Back in 2014, the world discovered Josef Salvat through a Sony advertisement on TV but I guess we all forget about this ad, and only remembered his cover of Rihanna’s song “Diamonds”. Immediately, Salvat became the male pop artist to watch, following the release, he was everywhere, on the radio and on French TV with his song “Opening Season”. The same year, he told me how immediate the success was, after these radio-friendly singles and that he was ready for the next step. But a couple of weeks after this, Josef remained silent and suddenly disappeared. Even on social media, he was “off”. He just got the time to share a picture of his new haircut, where he shaved his skull. But he just disappeared. 

We all know how difficult it is to make a major success when your previous record was successful. But what really happened to Josef Salvat five years later? Fans may take this article like a Salvat-Intivesgation-Tabloid paper but no. I think Josef was that much more intelligent to tell his fans and the music industry that he had been through something called: modern anxiety. This is the name of the first promo single (as well as the album, which will be out next May via Columbia/Sony) which was released back in November. This song seems to be the answer we expected him to have since he left the spotlight.

Early January, Salvat decided to explore his sexuality openly with the official first single of this upcoming record, the song is called “In the Afternoon”, and in the video, the singer seems to be openly bisexual. So “Modern Anxiety” has all the answers you need to know about Josef’s life and if you want some more pieces of information, you can read till the end this friendly conversation. It happened in Paris some days ago, in one of my favorite Parisian’s place, Le Grand Amour Hotel, and all you need to know concerning Josef is that he does not care anymore to be your number one singer on the charts, but he just wants to live his best life like a normal 30 something guy who loves beers, organic wine and being alone with his dog. 

The last time we met in 2015 you were on the top of the charts and I feel that you decided immediately to escape from this success, did all that happened too quickly?

Yes, 100%. It happened too quickly and also in a way like too slowly. I don’t know if it makes sense what I’m saying but creatively I was not prepared for this. What happened at the end, I was out of juice, I don’t know why but I was not writing songs for myself. I was really unhappy as everything I was writing at that time was just bullshit. I was very depressed…And I was very tired, travelling all the time and I did not have a community and I was not with my friends and my parents…I was not happy with my life.

On the other side, there were many changes at Sony UK. My team was changing so I was a little bit confused. There were two main things: I was changing my process creating new songs and this internal change was making everything slow. So I quite London and I did not want to come to Paris, because it could be a very dangerous city for me. I was like ‘I’m gonna go to Berlin, ironically thinking it will be very healthy for me’ (laughs)..I was like I’m gonna ride my bike and doing yoga but no (laughs)…because actually when you go to Berlin, it’s to fuck up with yourself (laughs)…The first six months were amazing but the second six months were horrible…and then I’ve moved back to London to write the new album. It was an up and down process…the only way to do that album was to be in peace with myself…it took the time it took even if it was frustrating …now back in London, I’ve got a dog and I took the time to finish this record.

And this was your modern anxiety moment? 

Yes, it was about everything. Social media? I just fuck up with this for ages. After all, I was just like “I don’t want your attention because I have no music to give you, and I don’t want your likes, it makes me feel bad” Also when I stopped getting likes it was horrible. Social media makes me feel desperate…

For the last music video of the first record, “Paradise”, you seem to escape this fame, was this a subconscious alarming message? 

I was definitely angry. I felt like creatively I was frustrated and with the director of the video, we decided to make this subconsciously. I was angry with myself, the whole thing, I did not achieve what I wanted to achieve, it became superficial and this was the worst feeling…

So now, in 2020 you are in peace with yourself? 

Not yet (laughs) but I love myself – I have my power back. The best way to do what I’m doing, I’m more confident about this. And if people don’t like it it’s not my problem anymore. I’m trying to be honest as I can. To be in peace with myself will be so boring… but I do like myself in this kind of way.

And you seem to be more at ease about your sexuality now?

Absolutely. That was a lot of work. You know I was feeling ashamed like not being brave and to straight-up apart. It took time to be comfortable with that idea that people will always put you in a box. But that’s the history that I can tell. And I was worried about judgment from both sides, from queer people, for not representing the queerness properly; talking about my discomfit of my queerness approach in this industry.  The song “Hustle” was about that. Now I’m very happy.

And how did your team react about it?

They were so supportive! It’s not a problem, it was only a problem in my head for me.

Do you feel that pop culture changed since 2015? 

Yes, it is so different, so much more freedom.

You do not feel too old?

I did but now no at all. I’m not Billie Ellish but this is my story..a lot of people lie about their age but I don’t…

In your songs “No Vacancies” you sing “There are no vacancies for freaks like you and me”, so how freak are you? 


Or in general?

I guess to be limitless. When you got a desire for someone who is the total opposite of you…in Berlin, I was in a relationship and having this idea living in a fantasy can be freaky…for me, you are freak in your mind.

Listening to another song on your upcoming album, “Melt”, and I was wondering what’s your favorite anti-anxiety drink? Last time you told me, you like drinking champagne with ice…

I managed to get a dry month with no alcohol, no sugar and coffee- but I was starving (laughs)…At a moment it was organic wine so I was a real bobo (laughs)…

But if I had a shitty day, I would drink beer and red wine, I have stopped drinking champagne as there’s too much sugar and the hangovers are so bad…also in London, you can’t get good champagne and it’s so expensive… I can’t spend £50 every day on champagne. I mean, I had some success but I can’t afford this every day (laughs). So natural red wine or beer…drinking on my own in my apartment even if it’s very sad…

For many people, the second album is the most difficult one, you feel this too? 

So hard…it’s a big cliché but yes the second album is hard. Because if you have any success with the first album, you need to make a choice to know if you wanna be an artist or not. Are you making music to entertain the gallery or you want to make real art? And art is not for everybody. If you want to make only art, then you have this question: is that gonna be good or shit art? And that’s very scary…

Christine and the Queens faced this…French people were so rude with her second record…

They love her in the UK…she’s so great…she is fucking smart and brave. On this album, I wanted to make songs you can play on a piano or songs you can sing acapella. My love for music is these 10 songs on this record. The label wants more and there are more songs but I wanted something people can listen easily at a single moment.

You also sing in French, any French album project? 

I have French songs…its an idea, I’m planning to do this but I would like to make an original French album and not a translated one. I need more time to make it really special.

And lastly what’s your best Rihanna songs to party?

Oh, I like that question (laughs)…definitely “Work”…”Anti” is one of my favorite album in my life. This album is incredible, and “please don’t stop the music” is good too, I love that song that I listen to it during six days when I was in a road trip in Australia – we were listening to this all time. ‘Needed me’ is a good pole-dance song too…”Bitch better have my money” was an amazing party song too…

Rihanna is a fucking genius and she takes her time and I like that. She is an artist who can do whatever she wants in this music industry. The different for example with Adele is that she can sing the song “Stay” but not “Work”, Rihanna can do both, that’s fantastic!

Josef Salvat shot on 35mm by Inès Ziouane in Casablanca and shoes by AMI; interview by Ivica Mamedy