Pascal Obispo: “Michel Berger's repertoire is of enormous musical complexity”

the essential His new album is called “France”, like France Gall, to which Pascal Obispo pays homage in a register deliberately inspired by the musical universe of Michel Berger. If the tone is retro, the success is very current.

At the end of the years 1990, Pascal Obispo is a very busy man. Besides his own albums, he likes to compose for the heavyweights of French song, notably Johnny Hallyday and Florent Pagny. When the then boss of Sony Music offered him to work for France Gall, Obispo took up the challenge, without completely convincing the recipient. Since then, some songs like “His reason for being” have found their voice. Others had remained unpublished. Pascal Obispo brought together 12 in a record that immediately won over the general public.

Do you remember the first time you heard the repertoire of France Gall and Michel Berger?

I must have been 15 years old. I lived in Rennes and I was only interested in rock, not variety. But it was difficult then to escape “The groupie of the pianist” or “He played the piano standing”, which were played on a loop on the radio.

When did you get closer to French song?

I started to dive into it at the end of the years 80. I was a record store in Rennes in a store of the Nuggets chain. And I continued this activity in Paris, at Fnac Bastille. This is where my taste for records that are now called “physical” developed. I still buy it, mostly jazz. I don’t need the pop-rock reissues: I already have them… because I kept everything!

What influence does Michel Berger have on your style?

It took me a while to find my way as a variety singer. To achieve this, I listened to Polnareff, Chamfort, Voulzy… and Berger, of course. I felt in me correspondences with these composers. At the time, I wrote my texts and there too, Berger inspired me. For “More than anything in the world”, I had in mind “She loves him, she adores him / It’s crazy what she loves / It’s beautiful as she loves it”. But I’m not the only one in this case!

How would you define the universe of Michel Berger?

He is one of those who best synthesized American music and French song. His interpretation was without harshness but he worked a lot on the syncopation of rhythms, used the piano in a very particular way and displayed a pronounced taste for gimmicks. Listening, his songs seem easy. However, they are of enormous musical complexity.

Did you have all of this in mind when you worked for France Gall?

I did my job as a composer, namely to erase myself as much as possible by trying to get closer to a genre. I wanted to be efficient, find catchy choruses, soak up soul and rhythm’n’blues.

How was your meeting with France?

The context was particular. It was still marked by the loss of a loved one (Michel Berger died in 1992, Editor’s note). She invited me to dinner. I tiptoed home. I sang on Michel’s piano. She told me what she thought of my songs: “Yes, it’s Michel, but it’s not Michel”. I found it to be an infinite declaration of love for her man and composer. I left without bitterness.

Obispo All Access, the app for fans

Nine months ago, Pascal Obispo had all his albums removed from streaming platforms and created his own paid application, Obispo All Access. A rare decision in France that he is delighted to have taken. “Releasing an album every two or three years didn’t seem enough to me. With the application, I develop my taste for curiosity, experience and novelty. We have already proposed 15 albums, from jazz to flamenco and soon to classical, and we produce Podcasts, lives and a show every Friday. Recently, Florent (Pagny) visited us in Bordeaux with his wife. The overall idea is to pass on a heritage. Some say to me: It’s a crazy job! I don’t see it that way. We are having a lot of fun. “

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