It was an honor to interview René Marie for the first issue of Majazzine. We met on November 1st after the sound check in the Chimney Room of the Casino Antiguo in Castelló. Later that evening, and in the same room, the 2013 JACS (Jazz A Castelló) season opened with a concert featuring René Marie (voice), Albert Sanz (piano), Alex Davis (base) and Stephen Keogh (drums).
Fernando Marco (manager of JACS along with Toni Porcar) introduces us and Stephen offers to help with the English. I explain our Majazzine project to her and that she will be the first artist to be interviewed.
She is a beautiful woman that looks natural, kind, calm and happy. Her attitude instantly transforms my initial nervousness as she seems interested and eager, even after a lifetime of interviews!
We start our conversation:
M.- Your world success came in 1998 with your CD “Renaissance”, but it wasn’t merely good luck. What were you doing before, and is it true that your son was the one who encouraged you to start a jazz career?
RM.- I’ll answer the second part of the question first. Yes, it was my older son who encouraged me to start my professional career. He came to a jam session and told me that for sure I could sing better than many other singers he had been listening to so, after giving it some thought, I said to myself, why not try? and here I am! And now for the first part of your question, I have always been involved in music, but when my children were born, they became my first priority. I not only wanted to take care of them, but make sure they had a good education, and so I needed to find a job. I worked for a bank in the customer services department, answering questions, dealing with complaints and so on, but my passion for music was always there; I used to sing at home and to friends until I was able to dedicate myself full time to my music career at the age of 42. I never planned or anticipated reaching this point and becoming well known. I have done it one step at a time trying to give my best in each concert and in each recording, singing, learning, and experimenting along the way.
M.- You are a very versatile artist- a singer, a composer and an actress; Which of these roles do you identify with most?
RM.- Actually I feel good with all aspects but the thing that satisfies me the most is being a singer because it incorporates all the other roles you’ve mentioned and what’s more, it allows for an enriching experience with the audience.
M.- In your bio there are various singers and musicians listed as having influenced you, but if you had to mentioned just one, who would it be?
Thinking for a few seconds before she answers, she nevertheless confirms that it’s Nina Simone and Roberta Flack which really surprises me as in the grand list of all the classic jazz women she chose these two.
RM.- Yes, they are two really authentic women as much on the stage as in their lives and were the two who inspired me when I listened to them in my teens.
M.- You are a firm advocate for human rights and this is reflected in your career; has this caused you any problems?
RM.- Not at all, it’s others who have problems with racism and machismo and I don’t see why I should hide either my race or my gender.
M. – I reminded her of the occasion in Denver in 2008 when she substituted the “Star Spangled Banner” for the Civil Rights anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” which resulted in loud criticism including death threats but René merely looks at me with a smile and says:
RM.- I don’t regret anything that I did. Even knowing the consequences, I would do exactly the same today- and so would Nina Simone.
M.- Finally René Marie, what are your upcoming plans?
RM.- I don’t really like talking about plans or projects for my music as I feel it is something fluid and should develop in a spontaneous way and not be programmed as such. I prefer plans that define themselves as more organic and integral.
That’s René Marie; grounded, sincere, direct, warm, totally human, loyal to her principles and to herself, and above all, an exquisite, versatile, emotional and seductive singer who dominates the stage- a first class star!
For more information visit her website: http://renemarie.com/