Pomme, a national treasure
Her latest album, Consolation, a blend of electronica and folk with wonderfully crafted lyrics, has a knack for evoking both smiles and tears in anyone who takes the time to really listen. Claire Pommet, also known as ‘Pomme’, has the mischievousness of a little girl combined with the wisdom of an old lady. Amazingly talented, singular, moving, gentle, sometimes solemn and often socially engaged, this artist is seen as a national treasure in Lyon, even though she now lives in both France and Quebec. In addition to spellbinding her audiences, she uses her voice to support causes that are close to her heart, (including the environment, the LGBT+ community and mental health). We never tire of listening to this free young woman, who will be playing live at the Transbordeur this spring.
Our meet with Pomme
Today, you share your time between Paris and Quebec. When you think of Lyon, what comes to your mind…
My childhood and teenage years. Lyon represents a major part of my life and identity. I say Lyon, but more specifically it’s Caluire, which is where I grew up until I finished secondary school. After that, I moved directly to Paris when I was just 18. I never worked here, so Lyon is a place of calm for me. When I return, I stay with my parents and get to have some time to myself. I’m not familiar with working life and the stress that people in Lyon might have, but I think that it’s probably not as bad as Paris. While there’s a really busy cultural scene and loads of opportunities in Paris, I think that all the super violent aspects of daily life are magnified over there.
Your last album, Consolation, talks about female friendships a lot, based in both reality and fantasy. In real life, do you still have friends here?
I have some very old childhood friends, who I see every time I come back. They all live in Lyon or are planning to return, so it’s really nice, because I can see everyone when I’m here! Not all that much has changed, so there’s a really nice feeling of familiarity and comfort for me.
Lyon is also the city where you first performed live; is it special when you return here on stage?
It’s funny, because the bigger the venue is, the less I feel stressed playing in Lyon! When you play for 200 people and you know 30 of them, it’s a strange feeling; there’s some stress and a kind of pressure. When I played at Nuits de Fourvière last year, there were loads of people, obviously including some people I know, but the percentage was much slimmer [laughs!]. What also makes Lyon special for me is that, most of the time, I’ve already seen concerts here; I have a past and memories in the places where I play, like the Transbordeur [Editor’s note: Pomme has a concert there on the 28th of March]. I remember in particular playing a concert at Ninkasi just before the Victoires de la Musique awards ceremony, in 2020, and it was incredibly special for me, because I’d seen concerts there when I was in like year 8. I was so happy to be there again.
There is also Nuits de Fourvière…
Playing at Nuits de Fourvière was on my bucket list! It was one of the things that I absolutely wanted to do in my life, in my dreams. Beyond my personal memories, Fourvière is a magical, history-filled placed with an incredible view of Lyon. The year before, everything was cancelled because of Covid. Finally playing there, at the top of the bill, for two sold-out dates, was really symbolic!
Another thing that was symbolic was in 2020 when you made a video in support of the Green Party of Caluire, the town where you grew up…
I often deal with political themes, because it’s difficult not to when there are so many emergencies and things that I feel are important to talk about. In this particular case, it was also because my little sister was on their list. She asked me to help her and it was important for me to support her. I’m not sure if I’d do it again. There are issues that I want to be engaged in, but it’s complicated, as an artist, to manage to distance oneself from what people think, because some people will always be against it. Sometimes, you get engaged in something that seems like a noble cause, but other people see it as totally inappropriate! I try to take an engaged stance and talk about issues I care about, without getting too mixed up in politics… even if it seems like it’s impossible today. We need people who speak out. I’d love to be able to talk about all the things I want to without being linked to political trends, or with people who are in politics.
Leaving the topic of political engagement, is it important for you to speak about current issues?
I try. It’s a gut reaction and not planned; they are thoughts that go through my mind, or reactions that I might have, just like any citizen. I see things in the news and say to myself that it just isn’t right. I know that my voice can reach people and, when I think that it’s important, that it’s worth being said, that it might have an impact, then I say it. The hard thing is that I want to talk about loads of things, but what justifies me telling one story rather than another? Also, it gives people access to private things to a certain extent. It’s not always easy to strike the right balance. I don’t really express these ideas in my music because it’s a sacred space that, for me, should remain free of the political dimension. When I write or compose, I don’t think about the news at all. All the things I express on social networks, on stage, or in interviews, on the other hand, can be related to a whole range of causes that are important to me. I feel that having this platform, this media attention, is useless if I don’t have at least a little bit of consideration for people who aren’t always able to make their voices heard.
Does becoming famous carry responsibilities, a duty to speak out?
It’s almost a kind of pressure. If I don’t react to a piece of news, because I’m on holiday for example, people reach out to me and ask me to express myself. I don’t want to feel obliged to react to everything that happens in the world though. A few weeks ago I tweeted about the beluga whale that got lost in the river Seine. I got loads of comments from people saying things like: ‘you’re sad about a beluga, but not about the people in Afghanistan.’ I mean… what do they know? It’s so strange to assume that if someone chooses to talk about one topic, then it’s to the detriment of another one. It’s like I have to be beyond reproach, or a robot or something, but I have human reactions that I share in the moment.
The joys of being in the media spotlight…
The older I grow, the less I like social networks. Because I’m learning to protect myself and social networks are the opposite: we open ourselves up on them. When I was younger, it didn’t bother me. I was at a stage in my life when I wanted or needed to do it, but now I’m realising that some things belong to me alone. Not being in France all the time helps. I’ve been going to Quebec since I was 19 or 20 years old. I had affinities with the music and art scene in Quebec; I felt that I belonged there. As I started getting attention from the media, this feeling grew stronger, because people there don’t have the same relationship with celebrity. It’s rare that I feel oppressed in Quebec. For a start, France has a population of 70 million, compared with 8 million in Quebec, so there’s literally more space. As for social networks, I’m learning to manage them; they’re a way of attracting people to my concerts, which is what’s most important to me, even though I know that there are things to prepare to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Do social networks help you maintain a link with your audience?
There’s no point in doing music for me if I can’t be in touch with people. I also want my project, my music and myself to remain tangible and not be like dreams, or something inaccessible. I’m very active and I try to answer, even though what I like most are direct interactions with the audience. For me, the stage should be a space of freedom. People can sing, sometimes they shout things out and I answer them. For this album, we also created a hotline where people can call and leave a message [Editor’s note: there were 3500 calls on the first day!]. I think it’s great being able to communicate other than through social networks, to find other channels, to imagine other spaces for expression. Also, as I’ve said several times in recent years, when people talk to me about mental health, it’s often easier to talk about your problems to someone that you don’t know, even if it’s just an answering machine.
In your latest album, childhood is a major theme, and not always a happy one. You also worked with the children’s books illustrator Claude Ponti. Is it important to know how to take care of your inner child?
As I grow up and learn more about myself, I have realised that the person I am today is very similar to the child that I was. I went through a period, like all teenagers, where I was searching for myself. I tried things out, I saw things and I had some difficult times, which I talked about a lot in Les Failles. But I feel like growing up, becoming an adult, has reconnected me with the person I was when I was very little, with her simplicity and naturalness: What do I like? What’s my favourite colour? What do I like doing? What’s my favourite animal? There’s a lot of this in the album Consolation, postcards from childhood, a kind of calming down and acceptance of trauma. It’s not always a joyful album, but the process was much brighter and more open than with Les Failles. This album is kind of a response to Les Failles, which was about my years 19 to 21. Consolation is an album about the period from 22 to 25. I’m changing. I don’t know what will come after, but I think that leaving adolescence and entering the 20s is a huge experience.
Listen to the album Consolation of Pomme
Cellist, guitarist, harpist, singer, author and composer Claire Pommet, also known as ‘Pomme’, was born in Décines-Charpieu in 1996 and was raised in Caluire-et-Cuire as one of four children, who all studied music. She was for a long time a member of the children’s choir La Cigale. Later, aged 14, she began performing in bars in Vieux-Lyon, covering songs by Lana Del Rey, as she explained in a podcast that she hosted for several days on the radio station France Inter last winter. After graduating from secondary school, she moved to Paris alone, and began appearing as the opening act for artists such as Asaf Avidan, Yael Naim and Benjamin Biolay.
Aged only 26, she has already released three albums: the latest, Consolation, is preceded by A peu près (2017) and Les Failles (2019), which earned her a Victoire de la Musique award in 2020, in the category ‘discovery’, followed by the title ‘female artist of the year’ in 2021. Pomme will be stopping in Lyon on the 28th of March for a concert at the Transbordeur, which is unfortunately already sold out.
Pomme's adress bookPlace Bellevue and Les Pentes (the slopes of Croix-Rousse hill)
The Musée de la Miniature (a museum dedicated to miniature film sets)
I went to the secondary school Lycée Saint-Exupéry, so I spent a lot of my time as a teenager here. Just down the slopes from Place du Gros-Caillou, there’s a little park with grass and a really beautiful view over the whole of Lyon. I’m really attached to Les Pentes and whenever I go out for a drink it’s never very far from there.
60 rue Saint-Jean
Festival Lumière (Grand Lyon Film festival)
The Saint-Jean neighbourhood is one of my favourite places for a stroll. I’m a fan of miniature models and I actually make miniature houses myself. I love all things tiny. This is probably why I’m so fascinated by mushrooms, which are like miniature houses [laughs!].
Tête d'Or Park
I’m not sure if they still do them, but there were whole nights of film screenings at Halle Tony Garnier, where I have memories of lots of fun with friends.
Le Comptoir Sauvage
For the space, the diversity of plants and trees, the water and the rosalies [Editor’s note: the little cars with pedals that the park is famous for]. This park really is an oasis in the city, a place of calm.
1 rue du Pavillon
I discovered this place recently. They have vegetarian brunches and gluten-free dishes. It’s beautiful and really delicious.