Charlotte Gainsbourg's half-sister: The darker daughter, Lou Doillon, comes out of the shadows

Charlotte Gainsbourg's half-sister Lou Doillon has made an acclaimed debut album. Charlotte Cripps meets her

It hasn't been easy being Lou Doillon, 30, the daughter of Jane Birkin and the half-sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg, Serge's daughter. “We all lived in a bit of a mad house,” she says. But now, after years of living in the shadow of one of France's most famous families – “I couldn't have gone on smiling at their premieres or awards shows while nothing was happening in my own life” – she has just released her debut folk album, Places, in the UK, having won Best Female Artist at Les Victoires de la Musique, the French version of the Brit Awards, a few months ago, making history by winning it with a first album.

Today looking very stylish, Doillon, who was the face of Givenchy, is dressed in black with a cream blouse and foppish cuffs with a giant-brimmed hat. She has come on a day trip to London from Paris, where she lives in the bohemian district, Bastille, with her son Marlowe, 10. She talks without holding back – in perfect English – as she does on her album of confessional folk songs about love, regret and obsession.

The songs are presented in a sophisticated and broken husky voice – with an American drawl: “I.C.U.” is about missing somebody; “Same Old Game” is about betrayal by a man; and “One Day After Another” is about getting off the merry-go-round of life to take time over things, which is certainly what Doillon has done.

The daughter of indie film director Jacques Doillon, she says that, for the last 10 years, she has lived largely as a “recluse” in Paris – “we can do that in France due to the strict French privacy laws”. She would not have done anything with her songs had not her mother's friend Etienne Daho, a singer and record producer, visited her little house, which is painted black inside with books everywhere, and convinced her to let him produce and record her album last year.

“All I wanted was for it to be recorded in the minimum of time at a crummy place near to me with no superstars on it. We did it very quickly in 10 days.”

Her mother is now “my biggest fan,” she says. “She is very sweet about it and says that when she gets on stage to sing she now has my songs in her head.” Her sister Charlotte is still getting used to not being the only sibling in the limelight. “Charlotte was slightly taken aback when somebody stopped her on the street to talk about my album. I told her: 'I've had to put up with this for the last 30 years – I can't walk a metre without somebody talking to me about you. You are going to have to get used to it as I'm not going to stop singing for sure.' It changes the dynamics in the family. It takes a bit of time for the rest of the family to adapt.”

So, after years of feeling like an outsider, Doillon, who has now finally won over the hearts of the French people, is basking in her own success. As a child she felt like “Joseph Merrick the Elephant Man” in her family. “My family were in the press a lot and I think my mother tried to hide me to protect me, but it makes you wonder, 'why they are all hiding you?'. She became rebellious aged nine with dreadlocks, then piercings, tattoos, and tons of make-up, which was a horrifying vision for her chic family. She quit school at 15. ”I guess I started wanting to be the Christmas tree so that people would notice me,“ says Doillon.

Her childhood in Paris was intense, with too many larger-than-life characters in one family – “but a lot of love”. Serge Gainsbourg, her mother's former partner, whom Doillon called “Papa Deux”, was always at home with them despite the fact Birkin was with her father. She lived with Charlotte and photographer Kate Barry, from her mum's first marriage to the James Bond composer John Barry.

Her father left Birkin when Doillon was eight, after Serge Gainsbourg died, because Birkin was consumed with grief. On her father's side she has three more half-sisters – film director, Lola, 38, student Lili, 18, and Lena, two.

But, despite spending all her school holidays in the UK staying with her uncle Andrew Birkin and her cousins at his farm in North Wales and his London house in High Street Kensington, or with her late grandmother, the actress and Noel Coward's muse, Judy Campbell, in Chelsea, she no longer spends any time here.

“I live like a strange immigrant in France – we only cook English food, my son speaks English and drinks Horlicks before he goes to bed. My mother is completely integrated as a French woman and she has a French flag in her house. As soon as I arrive in England, I feel very foreign and French.”

It wasn't until Doillon had therapy that she realised she was “raised to be a muse”. She has since broken the pattern after dealing with heartbreak when the musician Thomas-John Mitchell left her less than a year after their son Marlowe was born, and she has emerged more like “one of the men in her family” – a creator, not a muse.

Doillon began acting aged six, playing her mother's daughter along with sister Gainsbourg in Kung-fu Master!. Her dad cast her in a juicy role in Trop (peu) d'Amour aged 14. But now she has decided to call it a day with family collaborations because it has “hurt both my parents”. “My mother put me in her autobiographical directorial debut Boxes in 2007 and my dad cast me in his movie Me, You and Us [A Child of Yours] last year to help get me back into movies recently – I told them: ”Stop! Go and find another actress. It doesn't count with critics because I am your daughter.“

She was a self-imposed “hermit” for more than 10 years when, at 19, her life changed when her cousin Alexander Birkin, known as Anno, to whom she was very close, was killed in a car crash in Milan, along with his band Kicks joy Darkness, and she got pregnant. “I lost everything at 19 – the movie industry turned their back on me – at 20 I was stuck in a house like a little granny with a child in my arms.”

She survived by reading her favourite letters by French poets by chandelier-light at theatres across France for a few years, as well as the odd well-paid fashion campaign. She also wrote songs, but never with the ambition of getting them heard. “Now everybody stops me in the street and says, 'Keep on going, don't stop making music, we love you”.

Lou Doillon's 'Places' is out now

*This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar Magazine

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower