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French Entertainer Madeon On 'Good Faith'



The opening sound of Madeon's new album "Good Faith" sets a tone that might represent a kind of gospel music for a new generation. But the French DJ and producer just says it's about celebrating the joy that you've earned and that you've reclaimed.


SIMON: Madeon, also known as Hugo Leclercq, is now on a U.S. tour. He's joined us in our studios to talk about "Good Faith." Thanks so much for being with us.

MADEON: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: How does this album begin in your heart, in your person?

MADEON: Well, so this is my second album. And I made my first album as a teenager. I was...

SIMON: Sixteen.

MADEON: Yeah, yeah. I - which is the legal age in France to quit school. So as soon as I physically, legally could, I started doing music instead and found a lot more happiness. And a big theme of my early adulthood was dealing with my relationship to joy and my mental health. I wanted to make music that was celebratory but that hinted at the fact that that joy had to have been reclaimed and fought for a little bit. And so that informed the lyrics, obviously, but also the sound selection.


MADEON: I find that choirs and human voices and that category of instrument represent best joy and celebration.

SIMON: Let's listen to another song if we can. This one is "Be Fine."


MADEON: (Singing) Today, the world is going to do me right. The sun is rising in my head until I just cannot believe my eyes, and you just tell me it's another phase. Does it matter if it's real or not?

SIMON: How do you hopes this song makes people feel?

MADEON: Hopefully happy. It's about happiness that's a little bit dangerous and unsustainable, delusional or a little bit manic. But I don't mind that if people listen to it and just see it as an opportunity to party. I think that's fine, too.

SIMON: I mean your lyrics say, does it matter if it's real or not?

MADEON: That's exactly it. You're right.


MADEON: (Singing) If I fall to the ground. I'll come again. I'll stay awake for a lifetime, awake for a lifetime.

SIMON: So much has happened so quickly for you. You're all of 25, right?


SIMON: You have been producing for Lady Gaga and Coldplay. Your music's been used in video games and TV shows. You have a radio show I understand on Beats 1. (Laughter) Well, that's a lot of living...

MADEON: It's...

SIMON: ...To shove into nine years.

MADEON: It's been a journey. But it's all I've wanted. I knew what I wanted to do with my life very early, which was really a blessing. I think it's a great luxury in life when you know what you're trying to achieve. Yeah, I've been lucky that so much of what I dreamed about became an actual opportunity.


SIMON: We're going to play a clip from "Pop Culture."


SIMON: This is a YouTube hit - 51 million views.


SIMON: Set the scene for us - where you were when you did "Pop Culture."

MADEON: So I was living with my parents. I was a 16-year-old boy in France, in Nantes, my hometown. And one of the greatest influence of my life is Daft Punk. And I was lucky to see them live. I wanted to find out what performing electronic music was actually looking like. And in my head, I imagine it kind of like a scientist pressing all kinds of buttons on machines and producing those sounds.

And so I saw an ad for a device called the Launchpad, which is what I have in front of me. And I'm going to describe. It's a square controller that lights up and that is comprised of 80 buttons. So I went to the store, and I bought it for 100 euros. And I brought it home. And I started to wonder what I could do with it. And so I decided to grab all of my favorite records....

SIMON: Yeah.

MADEON: ...And pick one sound in each of my 39 favorite songs. Should I demonstrate? Should I play something?

SIMON: Yes. Please yes.

MADEON: So, for example, I picked this sound.


MADEON: This was a wild vocal from a very fun Kylie Minogue record. And then we add...


MADEON: So that's from a Gorillaz record that I really like.


MADEON: That's, I think, a Michael Jackson sample.


MADEON: That was from Brittany Spears - everything I was listening to at the time. And I laid it out in a grid, and I started playing away. I had an impossible amount of fun.


MADEON: And I put it up on YouTube. And I went on vacation. And a week later, I came back from vacation, and my life had changed. It had millions of views. I got - I was sitting on emails asking me to tour Australia. I was still 16. I was baffled and amazed. And now here we are. So it was a beautiful, beautiful day and a beautiful memory.


SIMON: You no longer live with your parents.

MADEON: I do not. I moved to Los Angeles.

SIMON: So how's that?

MADEON: It's different. It was a decision on a whim. I just wanted my life circumstances to change. I wanted things to happen to me. And so the album "Good Faith" felt to me, like, very summery. And I saw palm trees when I started writing it. So I was like, I want to live in an environment that represents that. Los Angeles felt like a living mood board. I turned my house into an actual mood board. So all of the walls are covered with references, images and arts that I've either produced or commissioned. And so all of the colors and all of the rainbow and celebratory aesthetic of "Good Faith" surround me all the time.


MADEON: It's very different from when I started out. The music industry and my career felt very far away. And now it's the opposite. I'm in the belly of the beast. And I'm surrounded by what I make at all times. And I like it very much.

SIMON: Do you leave the house much?

MADEON: I haven't been lucky to do that very much. No. It's - I love being involved in all aspects of Madeon. And so I get very, very involved in the video component, the visual component and everything that connects to Madeon. And so this year especially has been a lot of dedicated time. And no. My life has been essentially just doing this, making the show, making the album. And it's going to be interesting after this story ends, figuring out what it's like to live in Los Angeles not working as intensely and, like, what actual human life is like there. Maybe I won't like it. Maybe I will.

SIMON: I mean, I have to notice the fact that you are making music that pleases millions. And yet you just told us you - you're not really sure what human life feels like.

MADEON: (Laughter) Well, it's the life that I want. And I've wanted it since I was a child. It's all I've known. It's all I've wanted. And I understand that there are elements of that life that are unusual and certain experiences I missed out on, I'm sure. But what I got in return has been very profoundly fulfilling.

SIMON: You're happy?

MADEON: Yeah. I am. But I know that being happy is something that you fight for and that you can't take for granted and that you should celebrate when you are, and that you need to make sense of why you're not when you're not. And when inevitably I'm not, I'm going to try to get better and try to design a life for myself that has enough purpose and safety and connections with people so that that happiness lasts, you know? But I am happy right now because I'm on tour, because the music's out, because I'm living in the destination that I've been thinking about for the past few years. But I know that I'm going to have to keep on working and keep on fighting and design that happiness again and again for myself.

SIMON: Hugo Leclercq, Madeon - he's currently on tour for his new album "Good Faith" - so glad you could come by to our studios and include us. Thank you so much.

MADEON: Thank you very much for having me. It was delightful.


MADEON: (Singing) I will be fine. I will be fine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.