I like the composition of this photo, taken by a friend of my brother. We see me, at the age of 3, in 1990, during my very first steps on a tennis court. We are in Villethierry, in the Yonne, a place where we sometimes went during the holidays. In the background, seated, it’s my mother who seems to be spreading sunscreen on her face, waiting for the training to end, surely with a book not far away to pass the time, while a digger active in the background.
My parents weren’t athletic, but, from the start, tennis grabbed me, literally: as a child, I clung to the fence of the courts, as if magnetized. My parents came to see me at matches, were encouraging, but fortunately without this over-involvement that certain families of other players had later, around 10 or 11 years old, adults who terrorized their children hoping to make them professionals and seemed to live tennis vicarious.
I still remember the physical pleasure that this sport provided. The fluidity, the pleasure of the exchange, this particular position of playing both with and against the opponent. But what really fascinated me was having a style of play, this ability to play in a recognizable way, which Boris Becker or Stefan Edberg had – my favorite players, of which I had posters in my room . I had fun imitating the serves of the world premieres seen on TV, dissecting the way they lifted the racquet, how they mastered the speed. At this level, it’s like dancing. And, since I was a subscriber to Tennis Magazine, not a change in the ranking escaped me.
A knee accident at the age of 15 meant that I had to stop everything abruptly. It was around this time that music became more important in my life. I was already singing in my corner, but my friends started creating guitar chords for me to sing along to. The first French and American raps came to me from my brother’s room, who collected vinyl records. And my mother made me listen to standards that changed my life: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Summertime… There was in there, like with tennis, this feeling of being carried away towards something that you can’t resist, that suddenly grabs you and doesn’t let go, sticks to you.
I was fascinated by blues, gospel, which resonated in me in an obvious way, and the beauty of live music, the fragility, the acoustics of instruments and voices. On my new album, after a detour through pop which did not convince me and was less like me, I wanted to return to this approach: play everything and sing live, enhancing the timbre of the instruments – saxophone in head –, no keyboard or drum machine, no amp or guitar effects. I wanted to find a field on which I feel comfortable.
Become a tennis pro? Of course I was tempted and my accident was really a shock that saddened me, made me feel great injustice. Since that moment, I no longer follow tournaments. But, when I think about it today and see this photo, I have no regrets. It’s like a stage that is part of the journey and finally opened me up to other things, made me branch off. This is my path.