Brought up in the village of Samois-sur- Seine, Aimee saw their colorful caravans swaying as they rolled into town each June for the annual Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival.
Soon, Gypsy music beckoned. And it wasn’t long before Aimee started sneaking out to meet them at night, learning their language and their tunes before sunrise so she wouldn’t be late for school.
“I became friends with the Gypsies, and became obsessed with their way of life, and especially their music,” Aimee said. “Gypsy music reflects a sense of freedom, and living each day like it’s the last.”
SIRENS AND SPIRITS
By the time she was a teenager, Aimee was performing her own music in Parisian cafés and clubs, staying in Paris to attend the American School of Modern Music when the rest of her family decamped to Singapore.
The French version of the TV show “American Idol” (called “Star Academy”) was the next thing that altered Aimee’s path.
She was selected as one of only 16 semifinalists. However, after reading the show’s contract, which would keep her under their direction for the next 10 years, Aimee decided her Gypsy spirit wasn’t interested.
“It would have been a great career move, but I was more interested in learning more about music and the art of improvisation, harmony and rhythm,” she said. “Sure, I would be far more popular - but we have to be able to live with ourselves too, right?
“I don’t regret the decision one bit.”
Instead, she organized her own European backpacking tour, which helped fuse her own sound into a remarkable hybrid of musical influences.
“My music is influenced by the places I’ve been to and lived, but also by the people I’ve met, and the things that happen,” she said. “Backpacking is great for that. Living beautiful experiences in life and being exposed to other art are the best inspirations for music.”
Aimee’s latest inspirations have resulted in her newest album, “It’s a Good Day.” It was recorded in New York City at Flux Studios, a vintage room with modern equipment that has helmed other recording projects by The Black Crowes, Duncan Sheik, Santigold, Jennifer Lopez, and Queen Latifah.
“The producer, Fab Dupont, owns the studio, and he is so exceptional at what he does; he is so talented, and so incredibly musical,” Aimee said.
Mixing her roots with more contemporary influences for this project, she also combined three guitarists, each of who approach the instrument from different perspectives.
“The sound of the three different guitars together – Gypsy, Brazilian and jazz – is so beautiful and really special,” Aimee said. “The repertoire is varied and includes standards, originals, French covers and more.”
The new album, once it’s completed with bass, drums, and of course Aimee’s vocals, will serve as the follow up to Aimee’s 2013 “Live at Birdland” release with The Surreal Band.
The album included Aimee’s takes on “Blue Skies,” “Nuit Blanche,” “Well You Needn’t,” and “The Lamp is Low,” among others. Her latest set will hit outlets this upcoming August.
In the meantime, Aimee will be bringing a carefully selected setlist to a range of venues, including the jazz clubs of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
And yes, these stops extend all the way to Northern Michigan when she performs at the City Opera House in Traverse City on April 25.
“I pick songs with lyrics I can relate to and believe others can relate to,” she said. “So be ready to hear some great guitars and to have a lot of fun!”
Cyrille Aimee will be performing at the City Opera House in Traverse City on April 25 at 8pm. For tickets and more information, visit cityoperahouse.org.