"I ended up singing in every Parisian street and metro station until I had the good luck of being discovered by an agent," explains international composer and Givenchy's new ambassador, Benjamin Clementine. "It all started when I felt deeply connected with the work of Erik Satie when I was 11 years old. I spent most of my teenage years alone, with a sense of being rejected by other young people. Then I took it upon myself to leave my family home."
Benjamin Clementine is the self-taught musician, poet and actor who once experienced homelessness, but has since gone on to win the 2015 Mercury Prize for his debut album At Least For Now. His story is one of inspiration, resilience and unbridled determination. And with Father's Day on the horizon, we decided to sit down with Benjamin to discuss the 34-year-old's latest venture: becoming the face of Givenchy Parfums.
What is your first musical memory?
I stole a toy piano at the age of 5 from school because I was totally fascinated by it. I obviously returned the little instrument but it was a key moment in my life.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I often draw inspiration from Erik Satie and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Personally, Satie was my first musical inspiration. I learned a lot from him about how to use simple techniques to give life to something very abstract. In my world and perhaps Satie’s world, less is more.
Concerning Jean-Michel Basquiat, I discovered him through a great friend I met back in the 2010s, of Julian Schnabel Basquiat’s painting speaks for itself but what I find fascinating is his obsession with the story. I find him very much aware of the importance of story.
You write and compose your own songs, what is your creative process like?
During my early years as a professional musician, I used to recite my poems while playing piano chords, until the song became meaningful to me. After having done so for many years, I am now testing different methods through music engineering. I’ve learned a lot about equalization and compression and how they enrich every song I record. Writing music has become more complicated but it is worth it in the end.
Why did you decide to become the new face of Givenchy Parfums?
I am honoured to be the face of such a prestigious House. The brand represents elegance and creativity – something I hope I represent too. I believe that Givenchy spends a lot of time crafting fragrances that are in tune with the times.
What does the Gentleman Society fragrance mean to you?
I have always been fascinated by perfume-making or, in this case, artistry. The closest medium to music, I believe, is perfume. I think that what matters most in artistry is patience. Patience is the greatest weapon art has. This scent also embodies this concept brilliantly.
I love how this composition plays off the way the narcissus, grown in France, combines so naturally with a series of other raw scents. I’m very sensitive to authenticity, and this fragrance seems to perfectly capture this value.
For you, what defines being a gentleman today?
A gentleman understands perspectives and leaves room for correction. I am not a member of any nobility or royalty nor am I rich or a member of the Houses of Parliament, but I feel the need to continually improve as a human because clearly no one is perfect.
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