PARIS — On a recent rainy evening, in a tiny candlelit cellar, Marie-Amelie Seigner ended a monthlong gig, singing for a hushed, standing-room-only audience of 35. That night, the audience called her back three times for encores. “That’s all I have,” confessed Marie-Amelie (her stage name), flanked by a single guitarist. She bowed a last time and, in the French equivalent, said, “That’s all, folks.”
Though she’s yet to release an album, Seigner is hot. Songwriters Art Mengo and Benjamin Biolay, the husband of actress Chiara Mastroianni, have provided her with material. The actresses Mathilde and Emmanuelle Seigner, a former muse of Tom Ford’s at Yves Saint Laurent, are her sisters. Her brother-in-law, director Roman Polanski (Emmanuelle’s husband), has already filmed two of her concerts.
But for all the attention, including a recent spate of spreads in French fashion magazines, the 30-year-old singer remains nonplussed. “I’ve always had my head in the clouds,” says Seigner, who spent her early 20s traveling, partying and working a string of small jobs. “I was an adolescent until I turned 25,” she says.
But two years ago, something clicked. She started writing songs, first alone and then with Mengo and Biolay. She cites Barbara and Juliette Gréco as her spiritual godmothers and she loves Serge Gainsbourg. Though she falls into their tradition of “chanson” — the Gallic art of mixing poetry, orchestration and folk — Seigner’s style is her own. Her voice is gravelly and fey, and her songs about lost innocence and impossible love are nostalgic and romantic. She plans to record her first album this summer.
“Singing makes me feel alive,” Seigner explains. “If I could have it my way, I’d only perform live. It makes me feel like I’m flying.”
— Robert Murphy