20s decadence and the black/white aesthetic of the 60s adorn the room where she’s showcasing herself and her ‘pop noir’. The “pop” part exudes an intoxicating lust for life, a mature swing
vibe and modern urbanity, all in the same breath. The “noir” part is provided by her voice and the dark, sensual enigmas she sings about.
Idon’t invoke any past era”, says SCHMIDT, “more an attitude to life. This notion of freedom, something that continuously finds expression, in art, in life. Surrendering to responsibility imposed from the outside – a university degree at 23, at 26 a big job. That’s not me. Why not live each day as if it was worth a lifetime in itself?” SCHMIDT is just 22. Hard to believe, so at ease with herself does she appear. Sensual excess is for her not an escape, but a conscious way of celebrating life. “I’m a tree with firm roots”, she smiles. “A tree with firm roots, stretching its branches wide in every direction, never losing its footing.” It’s something she’s always done. At 16 she left home to attend a music academy in South London. Chalk it up to wanderlust. At 17 she finally arrived in the US. Perhaps she became a singer so she could stay permanently on the move. And be everywhere at home. At the moment, home is between the poles of two cities. Berlin, the colourful, relaxed melting pot, where nothing is too off-beat: playing the Grand Madame on Kudamm, hanging out as a hippy in a Kreuzberg park, turning night into day in Berghain. The other pole is London, a commanding metropolis, driven by enormous speed and creative energy. This is where, one year ago, she met the songwriter and producer Guy Chambers. Accompanied by musicians from the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, SCHMIDT is playing in Chambers’ Orgasmatron, on the stages of small clubs and in the line-up of bizarre variety shows, while in the city the decade of cabaret celebrates a champagne-soaked resurrection under the title “Weimar Berlin”. SCHMIDT inhales deeply, is absorbed in the scene. She’s also writing with Guy Chambers in his Sleeper Sound Studios, day and night. A bristling symbiosis from which the songs and sounds develop
The atmospheric Shadowman is the bedrock, opening up all paths. It starts in Sin
City, taking a trip through epochs and states of being, via opulently orchestrated ballads like Stay to extraordinary but no less hit-worthy songs like In the Photo Booth, Voodoo Eyes or Boom Boom. In Alain Delon, SCHMIDT and Chambers skilfully play with the topic of the British cult series The Persuaders! (starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis) – the permission to add lyrics to the tune was granted for the first time – and in the same way as this song oscillates between many styles and sound worlds, it is in a way the musical quintessence of the whole album: Femme SCHMIDT, her debut, and the first album since Robbie Williams’ Escapology to be fully managed by Guy Chambers. “We’ve created our own world. One made of real experiences and tangled fantasies of seduction, longing, love, pain and pleasure,” is how SCHMIDT describes the time in Sleeper Sound. “The songs weren’t just written – they flowed from this world.” She seems lost in reverie when she describes the creative process, struggling to find the single, apt word. She often switches from German to English for a sentence, as if she needs to look for the correct translation from a second self. – Is she for real, or playing a game? A knowing smile in answer. A beautiful game, in any case.