Marianne Dissard was born in a small village in the South of France.
When Dissard was 16, her dad secured a job in Arizona and moved the entire family over. Her parents went back to France a few years later, but Dissard stayed behind. She went to USC for film school, then she returned to Tucson to film a documentary on the local band Giant Sand. The group featured future Calexico frontman Joey Burns.
Dissard says she planned to move back to France for good after her film was finished, but romance intervened. While visiting Paris, she met a French musician who adored Tucson, and the two returned to the desert.
The heart once again lead the way in 2004. With her marriage breaking down and George W. Bush just elected to his second term, Dissard turned her melancholic state of mind into poetic inspiration. "These lyrics addressed a period of time that was really difficult, not only for me but for the world at large," Dissard says. "It was a time of loss and nostalgia."
Dissard needed to flesh out her words with music. So, once again, she turned to Burns. Along with her lyrics, Dissard handed him a mixtape of songs from other artists she thought would convey the meaning behind her writing.
That was all Burns needed to write the music for 2008's L'Entredeux, an album wherein languid sips of Americana swirl together with big gulps of suavely delivered French vocals. Dissard and Burns are joined on the recording by a coterie of musicians from Tucson, France and a few places in between.
Just before she returned to America from her European tour, Dissard shot us a cross-continental e-mail.
What does L'Entredeux mean in English?
In between or in between two. It is the space between two things, two places, two states of being. To me, it has to do with my living between two cultures, two languages, two poles of attractions, two whatever. It would seem like a queasy place at first glance, but it's actually a real dynamic position.
“It's about channeling that energy into something that will not destroy but create me.”
How did your relationship with Joey Burns affect the album?
Joey Burns and I have been friends for over 15 years. I trust him entirely. When he offered to do an album with me, I could only trust him and dive in to become a singer.
L'Entredeux has a cathartic sort of feel. Was it cathartic to write?
I've always used the emotions of the moment, the longings, the pain, to fuel whatever creative endeavor I'm doing at the time. I used to go through the same process when doing performance art or making documentary films. It's about channeling that energy, that frustration, or that desire and pain into something that will not destroy but create me.
There are a ton of collaborators on the album. How did you get all these folks to help put the record together?
Tucson has an amazingly vital music scene. We eat and breathe music together in our little downtown. Basically, friends from town or friends passing through town—Mickey Raphael borrowed from Willie Nelson [he’s the harmonica player in Nelson’s band] or Sammy Decoster from France, etc—end up on the album. It's a fairly organic process.
What attracts you to Americana music?
I'm a huge fan of Will Oldham. We listen to his recordings on the road all the time. I like Americana when it reinvents its roots or when it's surprising without being gimmicky, like any good music.
Do you ever consider going back home to France?
I tour a lot since the album came out last fall. I go to Europe every four months or so. Home is Tucson. I don't think I want to do anything but tour these days, so settling is another question.