For almost 20 years, Marianne Dissard has been Tucson's favorite French chanteuse, filmmaker and impresario. Now she's leaving the Old Pueblo to relocate in Europe—Palermo, Sicily, to be exact—but not without saying goodbye to the local music community.
Dissard will give two going-away concerts during the next couple of weeks—one looking back and one looking forward.
On Saturday, March 9, at Club Congress, she will perform with "my old sweethearts," which refers to several of the talented Tucson musicians with whom she has recorded and toured over the years. She'll perform a series of duets with Sergio Mendoza, Gabriel Sullivan, Brian Lopez, Naïm Amor, Andrew Collberg, Connor Gallaher and Clay Koweek.
Also on that bill will be opening act Ricky Tutaan. The Los Angeles band Spain, led by bassist and vocalist Josh Haden, will close the show.
The Club Congress concert is co-presented by the Tucson Weekly, community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM and Tucson Music Factory, the record label Dissard founded last year.
The gig is a fundraiser to assist eight local acts in playing at two different showcases Dissard has booked (through Tucson Music Factory) at the famous South by Southwest Music and Media Conference, from March 12-17 in Austin, Texas.
After SXSW, Dissard will return to town to play a gig Tuesday, March 19, at La Cocina with new musical partner, Budo, a Seattle-based hip-hop composer-musician-DJ-producer known for his previous partnership with the rapper known as Grieves.
The new duo calls their partnership Marianne Dissard :: Budo. "I have a new bandmate, and he's really excited about working, and he's super-creative and available," Dissard said in a recent interview.
At the March 9 show, Dissard and her Tucson duet partners will perform songs from her past albums, such as L'Entredeux, Paris One Takes, L'Abandon and Berlin One Takes.
Also on the verge of being released is Dissard's latest effort, The Cat. Not Me, a collaboration with musician-composer-producer Mendoza. She and Budo have been reworking songs from that album in the new duo format.
"He's the DJ and I am the MC," Dissard joked, adding that Budo also plays several conventional instruments, such as guitar, keyboards and trumpet.
Dissard and Budo will perform these "remixes" of The Cat. Not Me at the March 19 show at La Cocina.
"When I recorded that album with Sergio, a lot of it was him and me wrestling for control and trying to see how many layers we can have, how much instrumentation we needed. And it came out great. But when Budo works on the same songs, he brings a new sensibility and starts weeding things out. And you hear some things that got blended and buried amid the rest of the album."
Dissard said other special guests may appear with her and Budo.
"I have invited lots of my friends to play, but I can't announce the names. It's in the spirit of the (now defunct) Red Room, so whoever comes and plays is whoever comes and plays. I guess it's called curating by default."
Dissard was born in Tarbes, France, 43 years ago and moved to the Phoenix area with her family when she was 16. She first moved to Tucson in 1989, when she took a job as a production assistant on the then-popular tweens TV series Hey Dude, which was shot here. Soon, she headed to Los Angeles to study film at the University of Southern California, returning to Tucson in 1994.
As a documentary filmmaker, Dissard made Drunken Bees, about the band Giant Sand, and Low y Cool, about the culture of lowrider bicycles. In 2010, she directed her first feature film, Lonesome Cowgirls, a remake of Andy Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys.
She began her music career in Tucson in the mid-1990s, writing lyrics for the Amor Belhom Duo (which featured Naïm Amor), and soon after, Joey Burns of Calexico encouraged her to sing. Things snowballed from there.
After several albums and a generation spent in Tucson, Dissard is ready to move on. She's chosen Palermo because it's strategically located to further her career. "I already have a pretty good support system in Europe. My booking agent is in Germany and I've worked with several labels in Europe. Palermo is pretty much two hours from anywhere in Europe."
And Dissard has also fallen in love with the Sicilian city, although she doesn't yet speak the language. "Palermo is the Tucson of Europe," she said.