The Catalan artist faces her first Palau Sant Jordi this Thursday after three dizzying years and before taking a break. Paula Ribó, mother of the phenomenon, reaches the end of her first stage with her debut album (‘La Emperatriz’) just released and eager to enter a phase of disconnection, uncertainty and change.
He has already filled giant venues, but the one at home is special for sure.
Totally. The whole team is especially nervous because in the end it is playing at home. The Wizink Center is very big but I have never experienced it. But the Palau Sant Jordi… You’ve seen all the great artists there. It’s very exciting and, if I think about it a lot, it scares me a little.
And in this he will go to his neighbor.
For months anyone I meet in Barcelona has told me that they are going to the concert. From my neighbors, relatives, mothers of my son’s school… Hell, everyone is coming! Yes, I have this feeling that everyone will be there. I am going to perform for all my people and, at the same time, I really want to because, due to circumstances, we have done the biggest gigs in Madrid and I really wanted to do a great concert in Barcelona.
Does the pre-concert routine change you?
There is something about traveling or dedicating a whole day to a gig that concentrates me a lot. It upsets me to be here in the morning, to eat at home, I think I’ll go to Sant Jordi as soon as possible because being in the place concentrates me much more. If it doesn’t generate me as insecurity, and I wouldn’t know how to redirect the energy towards the stage.
At the end of a concert, do you feel a total decompression or do you need to ride the wave?
Normally my body is very tired but my energy, my mind and my emotions are very high. I have to make a pact with my body: ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, but let’s go get something to drink.’ When I finish, I’m usually not hungry: I want a soda and a cigarette. It’s like my self-gift.
I was able to see in videos how, at the end of the concert in Madrid, part of the public, many women, got together to continue singing their songs. In the 8-M their songs were also adopted for the community protest. Why do you think your songs produce that communion?
I was very moved to see it on video. When I compose there is always a desire for communion. People tell me that I make hymns. I look for an emotion in the songs, which is what I like to receive as an audience. The feeling that, whoever you have next to you at a concert, you want to hug them. This ‘feeling’ is important to me. My willingness to connect with people when composing exists, I look for this collective emotion and this catharsis, and when it is achieved, as is the case with Wizink, it excites me a lot because it is my success. Not having x followers and being able to eat this, which is very good, but that success, which is the heaviest, achieving this emotion and connection with people.
Does what happens inside the concert respond to popularity and what happens outside means that it has really transcended?
I am very excited to fill venues, but when I see these videos and people come up to me on the street and say strong things, of connection… that so deep makes me feel more satisfied.
He has published the album at the end of his first stage. Have you savored that feeling or have you experienced it as a formality?
I’ve done it when I really felt like doing it. During this time everyone was asking me and I didn’t know why an album was so important. And I don’t want to say that now I assume that it is, my career petered out without an album, but I do want to say that as an artist I have had the need to close a stage to understand who I will be in the future, who I have been, where I will go. It’s one more sensation of ordering and framing many of the songs that have given me so much joy to move forward.
The launch pampered it a lot (with its own podcast, an audio guide…) to give it the entity it deserved.
Pampering is part of giving back to people everything they have given me and are giving. Pampering the release was like telling them: ‘maybe you won’t find many new songs, a universe you don’t know, because this album is already yours and you know it, but I’ll offer you new things’. And also fulfill dreams because these talks [desde personajes populares como C. Tangana hasta su madre] It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
Why did you decide to present yourself as ‘The Empress’ from the title, the cover…?
It was very difficult to find the imaginary of this record because it already existed. The cover represents the collage in which I live. I feel like a kind of strange priestess at concerts because it’s like I’m doing a love ritual that is reciprocated with people, and at the same time there’s that pop universe in which even a packet of Marlboros exists. A collage of many of the things that represent me. And it could only be called that because the tarot card accompanies me from the first song. I had doubts, because it’s like it has a lot of weight, it doesn’t have the counterpoint that I usually add to things.
But have you felt floating?
Despite being on stage and feeling the connection with all the people, I connect from my vulnerability. I don’t feel like a perfect, ‘popstar’, impeccable woman… Since my songs show a lot who I am, I show myself to be imperfect and I play with it, really, at no time do I feel like an Olympian goddess, I feel like a normal woman who makes songs But I don’t have to come down from anywhere because on stage I am with my family, my partner, everything is very earthly…
Has a person as spiritual as you ever stopped to think about the reasons that led you to perform at Sant Jordi?
It is very difficult. I have spent my whole life working on creation in one way or another and the arrival of a full Sant Jordi is an incredible gift. I don’t know, the people have decided. And I can only say thank you, that I will continue making songs and hopefully I will fill Sant Jordi for many years.
And are you clear about how the Rigoberta of the change of stage can be?
No, I just want to be surprised. I have many ideas, started songs… But I really have no idea about many things and that’s what I like the most. If I had everything clear it would be very boring. I want to see what happens when this creative space exists, now I compose between holes… It’s an enigma for me, also because I’m a different person from three years ago.
Do you like uncertainty?
I’m lovin ‘it. It makes me happy to be able to have the privilege of having an empty schedule and not suffering, knowing that I have this field to play on. Also on a personal level being able to spend weekends with my son. I don’t know what parents do in Barcelona! I want to be a normal person, walk in the park with my son. And recover many friends. I want to take care of my people and somehow do a reset and start over. The beginnings are very exciting and bring out the best in you.
Should your compositions always have one foot in your real world?
I would love to explore a step further. It is an exercise, that of fiction, that I feel like doing.
In this frenetic time, have you been able to stay connected with reality?
I feel very disconnected with the theater. I haven’t been there for a year, and I’m very sorry because the theater is a great inspiration for me. Your bubble is so strong that it is difficult to reach others and it is frustrating. Consuming culture I have consumed very little. Literature, on trips, it has given me time.
He announced a withdrawal.
I was very clumsy. If I could go back I wouldn’t have said “I’m retiring”, it’s brought me a lot of headaches, my family calling me… I’m not retiring! But it is true that I wanted it to be understood, and it was a commitment to myself: I really don’t want to go on any stage in 2023. From the outside, the project will be quite silent. There is a will to disappear for a while and it is understood that I will not exist.
And he doesn’t think… will they remember me?
[ríe] I will work on this with my therapist to give me self-confidence. In the end it’s a matter of trust, if you don’t have it everything goes to shit. In this sense, I am calm, people support me, I am leaving at a time when people are experiencing it a lot and I am not afraid. What can happen? That after not sell so many tickets? It’s not a drama, you can’t always be on top. Being able to dedicate myself to this, having the space to create, is already a privilege.