When and why did you start the club?
I thought of it at the end of the summer, and it started in October and is on the first Thursday of every month. I’m interested in many kinds of music and I wanted to try them in a family atmosphere regularly. The original idea was a thematic concert series, preparing four or five new numbers for each occasion as stylistic exercises. I jotted down notes like soul, American song writers, Bulgarian music, French chanson, music and gastronomy, and a hundred things besides. I didn’t keep strictly to the topics, but songs came into the repertoire from these styles. I also bring half worked-out ideas to mature here. I’m not a singer that you can pigeonhole, and I like to surprise myself and others again and again. At the moment chanson and gospel-soul appeals to me, so that’s what I’m doing. Then I’ll see where it leads me. But for that I have to do it.
How does the audience react to the “mistakes” you make from being not fully polished?
Very well, and that makes us feel free. The point of the club is the creative process as at a “usual” concert the numbers are well worked out, striving for perfection. Here the emphasis is on experimentation. People like to see how things are put together. Kids take everything apart and build a castle out of Lego piece by piece. If you understand the relation of the parts to the whole, you feel it’s your own. It’s the same thing here. Incredible energy comes from the audience. It’s like a tight rope dance with silk cushions in the ring below, so if you fall, it’s even better. This inspires me – I’ve written a new song for each occasion.
At the club in December you appeared by yourself without any musical accompaniment. You turned this obstacle into a success and received a huge ovation. What was it like for you?
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Usually I play with the boys (Balázs Szokolay, wind, Csaba Novák, double bass, Miklós Lukács, cimbalom, and András Dés, percussion) but they weren’t there. A long time ago I did masses of solos but always to a precise dramaturgy. Now, however, I deliberately didn’t work out what would happen next. I got the songs ready, took a tamboura and a kaval, and let myself go. I soared for two hours in front of almost two hundred people. At first I was afraid. I sang Rose, an old song, improvising. I felt tense attention radiating from everyone. I became bolder, and the new things came. Piaf, Trenet chansons, and a Mariah Carey number, and they came up with vocal parts and rhythms. I knew I only had my voice and I had to do the stresses a bit differently, letting the exaggerations have free reign, extending the pauses, for instance in improvising with rhythm. Silence is likewise a building block. The meaning of sung words sharpens. I sang in French, English and Spanish besides Hungarian. I was completely aware that I was alone with the lyrics and the music, too, but on the other hand I could do anything. Of course, how much there is in me is produced by preparation and practice.
The Psyché tour is starting soon. This was the focus of the last club concert, too. How are the rehearsals going? Has the material come together yet?
The first rehearsal period was great. A big challenge but everyone worked hard on it. At the rehearsals the composer Samu Gryllus gave the instructions, just as he did at the recordings two years ago. A lot has changed since then, in singing and mentality, and I’ll put all that in to it. The tour starts on 25 March and ends on 9 April in the Palace of Arts. László Gállfi will also appear.
It seems to me that you’ve outgrown the Kultea Club. What will the future bring?
We’ll see. I imagine the club as a permanent thing. My home audience is important for me now that we’re doing more and more appearances abroad, for the familiarity. In the coming years I’m sure that once a month I’ll come up with something new and keep the club as a regular forum for it.
Many new numbers have been heard at club evenings. Are you piecing together the next album? I’m asking this because your album expected last year is only being released now after much delay…
The delay disturbs me, too, but that’s the disadvantage of the machinery of an international publisher. It’s a big struggle to stop myself being labelled with a tag the French understand. Exoticism, popularisation, anxiety that the album won’t do well... I feel these now from the publisher, but this doesn’t bother me. It’s very important to strip off the inhibitions of who says what... That’s why I called the album Adieu les complexes. In the meantime we have been thinking of, practising and doing new songs. I am enjoying it very much and that’s what really matters.