Miel shares her Magnetic personality with album


MIEL de Botton spent nearly a decade in Paris practising psychology. And now she is hoping to return to the French capital - but in a different guise.

For the Zurich-born 46-year-old has launched a music career and would love to perform in Paris, where she lived for six years.

It would be apt, too, as debut album Magnetic - which will be released in March - features songs in French.

Half are self-penned and the other half are Miel's interpretation of French classics from the 1940s and 1950s, recalled from her childhood in Switzerland.

"The songs transported me to an era of wild romance," she told me. "I could feel the intensity of love, but also its tragic inconstancy, and I wanted to abandon myself to that music."

But it has taken Miel a long time to fulfil her dreams.

Raised in St Gallen, she is the daughter of Jacqueline (née Burgauer) and Gilbert de Botton.

Her father was born in Alexandria, Egypt, but was among the many Jews who left after experiencing life under dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Gilbert went to live and work in Switzerland, where he co-founded an investment firm.

Miel's Swiss-born mother was Ashkenazi, while her father was from a Sephardi family.

She recalled: "It was always my dream to sing professionally. My father was musical and he would always ask me to sing Ma Nishtana at Pesach.

"I didn't think it would come up as a possible profession in the world I inhibited."

Dutifully, in her father's vision, she read at Oxford and went on to qualify as a clinical psychologist at the Ecole de Psychologues Practiciens.

Miel had arrived in England as a boarder at Rodean School, East Sussex, and then on to Marlborough College, Wiltshire.

Miel, whose brother is writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, will take to the stage on Tuesday at the Purcell Room, London, with band members Sam Swallow (piano), Roman Roth (drums), Mark Jaimes (guitar) and Gareth Davies (bass).

And she still battles the nerves before concerts, too.

"I do meditation and breathing exercises to help," Miel revealed.

She met and married banker Angus Aynsley in Paris, but moved to London after almost a decade in France for his work.

Miel's father died soon after and, with a one-year old son and much of her father's estate issues to look after, she took a break.

Then, four years ago - and another child later - her marriage fell apart.

She explained: "It was at a time in my life when I felt more free. I was always singing and dancing around my home and had a piano teacher, who suggested we sing together. She had a band and we did gigs together."

It led to Miel being introduced to record producer Andy Wright, who has worked with such names as Mick Hucknall, The Eurythmics and Jeff Beck.

Miel said of Andy, who has produced her debut album: "He really gets me. We have these amazing moments when I give him my songs and he sits at the piano and starts the chord arrangements.

"I cry every time, because what comes out is magical."

Miel, who also speaks German and a "little Italian", said she had a secular upbringing, but visited Israel regularly and celebrated the High Holy Days.

"I go to shul now when I can and take the children," she added. "We do the festivals, as well - my cultural and religious heritage is important to me."

A committee member of the British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel, charitable efforts regarding the Jewish State are something close to her heart.

She performed at The Weizmann Institute of Science's gala dinner and sang alongside the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus at London's Aldwych Theatre last month.

Miel added: "I was in Jerusalem and asked my friend whether there was a joint-Israeli Palestinian choir.

"He said there was and I was taken to meet them. The risk with many Israeli and Palestinian youngsters is they grow up indoctrinated and have barriers raised against each other. With the Chorus, they learn to engage in dialogue - it is something we really need right now."

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