Keren Ann Zeidel was born in Israel in 1974 to a Dutch-Javanese mother and a Russian-Israeli father. She was nine when her parents bought her a guitar, and she learned to play songs by Joni Mitchell and Serge Gainsbourg. In the years to come, she also took up the harmonica and the clarinet. Zeidel and her family lived in Israel and Holland before settling in Paris, France when she was 11.
In the '90s, Zeidel met musician/arranger Benjamin Biolay, with whom she would form a fruitful partnership. In 1998, she released a handful of singles (including "I+I+I") as a member of Shelby. The singles attracted little attention, but Zeidel bounced back by releasing her full-length solo debut, La Biographie de Luka Philipsen, in 2000. Combining trip-hop, folk, and French pop, she cited Russian literature, Jewish folk music, French poetry, Bob Dylan, and Suzanne Vega (whose "Luka" is also referenced in the title) as influences for her unique sound.
La Biographie was enthusiastically received in Europe, garnering favorable comparisons to Françoise Hardy, Portishead, Beth Orton, and Dido. In addition, it earned several nominations for the French equivalent of the Grammy (the Victoires), including Best New Discovery (Artist and Album) and Best Song of the Year. One of its songs, "Jardin d'Hiver" (co-written by Biolay) also became a hit for Henri Salvador, whose best-selling album Chambre Avec Vue contained five songs co-written by Zeidel and Biolay.
In 2001, Zeidel returned the favor by assisting with the writing of Biolay's Rose Kennedy. Her follow-up to La Biographie, La Disparition came out the following year. She recorded a version in English at the same time. While preparing the album, Zeidel listened to the Beatles, Chet Baker, and Tom Waits recordings, resulting in a bluesier, jazzier sound. As with La Biographie, much of the material was written with Biolay. Late in 2003, the English-language Not Going Anywhere arrived and was distributed by Blue Note in America the following summer. Keren Ann also worked with Barði Jóhannsson as Lady Bird, which delivered an album that same year.
After relocating to New York, Keren Ann released the half-French, half-English Nolita in 2004, which marked the first time she'd worked without Biolay, choosing instead to write/produce most of the tracks herself. She followed it with a self-titled release in 2007, earning some of the warmest praise of her career in the process. It reached as high as number 13 on the French album chart. In 2010, she contributed covers of '60s French pop songs to the soundtrack of director Benoît Pétré's film Thelma, Louise et Chantal, composed music for the European TV channel Arte, and wrote and produced for actress, model, and singer Emmanuelle Seigner. In 2011, she returned to her solo career with 101, another self-produced collection of folk, dreamy pop, and French chanson. The following year she contributed six songs to the soundtrack of Yossi, an Israeli film by Etyan Fox, and appeared onscreen performing a concert. She also gave birth to her first child in 2012.
When Keren Ann returned to recording, she changed her process, partly financing sessions through a crowdfunding campaign. Working in Brooklyn, Paris, and London with producer Renaud Letang, she recorded live in the studio -- a first. The finished album, You're Gonna Get Love, was released by Universal in April 2016. Named for its melancholy tone, her eighth full-length, Bleue, followed in 2019. It marked her sixth appearance in the Top 40 of France's album chart. ~ Kathleen C. Fennessy & Marcy Donelson, Rovi
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