Face To Face with singer Coline Rio and Isabelle Vaudey, Baronesa label manager
Once again, our Face to Face series sets out to discover the French music scene! In this new episode, we meet young singer and songwriter Coline Rio and her producer Isabelle Vaudey.
Coline Rio first made a name for herself as the lead singer of Nantes-based pop outfit Inüit, although she was already performing solo before joining the group in 2015. Quickly gaining in popularity, the band went on tour after tour, even releasing an album in 2018. In 2019, however, the band decided to take a break, allowing Coline to focus on her solo career.
Almost immediately, she was contacted by Isabelle Vaudey, founder of Baronesa, a company specializing in production, publishing and artist management. Convinced of Coline's talent, Isabelle convinced her to join the Baronesa team and became her producer. A fruitful collaboration that enabled Coline Rio to reveal herself as a solo artist.
Coline and Isabelle sat down with Julien Parrot, Head of Editorial, Marketing and Distribution Partnerships at Believe France, to talk about how they met amid a pandemic, their teamwork and how Believe helped them get Coline on the streaming platforms.
Julien Parrot: Hello Coline, Hello Isabelle, I'm pleased to have you with us. Before we start this interview, can you introduce yourself, for anyone who hasn't the chance to know who you are.
Coline Rio: My name is Coline Rio, I'm a singer-songwriter, and I released my first album on March 24th 2023.
Isabelle Vaudey: And I am Isabelle Vaudey, I run the company Baronesa which manages, produces and publishes artists. And I also happen to be Coline's producer.
Julien Parrot: My first question is about the background of your relationship. When did you start to work together, and more importantly, what was the catalyst for your collaboration?
Isabelle Vaudey: In fact, I asked my collaborator Chloé to do some talent-scout work and go out and find artists on social networks. Artists who fit a very specific profile: French-speaking artist, new to the scene, very strong melodywise. With powerful, deep lyrics, and a distinctive French profile, not a "girl next door" type, someone who had something special.
Chloe had a few weeks to bring me a handful of profiles, which I reviewed with much interest. And in the middle of these profiles, there was Coline. It was an immediate feeling, I told Chloé right away “Listen, it's a great pick, I want to meet Coline quickly”. So that was the beginning. And then, there was the first meeting with Coline…
Coline Rio: On my side, I had just launched my solo project. I was coming off a four-year tour with my band Inüit. We had told ourselves we'd take a break but that we were going to start again. Then COVID came along very quickly afterwards.
If I recall correctly, we were in January 2020 when I was contacted by Chloé. And it was right on cue: It that was the month I told myself “Let's go, I'm starting my solo project”. I had been dreaming of launching my own project for a long time. The guys in the band actually knew me through my solo project. So, it's something I had been cultivating for a long, long time
So, I had been waiting the moment when I could start it all. And it really happened. Chloé and Isabelle were the first people to contact me. We got along very well.
I remember the first meeting, the first time I saw Chloé. She was waiting for me outside. We hugged very naturally, we had an incredible and deep conversation right away, about music, about our craft, about freedom. And I was feeling very, very good. Something had happened.
Julien Parrot: So, it was a really meaningful first meeting and your collaboration came naturally?
Coline Rio: Yes, and we never lost contact, we kept communicating. And in fact, as we went along, it built up to the point until we told each other officially “OK, I'd like to work with you”. It was totally reciprocal.
Isabelle Vaudey: In January 2020, I was very confident, I had a precise idea in mind, that I wanted to share quickly with Coline. But then, starting March, as you all know, I couldn't offer her anything anymore, because everything was tumbling down.
I had absolutely no idea what was going to become of us. I mean, I was starting to feel a little more at ease financially speaking. I had this company that was starting to do well. I told myself “If I lose everything, it's going to be a disaster”. But on the other hand, as Coline said, we've always kept in touch.
When I started contacting record companies, before we'd even released anything, everyone was in the same situation I was in as a manager and publisher. Which is to say telling ourselves “We can't sign anyone, we don't have the money, we can't do any development, it's too long, too difficult. We've just come out of something that could have knocked us over.” So as a result, we couldn't find a taker for the project.
But I'm a woman of conviction, so I told Coline “It doesn't matter, we'll get there, there's no doubt.”
Julien Parrot: I'm picking up on what you were saying about the role of manager and editor. Now you're also a producer, and you've created your own label, Baronesa. Is being supported by Believe something that convinced you to take on this new role?
Isabelle Vaudey: The company Baronesa has been around for seven years, but I just extended my activity. But anyway, it's not just that it convinced me. It made me ten times stronger, and that's what I wanted.
When it came to finding a distribution contract, I told myself “My goal is to get Believe, because they are the best”. Because it's great to produce albums, but you also need a distribution partner, a digital one first, of course.
But even though I knew some team members, let's say, I wasn't sure at all that Believe would support me. So, when they said yes, I thought, "Okay! Now I'm stronger”. It gave me more strength.
Julien Parrot: Moving on to what happened between the release of your "Lourd et Délicat" EP in June 2022 and your first album, "Ce qu'il restera de nous", which was released in March 2023. There was a lot of work done on your part with the media and promotion. We also worked a lot on your project with streaming platforms, which helped get you noticed... You were spotted by Spotify to be part of the RADAR program, which is their newcomer editorial program. Do you think that this support has given you a real boost in your career development? Do you feel that the view of professionals has changed with all the work done on the streaming platform side?
Coline Rio: Sure! It certainly helps. Psychologically, it's already an incredible support as an artist.
It all happened quite fast, Believe was the first partner we had, if I'm not mistaken. Then Spotify arrived quickly afterward, with RADAR support. And for me, it was crazy because it made me feel legitimate. I think there is this feeling of legitimacy, of being heard, of having its own place. That's what it did to me. I thought "Okay, I have my place, I'm being helped to take my place."
And clearly, it was amazing because everything works with streaming, we know it. And with images. There was huge support for my project, it really allowed me to be heard and to develop. And yes, it also certainly helped to gain professional credibility. I imagine it must have had a snowball effect, but for me, it's real support.
Artistically, you feel solid. much more solid, in fact. And for us artists, we can feel it, and it's precious. It's very, very precious to us.
Julien Parrot: I'm thinking of another important point which must have really helped you in your career development: live performance and tour.
For those who haven't had the chance to see you live, there's a real moment of connection with the audience. You have a strong stage presence, there's this setup with your cellist, and you on the piano. It's truly an enchanting moment to see you live.
Is this a topic you discuss and exchange about together?
Coline Rio: Totally! Live performance is an extremely important part of an artist's life. It nourishes you, it grounds you.
Even in my daily life, when I’m on stage, I feel better. It's part of the balance. And I have a lot of desires, ambitions. I'd love to have more musicians with me, but all of that will come step by step.
So, there are many dreams, many dreams to build, and we're doing that. We're progressing together. But yes, it's completely part of the discussions we’re having for the second album. We're totally moving forward with this.
Julien Parrot: Isabelle, there's an additional sharing that you bring to Coline, with what you learned from your other roles. It must greatly nurture your exchanges, no?
Isabelle Vaudey: Yes, in a way. I try to keep the role of the person who provides the mirror effect Coline occasionally needs. Which is to say, I try to be the person who tells her, for example, “If you make this choice, if you go for this type of staging, or do this thing, that's what it's going to happen. And in my opinion, we are heading in the right direction”.
Or, on the contrary, “It's a bit riskier because it might pigeonhole you, etc.”. It's more of a mirror perspective that I provide as food for thought, but at no point will I tell her that she must do this or that. Not at all.
I'm also there if there's a need, for example to explain decisions, explain the hiccups, or things that aren't working as Coline would like... I need to be the one able to convey the word of the tourer, the word of the financial side. Because, you see, it's not always easy to understand why there’s an issue.
Julien Parrot: Before we leave, can you share your upcoming news with us? Coline, what's next for you? And Isabelle, what's next for the label and for your various projects?
Coline Rio: Well, what’s coming next is an album reissue, coming in November. I can hardly wait, because I loved recording it. It will feature five new tracks, including one that's already been released, "Paysage”, which came out in July.
So, that's the closest upcoming release. Then, I'll enter a creative phase, and the tour will continue. I have upcoming dates, and I hope they'll keep coming because I love it. The idea is to keep creating for the future, not stopping along the way now that the path is set.
Isabelle Vaudey: We are very excited about the album reissue because it's not just a reissue; it's a meaningful gift in the middle of Coline's journey, which is already quite impressive, I think. I'm not completely objective, but well, yes, I think it's remarkable. So, we're going into 2024 with a lot of enthusiasm.
And beyond the tour, which is going to be incredibly packed, we just had a short retreat with Coline, where we stepped back from Parisian life, isolating ourselves to discuss and have a clear direction, a goal for the years 2024, 2025, 2026. I also wanted to understand what Coline had in mind, to try and support her, and plan ahead. To our surprise, we found that we were completely in agreement! But I wasn't worried, really, since we have a very strong quality of communication.
And as for the label, we won't sign new artists in 2024. I'd rather focus on those who are already here, and it will be just fine like that.
Julien Parrot: Well, thank you very much to both of you for being here for this interview, and see you soon!