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De Palmas

Gérald de Palmas rocketed to the forefront of the French music scene in the mid-90s with his chart-topping single "Sur la route" (On the Road). However, he fell from grace soon afterwards and had to endure a barren period in rock wilderness, before powering back into the success fast lane in 2001 with his third album "Marcher dans le sable".

Gérald Gardrinier - better known to French music fans by his stage name De Palmas - was born in the town of St Denis on the island of Réunion on 14 October 1967. His father, who was born in Brittany and worked as a land surveyor, and his mother who was born in Réunion and worked as a French teacher, brought Gérald and his sister up there for ten years. But in 1977 the family returned to France, settling in the picturesque town of Aix-en-Provence in the south of the country.

Early Days

Gérald developed a passion for music in his teens and towards the end of the 70s he became a major fan of UK ska band The Specials (whose music and stage costumes would continue to influence him throughout his career). Determined to pursue his own musical career, the budding young pop star learnt to play guitar and bass. And, after failing his 'baccalauréat' and leaving school as soon as he could, Gérald became involved on the local music scene.

Teaming up with Edith Fambuena and Jean-Louis Pierot, Gérald went on to form a group called Les Max Valentins. The trio released a series of singles including "Printemps parapluie" and "Les Non-dits" and built up a solid reputation on the local Aix scene. Then, by a stroke of luck, they met French pop king Etienne Daho who was on a tour of the south of France at the time. Les Max Valentins and Daho hit it off immediately and became firm friends. (Indeed, Edith and Jean-Louis have frequently collaborated with Daho in the course of their career).

Meanwhile, Gérald was beginning to get increasingly frustrated by the group's lack of mainstream success. Uncomfortable with the musical direction Les Max Valentins were taking, he decided to quit the group and launch a solo career under his mother's maiden name De Palmas. Shortly after taking this decision Gérald moved to Paris around 1988, leaving Edith and Jean-Louis to continue as a duo. Renaming themselves Les Valentins, the pair went on to enjoy considerable success in the indie world.

De Palmas pursued his musical career in Paris, playing bass as a studio musician. During this period he recorded with a host of French stars including Kent and Véronique Rivière. He also made friends with a number of musicians who would work with him on subsequent albums. These included guitarist Pascal Betremieux (aka Pascal B.Carmen) and drummer Mikaël Sala who helped De Palmas write and produce his first album. Plagued by doubt and lack of self-confidence (a feeling which undermined him for many years to come), De Palmas devoted a lot of this period to songwriting, trying to forge a definitive sound for himself. But this troubled period eventually came to an end when his debut album became an unexpected hit.

"On the Road" to Success

De Palmas recorded his debut album in September '93 but "la Dernière année" did not actually come out until after he signed to EMI in '94. The budding musician went on to triumph at the "Musique de demain" talent contest broadcast on French TV channel M6 in June '94. Indeed, the jury (presided over by French music star Francis Cabrel) elected De Palmas as the overall winner.

With his impressive vocal talent and his snappy suit-and-tie look (inspired by his favourite group The Specials), De Palmas soon began to make his mark on the French music scene. Shortly after the release of his album, De Palmas went rocketing to the top of the charts with the single "Sur la route" which scored an instant hit with the French public and was broadcast practically non-stop on radio stations up and down the country. De Palmas' album, "la Dernière année" (which revolved around his passion for Anglo-Saxon sounds, especially soul music) soon went on to follow suit, selling a staggering 130,000 copies.

Riding the wave of success generated by album sales, De Palmas embarked upon an extensive tour, playing some 200 concerts between 1994 and 1996. He performed many of these concerts with his group and there were several occasions when they supported a host of international stars (including James Brown, Chris Isaak, Texas and Cyndi Lauper).

De Palmas did not perform his first solo show until April 12th 1995, when he brought the house down in front of a capacity audience at the Café de la Danse in Paris. 1995 proved to be a triumphant year for De Palmas, in fact, as he also went on to win "Best Male Newcomer of the Year" at the annual "Victoires de la Musique" awards.

De Palmas was still very much in the music news in 1996. And in February of that year he was invited to play at one of Paris's legendary nightspots Le Palace. 1996 also proved to be a memorable year in the singer's personal life as a few weeks after his Palace success, his son, Victor, was born.

Down hill

Success proved elusive over the following years however. De Palmas struggled to come up with a convincing follow-up to "la Dernière année" and his career slowed down as he devoted more time to his family life. He finally got round to releasing his second album in January '97, however. Entitled "Les Lois de la nature", the album was produced by his loyal collaborator Mikaël Sala and also featured Matthieu Chédid - aka M - on guitar. (Chédid also supported de Palmas in concert on several occasions during this period).

Unfortunately, this second album proved to be a complete flop. French music fans who had rushed out in their thousands to buy "Sur la route" a few years earlier completely ignored de Palmas's new single "Comme ça" and the singer found himself consigned to the rock wilderness. Quitting EMI, the singer signed a new contract with Polydor and went on to set up his own studio and production company. But the latter proved to be a complex business to manage and De Palmas eventually abandoned this new project. Meanwhile, his songwriting career was going from bad to worse. Lacking inspiration, he wrote less and less songs and when he did manage to compose a rough draft it generally ended up in the bin.

With his confidence at an all-time low, de Palmas stayed out of the media spotlight throughout this period and made only rare concert appearances. One of the few projects he got involved with during this period was the collective fund-raising album "Ensemble contre le sida" (Together Against Aids) which was released in '98.

But light awaited de Palmas at the end of the tunnel. One day, in the midst of his despair, he got in touch with star French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman to ask his advice. Goldman offered to lend a helping hand and a few weeks later presented de Palmas with a new song entitled "J'en rêve encore". Spurred on by Goldman's help, de Palmas got a sudden burst of inspiration and spent the next few months writing the rest of his third album. Maxime Le Forestier also stepped in to write a song for him ("Tomber") and de Palmas also set one of his grandfather's poems to music ("Le Gouffre").

The Road Back to Success

De Palmas made a major comeback on the French music scene in October 2000 with the release of his third album "Marcher dans le sable". Much to the singer's surprise, "Marcher dans le sable" proved to be a phenomenal hit. Indeed, the single shot to the top of the French album charts shortly after its release and remained in the top 20 for several months. As for de Palmas's new single release, "J'en rêve encore", this soon followed in the best-selling footsteps of "Sur la route".

Having had their fingers burnt by the disappointing sales of de Palmas's second album, Polydor restricted the singer's autumn tour to a few minor appearances in Fnac record stores. But it soon became obvious that the public wanted more. So on January 20th 2001 de Palmas embarked upon a major tour, playing dates up and down the country. The tour, which is set to continue until the end of the year, has proved a huge success and thousands of fans have flocked to see de Palmas in concert wherever he has appeared.

After having made an impressive comeback in October 2000 de Palmas has proved he is every bit as capable of packing out major venues as his friend Jean-Jacques Goldman. And on March 14th 2001 the singer was invited to play at the legendary Olympia in Paris. His show went down so well there that he was booked to perform two more concerts at the Olympia (on June 5th and 6th) after completing an extensive tour of Quebec in May. Meanwhile, sales of de Palmas's third album continued to soar and ended up topping the 700,000 mark within a year of its release. On November 12th and 20th de Palmas played to a packed house at Le Zénith in Paris.

In 2001, De Palmas was the artist with the highest radio broadcasting--his songs were aired more than 3.4 million times. This success was immediately followed by the "Victoire de la Musique" award for Best Male Singer in 2001. The young artist who had only recently seen the light out of the tunnel was now celebrated by his pairs as one of French Chanson's leading stars. At the end of January, he joined them on stage, taking part in the Enfoirés concert in Marseilles. Then he went back on the road, resuming his tour from February 15th to March 30th with a stopover in La Reunion and Mauritius. Back in France, he performed at the Zenith in March 11th and 12th, bringing the house down on the very stage where he had received his award two days before.

At the end of July 2002 De Palmas returned to the stage to perform a fund-raising concert in Ouveillan in the Aude region on behalf of the "Restos du cœur" charity. Meanwhile, his tour came to an end. On the songwriting front after contributing a track ("Ten Days") to Céline Dion's album "A New Day has Come", De Palmas set to work writing more songs for the Quebecois diva's new album in French. He was also called in to work as a songwriter on Johnny Hallyday's forthcoming album.

Later that year in November, De Palmas re-emerged in the French music news with a double live album ("Live 2002") recorded at his concert at Le Zénith, in Paris, a year earlier. The album proved to be a huge hit, selling over 300,000 copies and going platinum within a few months of its release. De Palmas was just as successful when it came to writing hits for other artists, too. Indeed, when Johnny Hallyday released De Palmas’s "Marie" as a single it sold over 750,000 copies within two months!

A Pause for breath

Worn out by two years of non-stop collaborations and an exhaustingly extensive tour, De Palmas felt it was time to take a break from his hectic schedule. For over a year, the singer laid down his guitar, giving up his composing work and practically not listening to music at all. In 2003, he nevertheless agreed to contribute a track to Garou’s album "Reviens” (penning the lyrics to "Et si on dormait").

De Palmas also did a duet with the American star Sheryl Crow, recording a cover of the Cat Stevens classic "The First Cut Is The Deepest" which featured on the album "The Very Best of Sheryl Crow.” When he eventually resumed composing and songwriting on his own account, it took him just six weeks to write the material for his new album.

De Palmas’s fifth album, "Un homme sans racines," hit record stores in October 2004, selling over 600,000 copies. As usual, the singer toured the album across France, playing around 80 dates including four at Le Zénith in Paris (2005).

Following various problems with his record company, which switched him from Polydor to AZ (both Universal labels), Gérald de Palmas began writing his next album. This time it was an entirely solo effort: not only did he write all the songs, he also played, recorded and produced the album, entitled “Sortir”.

He spent 17 months working on it. The Swedish-American singer Eagle-Eye Cherry was the only other person to feature on the album, on a duet entitled "Pandora's box". The first single, "Au bord de l'eau", was released in the summer of 2009, and the album came out in November. On 16 November, he performed at the Olympia, Paris, and toured France in February 2010. On 30 March, he played Le Zénith in Paris.

April 2010

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