Madeleine Peyroux’ 2004 album Careless Love was career-changing for the Georgia (US)-born singer. The CD was certified Platinum in the UK and Gold in the US, Germany and France. The two most-played tracks by her on streaming services are both from this album: Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” and her own song “Don’t Wait Too Long”, which she co-wrote with Jesse Harris and Larry Klein.
A special deluxe edition of the album was issued by Craft Recordings at the end of August. It has an excellent liner note essay by Ashley Kahn and includes a second album: a previously-unreleased live set from the Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gasteiz in the Spanish Basque country from the Careless Love tour in 2005.
A short interview ahead of tour dates (see below for details) focused on Leonard Cohen, Larry Klein, thoughts on the songs of then and of now, and finally on the tour. “Embracing even more fully this idea of careless love and talking about love in a real way, in a genuine way, and as a more mature singer than I was. That is the goal,” says Peyroux. Feature/ interview by Sebastian Scotney
Leonard Cohen and “Dance Me to the End of Love”
Spotify streams of Madeleine Peyroux’ version of “Dance Me to the End of Love” from Careless Love are nearly 55 million. And it turns out that Peyroux does have a connection to Leonard Cohen. They met, and he did indeed like her version. A lot.
The singer’s daughter Lorca Cohen and Madeleine Peyroux are direct contemporaries and were in the same school in Paris as teenagers. They met again in their thirties in Los Angeles, and Lorca had a message to give Peyroux: “My dad told me to tell you, thank you for doing his song”. The formulation might sound trite, but it was repeated several times – and intended to be a genuine expression of deep gratitude and admiration.
Peyroux also met Leonard Cohen a few times. The first time, “ I remember just being in awe of his very gentle, dare I say spiritual presence,” she says. Peyroux has been told that Cohen did try to re-think his interpretation of his own song… “but I think he went back to his own way of doing it.” Above all, what stays is the power of the song itself. Peyroux thinks of it as “one of those songs that has helped many people”… it can help “to keep you alive in a sense, whether it be depression that’s making life impossible or everything else. It’s just the fact that a really great song can change your life.”
Another life-changing event was the first time she had contact with the producer, Larry Klein. Peyroux describes what happened:
“He actually said to me in our first phone conversation before we started working together, where I was asking him what kind of record he wanted to make: ‘Well, I wanna make a record that sounds like the dream of a record.’ I’ll never forget that because at first I thought he was crazy, what was he talking about, but to this day I look back at that record and say, yeah, that’s what he said from the beginning. It was a very clear message – he knew it better than I did. I’m fascinated with dreams and I said ‘let’s do that then, it sounds crazy but let’s do this’.”
The connection with Larry Klein endures, and at the time of the interview, another project was starting, about which Peyroux did not want to be drawn into specifics. She said:
“I don’t think we’re ever going to be too far apart. I talk to him about projects off and on, and I think that’s the nature of the dream – it’s hard to know where it begins and where it ends. That’s how it is with me and Larry.”
Careless Love, then and now
Peyroux reflects on the fact that she has a lot more life experience now than when she made Careless Love: “ I don’t feel the need to prove myself in the same way.” Nonetheless, the immediacy of the Careless Love songs is important: “These are all intimate songs, they’re about people, about a person’s own complex identity with guilt and fear and regret and passion and righteousness and idealism – all of this wrapped up with romance, and how to approach romance. My focus 20 years ago when I made Careless Love was as a young girl talking about romance, wanting people to understand that a young girl can say something really important about romance and it’s not superficial.”
The current tour
The re-issue of Careless Love was the initiative of Craft Recordings rather than hers, she says…“but now that it’s here, we’re creating a show that envelops the older material with a bunch of new stuff that I haven’t recorded.” The new songs are a mixture of her own and others’. “Embracing even more fully this idea of Careless Love and talking about love in a real way, in a genuine way, and as a more mature singer than I was. That is the goal.”
With thanks to Izzy Blankfield for the interview transcription.
Tue 9 Nov Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Wed 10 Nov Sage Gateshead
Thu 11 Nov Birmingham Town Hall
Sat 13 Nov De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill On Sea
Sun 14 Nov Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Tue 16 Nov London Palladium
Thu 18 Nov The Forum, Bath
Fri 19 Nov Bridgewater Hall, Manchester