For Il Divo tenor Sébastien Izambard, making the solo album We Came Here To Love was a creative necessity. After spending over a decade with the wildly successful classical crossover group, the Paris native felt compelled to get back to his pop songwriting roots, and share the life experiences and intimate observations he's amassed while touring the world.
"I needed to write songs again," he says simply. "That's what feeds me as a human being, being able to absorb all the things that happen in the world and digest them through music. Artists are like a mirror: We have the luxury to reflect experiences back to people.”
Izambard wrote or co-wrote some of the songs featured on the album We Came Here To Love. The result is a lush and enveloping pop record with many sonic moods. "Easy" is a seductive dance floor swerve with house music flourishes; "Up" is brisk electro with percolating beats; and "Cheer Me Up" is a sophisticated disco-pop rush. In contrast, "Blind Heart" is an R&B-tinged ballad with majestic strings, while the cinematic "We Came Here To Love" soars with piano and Izambard's moving and powerful vocal performance. Plus, a bonus track fully in Spanish, titled “Hablemos,” in honor to all his fans in Spanish speaking countries and Brazil.
We Came Here To Love's lyrics demonstrate an equally versatile range. Songs profile a protagonist, who's focused on living in the now ("Up"); encourage people to keep the faith and move forward despite obstacles ("Ashes") and learn to let go of romantic baggage ("Blind Heart," "Goodbye My Lover"); and stress the importance of embracing love ("We Came Here to Love").
As the latter song implies, Izambard made sure that We Came Here To Love possessed the kind of emotional depth he himself has developed over time. "I didn't make a record to please anybody," he says. "It had to be a record that talks to me and is personal to me. I really wanted the record to represent me where I am today in my life."
That doesn't mean the new album is completely serious: After all, the record also makes room for the irresistible modern pop nod "Love Again," whose sleek, contemporary production cloaks lyrics about learning how to love again after being cheated on and the trust is broken.
"It was a fun track to do. I was like, 'Let me be 20 for a moment,'" Izambard says with a laugh. "And that's what I like about the record -- I can be 44, but I can also be 20. You get older and that's what you can do -- you can swing between those two worlds. It's so important to know how to have fun in life. Today I have a lot of responsibilities but it doesn't mean life has to be heavy…quite the contrary.
Izambard isn't afraid of such responsibilities -- after all, he recorded We Came Here To Love completely on his own (without the backing of a record label and without a studio deadline) and the help and support of his amazing wife. For some artists, having this kind of freedom could be daunting. However, Izambard found this process liberating and inspiring, as evidenced by one of the album's most moving songs, the Coldplay-reminiscent "Unchained."
"The song is about freeing ourselves, doing the things we love and envisioning things in our life and making it possible," he says. "I never thought I'd be able to do what I did with this record, but I made it happen because I had a vision."
It helped that Izambard was incredibly disciplined while crafting We Came Here To Love. He came up with themes and ideas even before starting to write songs, which gave his songwriting greater focus, and was honest about what he wanted to explore.
"I could have done a throwaway record," he admits. "But I took the time to make sure that it is a record that is meaningful and not disposable. I feel like I owed it to myself to use my experiences and put it on my record. I wanted to use all my mistakes of life and the things that I had learned and share them with whoever might be touched."
To translate these ideas into reality, Izambard sought out some of modern pop music's biggest talents, including producer John Coggins. Working with these collaborators was a "humble process," Izambard admits, but one he wholeheartedly embraced.
"When I opened my mind, I was able to learn so much from these guys," he says. "Incredible. I'm so grateful that I stayed open to their suggestions and I think we've learned a lot from each other working in the studio."
Among the lessons he absorbed was how to pair his innate knack for melody -- something he honed growing up playing piano and guitar, as a fan of the Beatles, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin -- with contemporary sounds and production.
Izambard also adjusted his vocal style from Il Divo's vibrato-heavy delivery to a more pop-leaning timbre, a shift that sounds natural due to his background. He released his first solo album, Libre, in 2000, which spawned a No. 1 French chart hit, "Si Tu Savais," and has collaborated with Savage Garden's Darren Hayes and other French artists. In 2014, Izambard also produced the benefit album, “Bringing Hope For Isla and Jude,” which featured an all-star cast of musicians (Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes, Luke Steele from Empire Of The Sun) covering Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work."
Il Divo's phenomenal success -- over 30 million albums sold worldwide and sold-out tours around the globe --has certainly kept Izambard busy. Still, fans of the band can rest easy: Izambard releasing We Came Here To Love doesn't mean the group is going anywhere. If anything, this record is simply another chapter in his musical history, a way for him to spread more love, light and positivity throughout the world.
"In my heart, I feel that the world is screaming for love, we just have to listen and be in tune with it" he says. "As an individual, it's important that to me that I am the most loving self I can be so that I can give love to others. I owe it to the world to be my best self. I believe that if we all do this, truly the world becomes a better place. And I do believe in the power of love. I do believe that it can work miracles, try it what have you got to lose?"