Madeleine Peyroux’s style was shaped by that of classic jazz vocalist Billie Holiday, and her singing uncannily resembles that of the famous Holiday.
Yet Peyroux couldn’t be called a Billie Holiday imitator. She played the guitar, and there’s a folk singer’s attitude in her music. Like Norah Jones, whose success paved the way for her, Peyroux has recorded not just jazz and pop compositions, but also songs from other sources such as classic country and folk-rock—and from her own pen. Her stage presence, a deadpan—slightly distant slice of California cool—differs greatly from Holiday’s world of sophisticated hurt.
And this contradiction—Holiday channeler yet independent artist—was just one of several that Peyroux has embodied: she’s American and French, retro yet something of a rebel, and a classic stylist yet an artist who agonized over finding her own voice.