Biography: Lara Fabian
The comparisons between Lara Fabian and fellow Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion are almost unavoidable: both got their start as singers in the French-speaking world; both make their home in Canada's predominantly French province of Quebec (although Fabian came to Canada during the 1990s from her native Belgium); both have done soundtrack work for Disney; and both eventually began recording in English to enter the very lucrative English-speaking music market. Being compared to Dion, Fabian told Interview, has not discouraged her. "I've been compared to so many people—Streisand, Celine—it doesn't bother me. Why worry about being compared to the best?" Dion, of course, has already become a highly successful musical star in English, but Fabian, whose English-language album debuted in 2000, is on the verge of breakthrough success.
Born in January 1970 in the Belgian town of Etterbeek, Fabian is the daughter of a Flemish father and a Sicilian mother. It was music that gave Fabian her first name. Both parents so enjoyed the love theme from the film Dr. Zhivago that they named their daughter Lara. Given Fabian's family background, her multilin-gualism is hardly surprising. She grew up speaking Italian as her first language (her mother's native tongue), but she was also comfortable speaking in French and Flemish, the two official languages of Belgium, as well as Spanish and English, both of which she learned in school. Although the family spent most of the time in Belgium, Fabian visited her mother's Sicilian homeland frequently as a child.
Fabian inherited her passion for music from both parents. Her father is a musician who plays guitar and once sang backup vocals for Petula Clark, while her mother is musical as well and introduced Fabian to classical music. For Fabian, there has really never been any question about what she would do with her life. "I've always wanted to be a singer, ever since I was a child," she told Canadian Musician. "I remember driving with my father as a five-year-old girl, and I turned to him, very serious, and said, "I am a singer.' I knew back then that I wanted to be a singer and a songwriter, and I have always been dedicated to that dream, but it has been hard work along the way."
Fabian's parents recognized the singer's talents early on and enrolled her in the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels when she was eight. She was single-minded in her pursuit of musical training, she told Canadian Musician. "Nothing else really interested me; it was always singing, playing piano, writing songs and poems, learning, being taught everything I wanted to know. It was all music, and it never stopped. I had 10 years of lessons at the conservatory in Belgium, studying classical music. I learned how to sing, play the piano, and all the theory that I needed. By the time I left, I had confidence in my skills, and I knew that the experience had prepared me to become a real professional."
Even before leaving the conservatory and while still in her early teens, Fabian began performing in competitions in local and regional talent shows and appearing in clubs in Brussels. Her father, who had played guitar for her since she was a little girl, continued to provide her accompaniment on some of Fabian's early performances. In 1988 at the age of 18, she entered the Eurovision Song Contest, a competition created by the state-run television stations of Europe to find the best new popular songs, and won fourth prize for her rendition of "Croire."
Fabian's first single, "L'aziza est en pleurs," released in Belgium but marketed throughout the French-speaking world, enjoyed modest success, but it was followed up by "Croire" and "Je sais," which sold 500, 000 and 300, 000 copies, respectively. Her first visit to Quebec came on a tour to promote her single "Je sais." This crucial visit came at a time when Fabian was feeling frustrated at the lack of opportunities in Europe. "It is a very beautiful place but very conservative, and I was young and headstrong," she told Canadian Musician. "I was 18 years old, and I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to explore my potential and express myself, and I was feeling stifled. People kept telling me what I should be doing and how I should conduct myself, but I didn't want to compromise, so I left and found a place where I could be myself."
When Fabian decided to move to Montreal, she brought along with her producer-arranger Rick Allison, a longtime friend and collaborator. Between them, they had two suitcases and about $1, 000 in cash. Together they established an independent recording label and production company called Productions Clandestines. In August of 1991, Fabian released her first album, self-titled, in her newly adopted homeland. She had recorded the songs on the album earlier in Belgium. Her sound quickly won the hearts of listeners in Quebec. Among the more successful singles from the album were "Le jour où tu partiras," "Qui pense à l'amour?" and "Les murs." Another song, "Je m'arrêterai pas de t'aimer," offered convincing proof that Fabian was not only a compelling vocalist but a talented songwriter as well. By 1993, her first album went gold and the following year was certified platinum.
Carpe Diem, Fabian's second French-language album, was released in 1994 and quickly proved that the singer-songwriter was no one-hit wonder. In less than a month, the album had gone gold and by 1995 was certified triple platinum. Three of the singles from the album—"Tu t'en vas," "Leila," and "Si tu m'amies"—remained in the top 50 for months. To promote her second album, Fabian went on tour, appearing before more than 150, 000 fans around the French-speaking world. ADISQ, Quebec's association of recording artists, rewarded Fabian's hard work with two Felix Awards in 1995: Best Female Vocalist and Best Live Performance. One of the highlights of 1995 for Fabian was an appearance she made at Paris' famed Palais des Congres with legendary Serge Lama. Together the two sang "Je suis malade," a song that Fabian had included on Carpe Diem.
In 1996, Walt Disney Studios tapped Fabian to supply the voice of Esmeralda in the French-language version of its animated feature, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as the song "Que dieu aide les exclus" ("God Help the Outcasts") for the French-language soundtrack. Disney was so impressed by Fabian's rendition of the song that it was included on the English-language soundtrack as well.
As impressive as sales of Carpe Diem had been, Fabian's third album, Pure, did it one better, soaring to gold in less than two weeks. Released in June of 1997, Pure produced three singles—"Tout," "Je t'aime," and "Humana"—that each sold more than one million copies. While touring in France in January of 1998, Fabian got an opportunity to appear onstage with another legendary French singer. At a benefit concert for Restos du Cur, she sang a duet with Johnny Hallyday. Thousands of French fans also got to see Fabian on tour, which included two sold-out shows at the famed Olympia Theatre in Paris. Only a month later the Montreal-based singer was honored with France's Victoire de la Musique Award, the French Grammy Award equivalent, as New Artist of the Year.
It was clear that France had taken Fabian to its heart. In April of 1998, she sold out a two-night stint at the mammoth Palais des Sports in Paris. Hallyday again invited her to join him onstage, this time during a number of concerts at the Stade de France before an estimated 240,000 fans. In the fall of 1998, Fabian was back on tour in Europe, appearing before audiences that totaled more than 150, 000. Back in her adopted home of Quebec in November of 1998, she received ADISQ's Felix Award for the Quebec Artist Having Had the Most Impact outside Quebec. As if to confirm ADISQ's choice, France's Paris Match magazine put Fabian on its cover in December to showcase her as its Revelation of the Year. Six months later, at the World Music Awards in Monaco, Fabian received the award for Best Benelux Recording Artist. So eager was Europe's French-language market for more of Fabian that in July of 1999 Polydor released a slightly modified version of her 1991 self-titled debut album. The changes included a new album cover and the addition of the song "Croire."
In the autumn of '99 Lara embarked upon a mini-tour of France, playing 24 dates up and down the country. Around the same time news of her affair with French singer Patrick Fiori hit the headlines.
When Tommy Mottola, the director of Sony, heard Lara Fabian for the first time he was instantly bowled over by her vocals - which explains why Lara's album "Adagio" featured such an impressive list of producers. The album, which took two years to record and necessitated frequent trips between studios in the U.S., London and Montreal, was released in Europe and Canada in November '99. "Adagio" included tracks produced by Rick Allison, Walter Afanassieff (renowned for his work with Barbra Streisand), Patrick Leonard (Madonna) and Brian Rawling (Cher).
With "Adagio", Lara aimed to make her mark on the international music scene and follow in Céline Dion's wake, breaking into the American market. The Franco-Canadian diva ended up scoring a huge hit in Europe, where she lined up TV interview after TV interview in the spring of 2000 and "Adagio" went on to sell over 5 million copies in the space of just a few months. Meanwhile, Lara's new single "I Will Love Again" shot to n°1 in Billboard's Club Play Chart.
But one of the biggest challenges of Lara Fabian's career came later that year when her album was released in the States on May 30th 2000. While Lara did not manage to topple Céline Dion from her podium, her album did extremely well in the U.S., sales boosted by a massive promotional campaign and appearances on prime time American TV shows such as the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Indeed, the album sold so well that a few weeks after its release Ms. Fabian found herself catapulted to number 6 in the Billboard-Heatseeker charts.
Lara celebrated her success with a mini-tour of Europe that summer, playing 24 dates across France, Belgium and Switzerland in July and August.
Following her success in the USA, Lara scooped another Félix award—the Quebecois equivalent for the 'Victoires de la Musique' awards—for 'distinguishing herself in other languages than French', at the ADISQ gala on November 5th.
In January 2001 Lara took part in the annual fund-raising efforts of Les Enfoirés, a group of some 30 top French music stars who got together to record an album and perform on tour together. Meanwhile, Lara was fighting hard to secure a place for herself on the music scene in the U.S. - sadly to little avail. With Céline Dion enthroned as the no.1 Francophone star in the States, there seemed to be little place for another. On March 2nd Lara was invited to perform her single, "I Will Love Again", at the Miss USA beauty pageant, but after that her record company, Sony, gave up trying to market her in the U.S.
Lara set her sights on conquering the Brazilian market instead. Her song "Love By Grace" had been broadcast as part of a famous Brazilian television series so the Franco-Canadian diva already had a strong fan base over there. Lara flew out to Brazil and performed an extensive promotional tour (March 18th to 31st), delighting fans in Rio, Sao Paolo and the capital, Brasilia.
In June 2001 Lara made another move towards establishing herself in the American 'star system', recording "For Always" (a track that featured on the soundtrack to Stephen Spielberg's film: "AI").
With her English album not having taken off quite as well as she had hoped, Lara decided to work on a new album in French. Recording is due to start in September 2001 and Lara will be working with producer Rick Allinson once again, travelling between studios in France, Quebec and the United States.
Lara Fabian has become a very popular figure on the music scene in Europe and Quebec, yet her public image is somewhat negative. Critics do not approve that she overdoes her singing. What's more, her unbridled private life, for which she is a favourite with tabloids—in particular when she split up with Patrick Fiori in 2000—often casts a shadow over her career.
Lara's English album sold two million copies worldwide, despite a very tepid reception in France where the singer continues to suffer from the comparison with Celine Dion.
In July 2001, she released "J'y crois encore" (I still believe in it), the first simple of her Naked, her forthcoming French album, entitled "Nue" (Naked). In an attempt to reunite with her French-speaking public, Lara penned the French lyrics herself. The album was recorded in Montreal and produced by Ricky Allison. Strictly following the rules of success with powerful singing and simple but effective melodies accompanied by professional arrangements, "Nue" should appeal to the fans that have supported her since the beginning of her career.
While going on with the promotion of the album, the singer went back to the studio to record the theme song for a Brazilian soap opera produced by TV Globo and broadcast in Brazil, Portugal, South America and the USA. For that occasion Lara Fabian sung in Portuguese. The song is entitled "Meu Grande Amor". A few weeks later, she recorded another title—a duet with Florent Pagny that is listed on the latter's album "Deux".
Then, on December 14th, she gave the opening concert of her new tour—"Nue"—in Brussels before travelling back to Paris where she performed two dates at the Zenith on December 17th and 19th. She went on touring up and down France until March 2002.
For the Football World Cup taking place that year in Korea and Japan, Lara was asked by the FIFA (the International Football Federation) to take part in their album as the representative of Belgium with the song "World At Your Feet".
Following the "Nue" tour, she released "Lara Fabian Live", a double CD and DVD. Soon after she was back on the road, this time for an acoustic tour. Between November 2002 and February 2003, Lara performed her own songs as well as a few covers, such as Renaud's "Mistral Gagnant" or "Caruso". On the album "En toute intimité" (named after the tour), recorded at the Olympia in Paris on 2 and 3 February, she also sings "Tu est mon autre" as a duo with Maurane. On the single from the album "Bambina", she sings with Jean-Félix Lalanne, a famous guitarist and also her partner. She toured outside France in 2004, with far-flung dates in Moscow, Beirut and Tahiti.
After this new round of success, Lara Fabian tried her chances in the international arena, following in the footsteps of Céline Dion. She put out an English-language album in May 2004 entitled "A Wonderful Life", and a first single "Big Deal". But this album wasn't the big success she'd been hoping for, and Lara quickly went back to the studios to record a new album in French.
"9" came out in February 2005. The sleeve depicts the singer in foetal position, perhaps signalling a rebirth with the new album. In any case, it was a time of change for Lara Fabian, both personal and artistic. She left Quebec to return to Belgium. She also changed her team. On this album, she worked with Jean-Felix Lalanne to write the songs. Her voice is less forced and more serious. All the lyrics – which she wrote – are about love and rediscovering happiness. A new life seems to be opening up for Lara Fabian.
After completing an 80-date tour of Europe, Lara released "Un regard neuf" (a live version of her album "9") in October 2006. The following year she went into the studio to record a duet with the popular Italian singer Gigi d'Alessio ("Un Cuore Malato"). Later that year, Lara took a temporary break from her singing career to have a baby with her partner, the film director Gérard Pullicino. The couple's daughter, Lou, was born on 20 November 2007.
Lara made a comeback on the recording front in May 2009 with an album entitled "Toutes les femmes en moi" (All the women in me.) The album, a sort of personal tribute to the artists who had made an impact on her personal and professional life, featured soul, gospel and R&B reworkings of songs such as Edith Piaf's "L'Hymne à l'amour", Barbara's "Göttingen", Françoise Hardy's "Message personnel" and Nana Mouskouri's "Soleil." Last but very much not least, the album included a cover of the Céline Dion classic "L'Amour existe encore."