Arts, Culture & Media

Global hit - Jil Aigrot

The mystique surrounding French singer Edith Piaf never seems to wear off. Even now -- almost 45 years after her death. Last year, the Piaf bio-pic '"La Vie en Rose" was a worldwide hit.

The film owed much if its success to actress Marion Cotillard's performance. She played the part of Edith Piaf.

Cotillard has achieved the rare feat for a foreign actress of winning a Golden Globe for her performance -- and getting nominated for an Academy Award too.

In the film, Cotillard lip-synched to either existing recordings of Piaf -- or to the voice of singer Jil Aigrot, who herself was imitating Piaf's sound.

Jil Aigrot has just released an album of Piaf songs called "Words of love."

For the film, "la vie en rose," Aigrot lent her voice to moments of Piaf's life that were NOT recorded -- such as auditioning at a night club, or busking on the Paris streets.

�Comme un moineau�Like a Sparrow� sung by you Jil Aigrot your voice in that scene, so explain to moviegoers how that worked technically. Marion Cotillard is lip-synching on screen, so did she do it to your song already recorded, or did you end up dubbing to Marion Cotillard's voice after the scene was shot?

Jil Aigrot: For most scenes, I first recorded the songs, then Marion Cotillard lip-synched them. But we also had to do it the other way around when I couldn't be on the set.

Marco Werman: Now to illustrate for our listeners how uncannily you nail Edith Piaf's voice, let's take a taste test. We're going to hear first Edith Piaf herself and then your rendition of the same song. This is one of her signature songs called �La Foule.�

Marco Werman: It is amazing how well you synch-up with the real voice of Piaf. Can you tell us when this love of this woman's voice began for you in your life. How did it happen?

Jil Aigrot: I realized it when I was ten years old. But I think I always liked her voice. Edith Piaf was my mother's favorite singer and she used to listen to her records. I think becoming a singer was my destiny, with or without Piaf because I always wanted to sing. But I was impressed by the energy that emanated out of Piaf when she sang. The way she pronounced her lyrics -- charged with emotion -- was very touching. Also she sang a lot of love songs and they resonated with me, especially when I was a teenager.

Marco Werman: Did you find early on that when you began to sing you naturally sounded like Edith Piaf or was it something that evolved over time that you trained yourself to do?

Jil Aigrot: This voice came out me very naturally. When I was a student at the conservatory, I was told that my voice was not lyrical enough, that I should sing French pop songs. And I was often compared to Edith Piaf.

Marco Werman: How long have you been doing the Edith Piaf act? I mean your new album �Words of Love� shows you as Edith Piaf in photographs on the album cover.

Jil Aigrot: After the film "la vie en rose" came out, I stopped resisting the constant call to sing Piaf. So for the past 2 years now, I've been doing this Piaf concert program. I sing her songs on stage accompanied by a few musicians.

Marco Werman: So I don't want to compare you to an Elvis impersonator but I'm always struck by people who emulate the sound and looks of other musicians, especially dead ones. So how do you manage that balance between homage to Piaf and Las Vegas side-show?

Jil Aigrot: In my homage to Piaf, I tell my audience that I'm not Edith Piaf. On stage, I can channel her sound and body language, but between each song, I talk to the audience and they can hear my own natural voice. I tell them anecdotes about the making of the film, about Edith Piaf, or myself. So I stick to reality, I don't go for the look-alike contest or the Las Vegas side-show as you said.

Marco Werman: Well, Jil Aigrot thank you very much and I hope that if Marion Cotillard wins everybody will recognize that there's a part of you in that Oscar Award.

Jil Aigrot: Yes I hope so too, merci.

Marco Werman: Jil Aigrot's album of Piaf songs is called "Words of Love."

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