Cyrille Aimee was once labeled “one of the most promising jazz singers of her generation,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Born in the small town of Samois-sur-Seine in France, she eventually found her way to the United States — but only after she appeared on “Star Academy,” the French equivalent of “American Idol.” Aimee will be performing at the Weinberg Thursday night as part of the Tivoli Discovery Series. We recently caught up with her to talk about how she got into music, the value in improvisation and what she thinks is the best music city in the world.
What got you into wanting to sing and create music yourself?
I grew up in a little village in France where Django Reinhardt used to be. So, every year, there’s a Django festival in his honor and Django was a gypsy, so a lot of gypsies from across Europe would come to the festival. They would play guitars nonstop, 24/7. So, when I was little, I became friends with the gypsies and that’s how I started to sing.
Were there any singers you tried to study?
After I discovered I liked this music and I wanted to sing, I looked into vocal jazz and came across Ella Fitzgerald and I totally fell in love with her. She was one of my biggest influences.
You have a handful of records. Have you been writing recently? Are you going to put out more music soon?
Yeah. In the show, I am going to do a lot of new material. I’m also working on a few different projects. There are some things I’m working on that I don’t want to talk about yet.
I’ve read that you’re very committed to improvisation. How important do you think it is, as a musician, to be able to improvise and at what point did you start to improvise as an artist?
For me, improvisation is what made me want to make music. That’s what I fell in love with when I met the gypsies and I heard the music. It didn’t really effect me until I understood what it meant, and it meant that they were basically improvising and they could play the same song many, many different ways. That’s what made me want sing music. For me, music has always been that. I think it’s all about just being in the moment.
What brought you to the United States? Having grown up in France, what made you want to come stateside?
When I discovered this music and discovering Ella, I wanted to come to the country where it came from and learn more about it.
You are largely associated with jazz music. The modern day is kind of an interesting time for jazz music. Do you have any comments on the current state of the genre? Is it doing well? Is it healthy?
I think jazz is not a style of music; it’s a way of playing music — any kind of music, and especially live music. I think it doesn’t have enough … it’s not on TV. It’s not out there enough. The term “jazz” kind of scares young people because they associate it with old-people music or boring music, but they don’t know because they’re not exposed to it. If they were exposed to it, they would realize that jazz is fun and they would like it.
Is there any pop music that you enjoy listening to?
Many. I listen to a lot of pop music. I love Drake. I like Justin Bieber. I don’t discriminate. I always had music in my house, so for me, music was first something to dance to.
If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you would be doing?
I’ve never thought of that. Probably something where I have to bike a lot because I like biking. Maybe outdoors and with animals.
Why did you choose to move to New Orleans recently?
I had in New York for 10 years, which is a long time for me to stay in one place. I’m not used to staying somewhere that long, and I knew I wanted to change and go somewhere else, but I didn’t know where. Then, last year, I visited New Orleans for fun and I completely fell in love with it. So, I packed up my bags and came.
There’s a lot of great music in New Orleans. Have you been out to any clubs?
Yeah, but it’s not just the music in New Orleans. It’s the people, the weather. The houses are so beautiful. And the pace. I like the pace. I like a lot of things about New Orleans.
What can people expect from the show at the Weinberg? Do you typically cover any songs?
Yeah, we do covers, we do original songs. There will be some tunes from my latest album. We kind of decide on the spot. I don’t know quite exactly what we’re going to do right now.
It’s almost the end of February — what’s next for you?
In the summer, there will be a lot of touring in Europe. We’re putting out a live record in May or June, and also, I’m recording my next album in May.
You’ve traveled a lot and you’ve sang in a lot of different places. What’s your favorite music city in the world?
I really like performing in my mom’s country, the Dominican Republic, because the audience is really, really young there. They’re not quote-unquote educated in jazz, so they’re not waiting for the end of the solo to clap. They just clap whenever they feel something — whenever there’s a high note or high energy.
Are there any places you don’t like playing?
No (laughs). I like playing, so I don’t care where it is.