Charlotte Gainsbourg's New Album Deals With Grief — Her Father's Death And Her Sister's Suicide

Singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg's latest album Rest reflects on her father and older sister.

Charlotte Gainsbourg has been a prolific actress for more than 30 years — at 47, that's two-thirds of her life. She's been in dozens of movies, including some daring, dangerous lead performances in Lars Von Trier's Antichrist and Nymphomaniac.

But she's also an accomplished musician. To date, she's released three albums and is currently touring across Europe and the U.S. in support of her latest, Rest.

Produced by French musician and DJ SebastiAn, it features singsong whispers over tight grooves — an aesthetic she gleaned from her father, celebrated singer Serge Gainsbourg.

Charlotte and Serge caused a sensation in France in the 1980s when they recorded sultry, suggestive duets together — the first of which was "Lemon Incest," which came out when Charlotte was only 13.

Two years later, she acted in her first film and recorded an accompanying album composed by her father, called Charlotte for Ever.

"He didn't ask me if I wanted a record. He just made it," she said. "The music was his world. So I entered his world. And the recording of that album only took five days. For me, it was just going in, doing two songs a day and leaving. And I didn't even promote the album afterward."

But the creation of Rest was much less detached. The album was in production when her older sister, photographer Kate Barry, died in an apparent suicide in 2013.

She left France and relocated to New York City. In a new environment, Gainsbourg rewrote much of the album to reflect and channel her grief.

"I just needed to feel a foreigner, to feel that nobody knew me. Nobody knew what had happened," Gainsbourg said. "Because in Paris, everyone knew."

Rest also touches on the loss of her father, who passed away in 1991. "Lying With You" offers her remembering lying at his bedside in the days before his death. During her live shows, she's been performing one of their early duets: "Charlotte for Ever."

"It seemed impossible at the time to todo these songs," Gainsbourg said. "And so I asked myself, should I not sing his part and have a male voicing his part? Or silence? And then I tried it myself. The thing is, when I sing them, I can hear him."

Her only fear: that the album, which is clearly about loss and grief, would appear exploitative.

"In French, there's the perfect word called impudique, which is when you open up and you maybe show a bit too much," Gainsbourg said. "Performing the songs, that's a new step for me, and it's a wonderful moment to be able to embrace that, not going to grief and sadness. For me, if the album had ended — it would have been painful. So it's that I'm able to take it a little further and not let go."


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