Axelle Red was born Fabienne Demal in Hasselt, Flanders, Belgium, on February 15, 1968. She is a singer-songwriter. Despite being Flemish, she chose to write and perform songs in the French language. She has achieved great critical success in both Belgium and France. Her musical style varies from jazz to piano ballads.
Fabienne Demal, better known to European music fans as Axelle Red, was born in the north of Belgium, in the Flemish town of Hasselt, on February 15 1968. She was thus brought up in an environment where everyone spoke Dutch. But Axelle's parents were both originally from Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, and at home they would speak to their daughter in French as well as Dutch. So Axelle grew up speaking both languages fluently. (This talent would serve the singer well in later life, for she was able to record her songs in Dutch as well as French and build up a strong following of fans across the whole of Belgium). Axelle's parents would also encourage their daughter's passion for music, introducing her to the sound of legendary American soul stars such as Aretha Franklin - a singer whom Axelle Red still cites as one of her greatest musical influences.
Axelle's passion for music intensified during her teenage years and, besides her love of soul music, she also became a committed Abba fan, learning all the Swedish supergroup's hits by heart. The young teenager also devoted a great deal of time and energy to dance lessons.
Axelle soon proved to have a powerful singing voice and, at the tender age of 15, she was spotted by a talent scout from a Belgian record company. Axelle was immediately invited into the studio to record her first single - and, as they say in the music world, the rest is history. The single "Little Girls" went rocketing to the top of the Belgian Top 50 in 1983, catapulting the young Axelle Red to overnight stardom.
Encouraged by this early success, Axelle began spending more time in the studio and she eventually went on to record a highly accomplished demo tape. In 1985 Axelle's tape would fall into the hands of the English guitarist Mick Ronson (famous for his work with rock legend David Bowie). Ronson was greatly impressed by Axelle's voice and put forward the idea of producing an album with the young Belgian singer. Unfortunately, Ronson's record label, Redbus, rejected the idea of releasing an album by a relative unknown and the project bit the dust. But Axelle gained a great deal of confidence from this experience.
After this brief interlude, Axelle returned to her studies with renewed enthusiasm, dividing her time between a law degree and a drama course at a performing arts school. But in 1988 Axelle would abandon both her law studies and her drama course to launch a full-time singing career, after signing a major recording deal with BMG.
Axelle called upon her brothers, Seff, Daniel and Richard, to help her with her first single and the family songwriting team would come up with Axelle's legendary hit "Kennedy Boulevard". This single proved a huge hit in Belgium, earning Axelle Red her first gold disc in 1988. The following year the young singer was back at the top of the charts with another best-selling single entitled "Aretha et moi".
In 1992 Axelle Red left BMG after signing a new deal with the Belgian branch of Virgin. Instead of returning to the recording studio immediately, however, Axelle would spend the next few months concentrating on writing new material for her first album.
The singer was finally ready to go into the studio the following year and set to work on her debut album, "Sans plus attendre". Released in September of that year, Axelle Red's first album would not only prove a huge smash in Belgium, it would also rocket the young Belgian singer to fame in other European countries. Indeed, the catchy soul and r'n'b fusion of "Sensualité", the first single release from the album, would go on to become an enormous hit in France.
Axelle Red makes music history in belgium
Axelle Red's two follow-up singles "Elle danse seule" and "Je t'attends", soon echoed the success of "Sensualité" in Europe and Quebec. But it was Axelle Red's album "Sans plus attendre" which was to prove the greatest success story of all. Shortly after its release "Sans plus attendre" went gold not once, not twice, but five times in the singer's native Belgium, selling a staggering 500,000 copies - a score which made it the best-selling album of all time in Belgium !
Following this phenomenal success, Axelle Red set off on her first major tour, proving that her exceptional voice was just as impressive on stage as it was on her studio recordings. The young Belgian singer was soon invited to perform at a number of prestigious European music festivals - including the famous Francofolies festival in La Rochelle, where she brought the house down in 1994.
Meanwhile Axelle Red continued with her songwriting, working on new tracks for her second album. In 1995 the singer would achieve one of her greatest childhood dreams, flying out to the U.S.A. to record her second album in a studio in Nashville, the legendary birthplace of country music.
Axelle Red's second album, "A tâtons", was released in October 96. This album, which displayed even greater soul influences than Axelle's first album, featured a number of special guest stars from the soul scene including Isaac Hayes and Steve Cropper, the songwriter responsible for Otis Redding's legendary hit "Dock of the Bay".
The success of Axelle Red's second album established the young singer as one of Belgian's leading musical exports. And at the end of 97 the young Belgian star was chosen, together with Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour, to perform at the opening ceremony of the World Cup (held in France in June 98). The two artists were asked to perform their famous duet "La cour des grands", a song which they performed for the first time at the award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize held in Oslo on 11 December 1997.
On 21 March 1998 Axelle celebrated a happy event in her personal life, when she married her manager/teenage sweetheart Filip Vanes (whom she had known since law school) at a ceremony in Marrakesh (Morocco). Shortly afterwards, Axelle returned to the studio to record a Spanish version of some of her greatest hits, adapted into Spanish by Ignacio Ballesteros. The album, entitled "Con Solo Pensarlo", was released on 8 June 1998. Two days later Axelle, a renowned football fan, performed at the opening ceremony of the World Cup (held at the famous Stade de France) with world music star Youssou N'Dour. This memorable ceremony was broadcast worldwide on satellite TV.
Meanwhile, Axelle Red's album sales continued to go from strength to strength. By the end of 98 sales of Ms. Red's début album had topped the 400,000 mark and her second album, "A tâtons", had sold 370,000 copies to date. Axelle, who has been a passionate soul fan all her life, realised one of her childhood dreams at the end of 98, organising a concert with some of the greatest living legends of the soul scene. On 16 November 1998 the Belgian star presented her special tribute show - appropriately entitled "The Soul of Axelle Red" - at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, taking to the stage with a host of prestigious stars including Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave fame), Eddie Floyd and Percy Sledge.
A few weeks later Axelle Red was due to appear at another major musical event. Fans expected to catch her in concert at Amnesty International's mega-concert (organised at Bercy Stadium in Paris on 10 December 98). However, the flame-haired Belgian star was forced to cancel her appearance at the last moment. Doctors advised Axelle, who was four months pregnant at the time, against performing. On 21 January 1999 the singer gave birth to a baby daughter called Janelle. Although Axelle is apparently delighted with her new role of mother, the singer was eager to get back to work as soon as possible. And it appears that Axelle wasted no time at all - she is already working on material for a new album!
Meanwhile, Axelle's career continues to go from strength to strength. Indeed, on 20 February 99 the young Belgian star triumphed at the 'Victoires de la Musique' (the annual French music awards), carrying off the award for Best Female Artist of the Year.
That same year, she released an album in French. Entitled "Toujours Moi", it featured her hit, "Ce Matin". She then embarked upon a big tour including no less than 400 dates. A public recording released soon after the tour under the title "Alive" reflected the intensity of the experience.
A Duet with Renaud
Exhausted after such a performance, Axelle Red took a year off in 2001 and travelled around the world with her family.
In 2002, Renaud who was working on his new opus asked her for a duet. She agreed and they recorded "Manhattan-Kaboul" which soon rocketed to the top of the French singles chart and scooped up the Victoires de la Musique 2003 as best song of the year.
Going back to the studio to record a new album, Axelle Red decided to pay a tribute to disco music, a genre she had danced upon as a teenager and rediscovered by accident during her year of travelling around. In November 2002, she released "Face A/Face B" that she co-produced with Al Stone (who also works with Jamiroquaï and Björk). The first single was entitled "Je me fâche". Even though she was expecting a child, Axelle Red embarked upon the promoting tour and did two dates at the Olympia on March 28th-29th 2003. On June 24th she gave birth to a little girl called Gloria.
Later that year, the singer's record company released a special boxed 3-CD set of Axelle Red hits which included a compilation of remixes, a series of acoustic piano-vocals numbers and bonus duets with the likes of Arno, Isaac Hayes and Charles Aznavour.
2004 saw the release of "French Soul", the first Axelle Red 'greatest hits' compilation. This included two CDs and a double DVD featuring all the singer's video clips as well as a concert recorded live at Le Bataclan, in Paris, in November 2003 where Axelle took to the stage with four musicians from Memphis.
Axelle Red's vocal talent and her work for humanitarian causes – the singer has worked as an ambassadress for UNICEF since 1997 – were officially recognised on 6 September 2006 when the French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres made her a "Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et Lettres."
2006: "Jardin secret"
2006 found Axelle Red going back to her musical roots, serving up a smooth mix of soul on her new album, "Jardin secret", released in October. Axelle's fifth studio album was recorded in Memphis, in the legendary Royal Studio owned by Al Green's producer Willie Mitchell. Axelle worked with the musicians who had accompanied her on her 2003 tour and the final mix of "Jardin secret" was carried out in Patrice Cramer's studio in Miami.
On 1 October 2006, a week before voting began in Belgium's local elections, Axelle Red took a social stand, performing a free concert in Brussels. The singer took to the stage as part of the "Initiative 0110" festival campaigning against racism and promoting greater tolerance. The festival, which the media billed as an "anti-far right" gig, attracted a major turn-out, drawing a crowd of almost 100,000 from across the country.
The following year, Axelle Red was back on the live circuit, kicking off her "Jardin secret" tour. This included a stint at La Cigale (30 January - 10 February 2007), the venue where she had launched her career in Paris. In keeping with the soft, soul ambience of her album, Axelle kept her concerts as low-key and intimate as possible. All of them revolved around the same principle: 50 minutes of "Jardin Secret" followed by a handful of hits from her chart-topping years.
Straddling Belgium's linguistic and cultural divide, Axelle Red has achieved enormous popularity in both the north and south of her homeland. The young Belgian singer has also proved herself to be one of the rare European artists capable of following in Aretha Franklin's footsteps and performing real soul music