Film ingenue and Serge Gainsbourg muse Jane Birkin, for whom the pricey Hermès handbag is named, has enjoyed a long career as a French chanteuse. On her latest recording, Fictions (EMI), she interprets – in English – the tunes of Rufus Wainwright, the Divine Comedy, the Magic Numbers and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, which she’ll be reprising along with a few Gainsbourg faves at the Music Hall Monday (February 25), 8 pm. $47-$57. 416-870-8000.
Jane Birkin or Hermès Birkin – which is more famous?
If we’re talking about North America, I’d have to say the handbag.
Your Fictions album picks up where 2004’s Rendez-Vous left off. Did you miss something the first time?
Fictions was meant to be a logical progression. After working with Renaud Letang and Gonzales, I felt comfortable recording with them again. They let me sing really low and added the orchestration later, so it was free and easy for me.
Why do younger artists want to collaborate with you?
I can only presume it’s because of my association with Serge Gainsbourg. I didn’t record in the studio with them; the only one who insisted on being present was Beth Gibbons, because the song she’d written for me, My Secret, was very personal. When I asked her who the song was about, she said, “Serge, of course!” and I realized these people were writing songs for me based on what they imagined I was thinking. My next album will be about what’s really on my mind, because I’ll be writing all the songs myself.
Has Serge ever appeared to you since his death?
Oh yes, many times. He doesn’t come around often enough.
What does he say?
I’m not telling you!
Are there songs by Serge that you find yourself listening to more these days?
I can’t listen to any of his recordings, but everybody else is listening to him now. He’s been gone for 17 years, and I still can’t get through a day in Paris without a taxi driver talking about him or seeing some old footage of him on television. For someone who so wanted to be loved, it’s great for Serge.