Vietnamese Indie singer-songwriter Mademoiselle (real name Nguyen Thi Thuy Hong) has recently released a new album of duets with Australian musician Floyd Thursby (real name Paul Gillett).

Titled The South Lands, the album features nine tracks sung in both English and Vietnamese telling the story of shared secrets about daily life in Australia and Vietnam.

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Mademoiselle and Floyd in Hanoi. — Photo courtesy of Australian Embassy

A story about friends, family and community: the common threads of life in both countries.

Explaining the title, Mademoiselle said the nation of Australia derives its name from the Latin word “Australis”, denoting European legends of a great land mass at the southern end of the world.

This is similar to the word ‘Nam’ in Vietnamese meaning ‘south’, creating a common bond between both countries as the “South Lands”, she said.

The album incorporates both European instruments like guitar and keyboard, as well as Vietnamese instruments such as the đàn bầu (monochord) and the cồng chiêng (gong).

The opening instrumental track 6, Ngõ Hội Vũ is named after the address of music venue, the Hanoi Social Club, where both musicians have performed and through which they were introduced by the owner.

The two artists met in person for the first time in August 2019, only hours before their debut performance at a state banquet hosted by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to welcome Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

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The two artists perform at the banquet hosted by PM Phuc to entertain PM Morrison in Hanoi, August 2019. — Photo courtesy of Australian Embassy

The album’s lead single Let it shine was co-written by the artists.

Floyd wrote the song as a message of hope for all people struggling with sadness.

Mademoiselle added her Vietnamese lyrics after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people in a shipping container in England.

“I was shocked to know that something like that exists. As a person who has claustrophobia, I imagined how it would have been if I was one of them and my answer was ‘I would think of sunlight and Vietnam”, she said.

Floyd wrote Mary Comes to Camberlea from his experience of singing in nursing homes.

Camberlea was a nursing home he used to pass by as a child in Melbourne, Australia.

“The song describes the relationship between a woman visiting her disabled son, and how she loves and cares for him even though he can't communicate with her. It's very moving to watch them together," he said.

Mademoiselle wrote Close your eyes and count to three after her first break-up.

“At that time, I felt deeply sad and it helped me somehow understand my parents when they divorced,” she said. “After that, my bitterness about their separation faded and I felt a sense of forgiveness.” 

Floyd’s song titled Since you came to me records his memories on the shores of Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi a few days after his performance with Mademoiselle at the Prime Minister's banquet.

He wrote it thinking of a loved one back home in Australia who he was missing.

The South Lands was recorded and produced in Melbourne by Marty Brown (Art of Fighting, Clare Bowditch) with support from the Australian Embassy in Vietnam, and is available on all streaming platforms and also for download at floydthursby.bandcamp.com.

“This project has been such a wonderful experience. There have been very few difficulties but the biggest issue we faced was how to launch the album during COVID-19,” Floyd told Việt Nam News.

“We had originally planned to perform live in Vietnam and Australia in July and August, but when this became impossible, we were not sure what to do. Should we wait or should we launch anyway without touring? We realised that we did not know when we would be able to tour again so we decided to launch online. And although we miss playing together, it’s been so far, so good,” he said.

Floyd said the most unforgettable experience was the first day he ever met Mademoiselle in person. A few months after they connected online, they were invited to perform together at a State banquet held by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Hanoi, in August 2019.

“At that time, we had not yet met in person so we had to discover a way to rehearse our show remotely,” he recalled. “We sent each other recording of our songs and we would play along with them in our respective countries. It was crazy but it worked!” 

 

Floyd said they met a group of musicians who were playing traditional Vietnamese instruments at the banquet.

“They were amazingly talented and a very hard act to follow but luckily our performance went really well,” he said.

Floyd said they had a lot of support from the Australian Embassy and the Vietnamese Government to make it happen and it was definitely an unforgettable experience.

Floyd is now based in Melbourne. His typical day involves going for a bike ride or a walk in the morning for exercise.

Then he spends time either playing guitar or piano, or writing new songs.

In the afternoon, he sometimes visits a nursing home and performs some well-known songs by famous singers for the elderly residents, which is always a great pleasure.

In the evening, he might have a concert with his French band La Mauvaise Réputation.

They play a style of music from France called “gypsy swing”, and he sings famous songs in the French language with them.

Floyd said the project with Mademoiselle helped him understand Vietnam more.

“Working closely with someone also helps you understand them and their culture more, and I have learnt a lot from Mademoiselle about Vietnam,” he said.

“I have also learnt a lot from listening to her songs and hearing her talk about her lyrics and the meaning behind them. This album is about the parts of everyday life that Australia and Vietnam have in common, and the songs explore those shared experiences: the little things.

"And so this project for me has taught me so much about those experiences that we have in common in both Australia and Vietnam: falling in love, falling out of love, being young and free, growing old, being happy and sad,” he said.

Mademoiselle and Floyd both want to perform together in Vietnam as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“I have travelled to Vietnam many times and have always loved my experiences, but there is still so much for me to explore,” he said.

Mademoiselle said Floyd is a professional composer so she has learnt a lot from him.

“All the tasks have been carried out properly and clearly,” she said. “He has briefed all our dialogues in documents. He has helped control the timeline so that all parts of the album were finished on time as scheduled,” she noted. 

She also said Floyd is a person who is willing to listen and learn from others. He has even learnt how to sing in Vietnamese.

“Even a short sentence, he practises again and again and asks me to check for him,” she said.

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The two artists want to co-operate in other music projects. — Courtesy Photo of Australian Embassy

Mademoiselle said through his serious work ethic, she feels that Floyd loves Vietnam very much.

Floyd’s parents are both writers - his mother writes children’s books and his father is a poet.

Floyd has always loved music and has played in bands since he was a teenager in many different styles: hard rock, pop, musical theatre, jazz, gypsy swing and French chanson.

He has also composed music for a feature film called The Death and Life of Otto Bloom.

He worked as a lawyer for many years but has been working exclusively as a musician for the last three years.  VNS

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