“She’s good” proclaimed your crusty chronicler’s youngest son, William Jared James Phoenix, after hearing Lili Roquelin’s song “Blues Alone”. But who is LiLi Roquelin and how did she warrant such high praise from the harshest pop culture critic in the Los Angeles area? For the answer to that question we must travel to the French Riviera and through the mists of time when a 14 year-old Roquelin frankly stated: “I will go to the United States and have a music career there”.
Her father was a multi-instrumentalist musician and she couldn’t help but learn music. She has been performing since Middle School. She recorded vocals for various music projects and even performed with different groups.
The singer-songwriter packed up her guitar and piano, moved to America and was soon singing lead vocals and writing tunes for her first American group: Phizzy Lager. They released A Taste of Departure before she moved on to pursue other opportunities. Another early highlight included recording Neverending Sundown with the band Hate Dies Hard.
The studio owner, Bill Korecky, hooked her up with producer/composer Sean Bilovecky. He would help her in blending her trip-hop and piano based music into what would eventually become her signature sound. The engaging, entrancing tune “I Saw You” was soon born. This track would be featured in the 2008 indie film Straight Faced.
In fact, this show would include two more of her works including “Dare” and “Dare—Instrumental”. Roquelin would relocate from Ohio to New York City. Here she would use her knowledge of the music business to further her career. Here she would write and record her debut disc as a solo artist.
The eponymous EP, LiLi Roquelin, was fan-funded and mixed and mastered by Marc Urselli the triple Grammy winning engineer. Released in 2008, the beautiful albeit brief recording included the lead in, “Blues Alone” (especially praised by the previously-mentioned critic, William Jared James Phoenix), would earn an “Honorable Mention” at the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The next number, “Your Imagination” is yet another fine example of her early talent.
The work is completed with the popular closing cut “Dare”. Most notably, the extremely short EP also includes her critically-acclaimed, award-winning music video “I Saw You” which stole the show at the 2008 Best Music Video Queens International Film Festival. 2009 would also witness Roquelin’s “I Saw You” winning the “Best Music Video” award in the “pop category” at The Indie Gathering Fest.
Her most sophomore solo release, Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life? Would be completed and released the following year (2010). This album would also be all too brief with only 9 tracks. The opener, “Come and hear my story” immediately invites the listener to step into Roquelin’s world. It’s a keenly sensitive and sometimes somber place highlighted by her sharp, clear vocal work.
The second selection is the noteworthy “Should you get mad” in which Roquelin is vaguely reminiscent of a younger, French Kate Bush in both vocal quality and presentation. This track has an accompanying music video, which was directed by Arnaud Muller (U2). The video quickly became a fan favorite and even scored her the 2010 2nd Place Award for “Pop music video” at the International Indie Gathering Festival as well as the 2010 Official Selection Zero Film Festival out of Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and London.
“Give you my love” is another example of what makes Roquelin stand out from other up-and-coming songtresses. Roquelin can produce polished vocal tracks vaguely professionally-reminiscent of Agnetha Faltskog and yet add her unique signature sound of French accented-lyrics and artistic yet truthful tracks. This particular piece features tasteful string orchestration courtesy of Laura Kay that truly makes this down-tempo tune worth a listen.
“Keep this for you” and “Never go” follows and both fail to disappoint. “How we grow”, however, seems to garner a bit more attention. The track is literally waltz-like and once again demonstrates Roquelin’s strengths as both a composer and producer.
Critic’s choice, however, goes to the only non-Roquelin composition, “Sally’s Song”. This is a wonderfully unique cover of Danny Elfman’s near classic cut from the film Nightmare Before Christmas. Her lyrics, en Francais, and her often ethereal voice is perfectly accented in this particularly peculiar though undeniably beautiful song.
“Renew” is next. Drawn from the CD’s title, this is a personal cut created from the very doubt Roquelin supposedly had about writing this track. It is surely one of the more dark numbers and yet we need to listen and let her share this little slice of her sometimes drama-filled life.
The closing cut, “Keep this for you (the acoustic)” does initially appear to be naught but a bonus track. Yet upon listening, it gains an identity of its own included perhaps not to serve as merely filler but to demonstrate Roquelin’s uncertainty of her own choices regarding her musical talents. Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life? is an accurate although slightly short, truly worthwhile disc.
Over the years Roquelin has learned a thing or two about writing, producing and promoting and that has helped her market her music to various television programs, radio stations, internet and print publications. In fact, her songs have received airplay on dozens of radio stations across the globe including—but not limited to—the US, Australia, Europe and Japan. Roquelin is currently still playing live gigs, working with worthy causes (such as saving live music in Central Park) and working on her next album. Her talents as a singer-songwriter and a multi-instrumental musician are certainly more than enough to mark her as a true talent in the music world.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.