Le Vent d’été (Summer Wind) from the album Wanderlust.
How do you create a music video in lockdown and during an international pandemic… and what better time to complete the journey of a song that began decades ago? 🧐
I’ve always had a feeling that fate is guiding my hand with this recording. When going over material for my coming album Wanderlust I mentioned to my producer Peter Smith that I had an idea in mind for a French version of Sinatra’s Summer Wind. We ran through it on the keys and he loved it. The thing is, this wasn’t a recent idea for me. I’d written those lyrics some twenty years earlier!
Back in the late 90s I was a young, single person with a mortgage to pay so was picking up some weekend work as a telemarketer for a long-distance company. In between calls I sketched, doodled and wrote things, including the French lyrics to what became Le Vent d’été. I still have them, written on the back of a long distance phone plan:
I have no clue where the idea for a French Summer Wind came from but I do recall really digging Sinatra’s Capitol recordings at the time… and maybe just maybe I was singing Summer Wind at Karaoke 😬 Anyway, at some point I remember chatting about it with a French guy I met in a bar. I sang the song to him and he really liked it, which is probably why I held onto the lyrics. Regardless, they were tossed into the bottom of a junk drawer where they stayed until 2017 when I moved to LA. Now I have no idea why I packed them but I did and they travelled with me to California, which is where I fast forward two years to when I’m working on my album and suddenly it’s all starting to make some sense 😃
Whether it was fate or not the song now appears on the album and I just love it. Not sure if the French is a barrier to some but I got the feeling it wasn’t connecting as well as the other tracks. I felt like a video might help to bridge the linguistic gap and bring the lyrics to life but next thing you know the pandemic is breaking out and we’re all stuck at home wondering what next?
As with all of you when the virus arrived on our shores any hopes and plans for the year ahead came grinding to a halt. We had to think on our feet and fast. I had no immediate plans for a release but working in isolation and collaborating over zoom I managed to put out a new track in time for the holidays, Merry Christmas (blog and video links below). It was just too momentous a year to not be inspired and now I view this recording and its video as something of a personal achievement. It gave me something positive and meaningful to focus on and will forever be linked in my heart to these extraordinary times. Working on the video for Merry Christmas also taught me some skills that would later prove helpful 👏👏
With the pandemic raging in Southern California this was definitely a good time to knuckle down and get working on a video and I’d been leaning towards the idea of an illustrated video for the song anyway, pandemic or not. It was definitely something I could work on at home. Perfect. Now I just needed a little magic to bring it all together.
As luck would have it I found the magician needed in artist José Trujillo, a stroke of luck that came to me as it so often does these days, via google. The charm of his work was just what I’d had in mind for Le Vent d’été; his impressionistic style striking just the right note of freshness and nostalgia of tone to bring the lyric and mood of this song to life. I was hooked! When I reached out to José to cold pitch him the video his email reply to me was “Let’s do this!”, and I knew I was onto something good.
The illustrations were only part of the battle though, albeit an enormous part!! I also needed to lay out the storyline and turn the illustrations into animations that could be sync’ed with the music and lyrics. This was no small task and by the time I’d received a few quotes on getting this work done I realized that I’d have no option but to do it myself, which is exactly what I did. Six long months later I had a video at last.
To say that the production of this video was a frustrating yet incredibly rewarding struggle would be a huge understatement. José did his part promptly, flawlessly and with incredible artistry. Not so much for me 😆. Storyboarding with sheets of paper on my dining room table; wandering down ‘rabbit holes’ trying to capture the qualities of these incredible drawings, trying to animate them and bring them to life somehow; learning how to use complicated software far beyond my knowledge and far outside my comfort zone; trying to coordinate all the moving parts of music, text, still image and effects… and on and on. In retrospect this was not a project for a ‘Sunday painter’ and I was either incredibly inspired or insanely foolish to venture forth on it, and very likely the latter!
But, in the end something nice emerges from the struggle. For all the moments of frustration and despair a little glimpse of possibility appears now and then, and just enough to keep you moving forward rather than giving up. When the final touches were done I sensed that certain forces had come together, elevating the result far beyond what I could have hoped for. As a performer I’ve been lucky to experience this before, that moment when you first realize the artistic whole has become better than the sum of its parts. It’s that touch of ‘magic’ that happens that you just can’t ever foresee, and it’s one of the very best things about creating art, in any form. This is how I feel about the final video for “Le Vent d’été”. It’s way better than the sum of its parts and I’m so happy for it.
In the end, language may always be somewhat of a barrier but human emotion never is and whether you understand the lyrics or not I hope that the mood and the emotional power of the music, the illustrations, the animation and the overall vision do justice, that it might touch your heart just a little. As with Merry Christmas this project for me is forever linked not just to the challenges of the pandemic, but also to the moments of hope and joy we can find when we look hard enough, and to the great things we can achieve if we try hard enough.
Even in a pandemic though we never truly work in isolation and I’m so grateful for the continuous love and support of my partner, friends and family. I’m also incredibly grateful to those of you who support my music in every and any way possible, clicking the ‘like’ button or ‘save’ button on my work and sharing it out there wherever possible. Thank you.
Lastly I must send a huge ‘thank you’ to José Trujillo, not just for his incredible talent but also for his incredibly generous spirit of collaboration. In art as in life he has shown me that we can achieve great things when we come together! B#
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✓ For more reading have a peek at my earlier post about recording Merry Christmas during a pandemic and check out that video too here: Recording in a Pandemic Blog