Catching Up With Héloïse Letissier of Christine and the Queens

The frontwoman talks dancing, collaborating with Perfume Genius, and performing with Elton John.

Christine and the Queens (Credit: Because Records)

Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier is a busy woman. Upon connecting with her via telephone, her press agent insisted I interview her for no more than the 20 minutes her schedule allowed. I agreed and attempted to keep it brief, but Letissier shared none of her agent’s urgency and spoke at length about a number of topics, including her musical childhood, her collaborators, and lack of expectations.

To limit her musings to the few quotes that made it into the profile felt terribly unfair, so I’ve decided (with ample encouragement from my editor) to publish a significant portion of those musings as their own separate article. Check out Letissier’s comments on dancing, Elton John, and her personal obsessions below.

Christine and the Queens performs on Sunday, Oct. 16 at Treasure Island Music Festival

On her musical upbringing:
“I was lucky enough to have parents who had really good taste in music. I grew up with David Bowie, The Police, and Joe Jackson. I was also listening to classical music. The Four Seasons were my first proper pop album. I discovered hip-hop later. When I was really young it was all glam-rock and classical music.”

On performing with Elton John at Apple Music Festival:
“It was fantastic, but surprisingly not overwhelming. He’s Elton John so you expect him to bring everything along with him, but he makes you forget at some point that he is indeed Elton John. You just share a moment of music with someone. That’s a gift he has: to be cool and to be laid back and fun and really simple. I think he’s a remarkable human being.”

On collaborating with Perfume Genius for “Jonathan:”
“I’m a huge fan of Perfume Genius. When people told me I could have some collaborations for the English version of the album I immediately said I want to do something with Perfume Genius. I had this song [“Jonathan”] that I loved, but that felt quite incomplete with just me. I could have never expected when I wrote the song that Perfume Genius would actually sing the words. I believe he’s a fantastic writer so I was like, ‘Are you sure? Don’t you want to write something that you want to sing?’ He did a fantastic performance. It’s heartbreaking every time he sings.”

On what she expected from her first album:
“I never thought in terms of territories. I didn’t know what to expect because it was a debut album. I wasn’t even expecting anything from France. I was like, ‘Hopefully they don’t smash it in my face and say it’s crap!’ I just wanted to be proud of the album because it was my first proper introduction as an artist. I remember the process being quite painful and intense and deep. I gave everything I could give, and I remember finishing it and being like, ‘OK, I can relate to the album. I can defend it now.’ Honestly, everything that has happened since has been really unexpected. I was not expecting anything. I want to prove myself more with the second one. We’ll see.”

On dancing:
“Dancing has always been a language for me, and quite an easy one to use. When I created Christine I was like, ‘Well, of course she’s going to dance because it’s basically this idea of being free.’ Dancing is a way to love yourself, to make something out of every bone and every muscle.”

On the obsessions surrounding her debut album:
“As a writer, you don’t know what you’re obsessed with. You write without really thinking about it. You discover afterwards what you’re actually obsessed with. I discovered that I’m obsessed with identity and how to be a lady. I don’t feel like a proper lady. I always felt too suspicious to be a proper lady. This whole character, this whole album is me trying to redefine what it means to be a girl and what it means to be loved as that type of girl. I believe in different ways of existing. Visibility was my obsession, but I didn’t want to be seen for who I was. I was still flawed and awkward and passionate.”

On the future:
“I have songs that are ready to go into the studio after this tour. I’m really excited to work on the follow-up because I have this great luxury of already being properly introduced. People know who I am. Now it’s really interesting because it’s like, ‘I’m here, where do I get to go now? What should I do?’ I have this luxury of working on this character more. I think I’m going to be a bit tougher on the second album. Hopefully. I say hopefully because we never know. I’m really melancholic, so maybe I will not be successful at being tough. But I could be tough and melancholic. That could be something. It could work.”

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