Tété
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Tété

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With five studio full-lengths to his name, Tété has been one of the most inimitable performers to emerge from France in the last ten years. Fusing elements of honest and intellectual folk, Delta blues and groove-infused pop with incredible ease, Tété doesn’t only harbour a passion for music, but an appreciation for a well-crafted, emotionally intense track. It’s no surprise then, when asked how he manages to fuse genres so effortlessly, he lists the seminal songwriters as an influence.

“Well I would say the inspiration comes from the music I usually listen to,” says the polite and well-spoken 36-year-old. “Blues, classical music, some rock. I was always really inspired by the music my mom listened to. The Beatles, stuff like that. I grew up with a soft spot for melodies. I also grew up in a small town, so I was hanging out with everyone, listening to all kinds of genres. It’s not like in a big city where people gather in tribes and listen to specific music.”

From his small-town roots, Tété took to Paris at a young age to seek his fame. He primarily busked on the street for a number of years, honing his craft and getting by with a few gigs at cafes. Anyone who doubts Tété’s dedication need only hear him speak about his time spent busking on the streets of Paris. He looks back on it not with regret, but with a sense of pride.

“It was a blessing actually. Just before that I was playing in a band, in University. But it wasn’t anything serious. I had to work up the guts to decide to do this full-time. I took a chance. And I definitely began to wonder if I’d made a mistake in the first place. But at the same time, I knew this was part of the process. I was living my dream and playing music every single day.”

After three years, Tété was noticed by Epic/Sony and quickly signed. His 10 year career has seen him play over 1,000 shows and sell more than half a million copies of his records. It’s a remarkable achievement for Tété, and he shows nothing but gratitude for the industry.

“I have to be honest. I never felt that trapped,” he says, when asked if moving from the street and maintaining pure artistic control to the record industry has left his jaded or cynical.

“It was always about the songs. And you know, everyone I’ve ever worked with in the industry has had a lot of respect for those songs. No one has ever tried to change my music all that much. It was more about just letting it out. I was also able to focus on different things. As a result of starting to work with a label, I was able to play 10 or 15 shows a month and not have to concern myself with things like, changing guitar strings. I tried to surround myself with the right people.”

Even with his exhaustive touring schedule, Tété continues to maintain a positive outlook not only on life, but his career. 1,000 gigs is the recipe for death by repetition for many artists. Tété understands that spontaneity is the spice of life for a touring musician.

“There’s form in the blues, sure. And when I fuse genres, I don’t have to follow the same four chords over and over again when playing. I follow groove, and things can indeed change from night to night. I also combat boredom by writing constantly. I try to write every night. It’s very exciting to try new stuff out onstage, whether you remember the lyrics or not,” he chuckles.

BY JOSHUA KLOKE