Meet: Irish songstress Liv Monaghan releases her nod to vintage Paris with ‘Chez Serge’

Lara Eidi , January 17, 2021

Irish born , internationally travelled songstress Liv Monaghan is an artist we identify with . Like her biggest inspiration, Joni MItchell, she set off from her native Cork to experience what the world, and mosty the long lost jazz scene of Paris, had to offer. Sincere, yet bold, calm yet passionate, her music tells the story so many of us have experienced time and time again : a need to part ways with a place that’s lived its time, with the hopes of starting something new. Her recently released EP, ” Chez Serge ” is a 3 track opus of a homage to the nostalgia of vintage swing era of France. It’s a fitting one too, where each track is sung in the native language of the trio ( English , French and Serbian), reminding us of a bygone time where a city opened its doors to the music of the world.

I sat down with Liv as one does behind two Zoom screens in Athens and Cork , getting Liv to unravel the mystery of the notable Serge whose name earned a title , and of course, her journey thus far.

Chez Serge made me feel at home. It could very easily have been titled ” Chez Nous”- tell me about your decision to record a home record and your relationship to the featured musicians, Serge Merlaud and Savva Medan. 
This is such a lovely piece of feedback – thank you Lara!! Well, the home recording came about out of necessity – with the studios being closed for Covid 19 related reasons.  And so, we decided to try garage band (I know!!) at Serge’s house. Both the men are in their 50s and 60s and in terms of home recording, I’m pretty poor so Serge, who is an utter gentleman was left at the helm for this one…. it took quite a while to get set up but we were proud of ourselves when we managed to overcome the hurdles and record something that could be sent on to our engineer in Germany. 
I’ve been playing with Savva, the bass player for over 5 years. We have worked together on all my other releases. And with Serge, the guitarist,  on and off for almost the same time. Serge has a very elegant, classical jazz and bossa nova approach. He is one of the most elegant players in Paris. This is a little more of a classical style than what I usually create, but when I wrote Foolish Woman, I knew Serge was the right person for this sort of vintage vibe. We also just released the video for it here

That first track , ” Foolish Woman” – gorgeous timbre by the way – feels like it’s a little more than a nod to vintage jazz. That lyric ” in space there is a sound but can we hear it when we’re there?” What the story there?
( Laughs) Yes indeed, Foolish Woman is a little nod to old vintage jazz songsI wanted to play with that vintage old hollywood view of a woman in love. I find this sort of caricature funny and light.. and I wanted to send her off into space then in the bridge and set her free .. which I have a tendency to do with my song characters!! I really love space! Now that we’re talking about the actual meaning, as is the case with most songwriters, the ” Foolish Woman” could be Paris and all it mean to me. It represents all things beautiful but at the heart just like anyone who is charmed by things it manages to fool you .. more than once!

I’m hearing a nostalgic hearkening to a soundtrack that started writing itself at the very beginning of has lockdown affected your artistry , and the crafting your music? 
There have been ups and downs. People have been wonderful, and i think it’s brought out the best in so many of us. The support amongst artists has been so inspiring. I would say though, that the lack of public performance is taking its toll… I sang in front of a tiny (three person) audience in November in an apartment in Paris, and I could feel my heart pumping… because my body wasn’t used to singing in front of other people for quite a while.. I think that made me reflect, in that it doesn’t matter how many online gigs we do.. it’s not the same as a real in life shared experience and my body and soul really do miss this. 

You cite so many wonderful artists as your inspiration- did you listen to any artists before crafting this record?
I listen to a lot of music everyday but in terms of vocal inspiration, I did listen to Norah Jones’s live concerts on Facebook leading up to this recording, would you believe. I really love her presence. I think she is wonderful and I admire her relaxed laid-back tone.

Your delivery vocally is particularly reminiscent of ” Dalida“- is this a kind of ode to your new roots in Paris?
Thank you Lara!! I really like Dalida ! This is one of my favourite French language Jazz songs. I love the lyrics and it has a beautiful melody. I’m not sure if it’s an ode to my new roots but it definitely holds a special place in my heart. 

The question you know I need to ask : Why Paris? Pre and post pandemic, if you will !
Ha! Sometimes I ask myself the same question!!! I came here to study on a postgrad theatre programme, and I promised Dublin I’d be back after the year, but 8 years later and I’m not sure that I held that accord too well! Paris is a great city though, I love the backdrop, the pace and the opportunity to meet very interesting people in very ordinary cafes. The story teller in me feels very much at home there.  I am forever, deeply grateful to Paris for providing me with a safe space to be myself. I met wonderful people, and I have a very supportive network. It’s the best home I ever had in that regard. Comparing Paris to Dublin, or indeed Ireland generally, it is so much kinder to artistic souls. And I really believe that kindness makes the soul soar. 

Do yourself a favour folks. Indoors, on any of these wintry days, grab a cuppa of your favorite beverage and listen to this polished, yet intimate gem of a record. I’m willing to bet that Liv’s journey will take a turn for the greener and folkier hills of her beloved Eire. There’s no place like home, right?

Grab your copy of “Chez Sergehere

To listen to her music, spanning both the jazz and folk genres, follow Liv here

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