The brother hails from French-Canada and looks the part. But his soul and spirit is deeper than most can even imagine. His painful witness of genocide in his native Rwanda and his evolution into a star in France and Canada, make for an incredible story. Melodically written in song, Corneille brings to mind a young Marvin Gaye: thought provoking, smooth vocals and always looking for growth. I was first introduced to Corneille’s music while grocery shopping in St. Tropez. Almost three years later, I had the unexpected opportunity to chat with him about his American debut.
Nu-Soul: Congratulations on your new and first English album. Are you loving all the accolades it’s been receiving?
Corneille: (Laugh) Nice to start over again, but not really. I’m really looking forward to all the good things coming from it!
NS: The album is called The Birth of Cornelius, is it your way of introducing yourself to the American audience or is it something you went through? Or, a combination of both?
Corneille: Well it’s really something I went through personally. Cornelius is actually my birth name and Corneille is what I changed to when I was 7. I’ve never gone by Cornelius, so with this album, I wanted to own what ever I had in my childhood years, through my original name. It was appropriate to use my birth name. And, it just so happens that it is my new album in the US, so it works.
NS: Did you pull any inspiration for this album, from the last two, which were not released in the US?
Corneille: Definitely. I approach it as an evolution of the last albums I’ve done. It’s never really a departure from my original work. You will find some similarities between the first French album to this English one. I call it an evolution of sorts. The way I treat my vocals and the way I approach my melodies are similar, for sure.
NS: I heard your first two albums in France a few years ago, and I love it. Do you plan on releasing your French albums here in the States?
Corneille: Oh, if the demand is there, for sure! I’ve yet to see how the American public is going to receive this album. But, it’s definitely something I’d like to do. Most of my audience is based in France, Africa and French-Canada, so it’d be interesting to see how Americans react to French music.
NS: I’ve shared your original music with a DJ friend of mine because I think it’s really important to expose us here to other genres and styles of music. Just because you are black, doesn’t mean you have to necessarily perform American soul or R & B.
Corneille: Coming from Africa, we’re so inspired by what’s happening in the West. We don’t cut segments or separate things or genres. Music covers the whole. Stevie Wonder, Sting or Phil Collins would be playing on the same station. That’s how I learned to listen to music. Ultimately, a good song is a good song. That’s how I learned to make music, how to love music. That’s how I paint my music and it’s what’s influenced my lyrics.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.