The phone rang, showing a +33 international code from France. It was 1:00pm in Los Angeles and 9:00pm in France when the Ones to Watch team spoke with Mehdi Benjelloun, aka Petit Biscuit, about his debut album Presence. The album was recently released on Nov. 10, coinciding with his 18th birthday.
This transition into adulthood is paralleled by the unprecedented maturity we hear from Petit Biscuit on the album. Although “Sunset Lover” and his self-titled debut EP rapidly launched the French producer into the spotlight, with Presence, the now 18-year-old artist has firmly established himself in the out-of-the-box electronic realm. The album covers a range of different tempos, instruments, electronic elements, sweet vocals, distorted vocals, and even Benjelloun’s voice. It also features several incredible artists like Bipolar Sunshine, Lido, and one of our new favorites, Cautious Clay.
The first track, “Creation Comes Alive,” has a build-up that serves as a beautiful introduction for the album. It eventually works into a dance rhythm with SONIA lending her mesmerizing voice to the end of the track. The electronic tone of the album is immediately established by this introduction while also building expectation for what the following songs have to offer. “Creation Comes Alive” is followed by “Problems” featuring Lido, which immediately showcases Petit Biscuit’s production diversity—“Problems” has more of an electro-pop sound to it with feel-good vibes that are unique to the album and reminiscent of earlier work. Presence includes Petit Biscuit’s previously released singles, “Beam,” “Gravitation,” and “Waterfall,” all of which heightened the excitement leading up to the drop. From more electronic/trap tracks such as the “The End” to pop vibes from “Problems” to chill, almost nostalgic tracks like “Gravitation,” Presence demonstrates Benjelloun’s production dexterity. Of course, his debut album wouldn’t be complete without the iconic “Sunset Lover.”
Presence firmly establishes Benjelloun’s proficiency in electronic production, but it’s also interesting to note that most of the songs on the album open with a real instrument. Benjelloun has seamlessly incorporated piano, guitar, violin, and other instruments into Presence, highlighting the classical training he began at a young age. We got to ask the young artist some questions about this musical training and learn more about him overall, discussing the meaning behind the title track, balancing school, and much more.
As mentioned, Benjelloun is embarking on tour again very soon. Be sure to grab your tickets to hear him live, and stream Presence below:
OTW: You started to formally learn music at quite a young age. How did you start learning to play instruments?
Petit Biscuit: I started studying music at five years old, practicing the cello. I was in music school and then started to learn the piano and guitar. I was really curious about production, so I downloaded software and started making music. I think I was around 12 years old when I wanted to just try to make something and learn how to make music. It’s a really long process, but when you start really young, it’s easier.
OTW: So you were quite young when you started to make music.
Petit Biscuit: Yeah, it wasn’t really good (laughs). I was around 12 years old and just wanted to make music. I was discovering a lot of really good music, and that’s why I wanted to make my own and not copy other artists. I was thinking about how I can have my own vision within music. When I was like 14 years old, I released my first track, “Palms.” I released a few more tracks before “Sunset Lover,” and “Sunset Lover” was released about one year later when I was 15.
OTW: I heard that you’re still in school while creating music as well. Has that ever been difficult to balance?
Petit Biscuit: I just really wanted to have time to make music in my life. It wasn’t really easy, but when you’re passionate, you just know how to balance your time between music and school.
OTW: Let’s start talking about the new album, which I really love!
Petit Biscuit: Thank you so much.
OTW: What does the name “Presence” mean, and why did you pick that song for the title track?
Petit Biscuit: Petit Biscuit: I consider “Presence” as more of an evolution in my career. I want to just make my music larger and show people I’m an electronic artist. That’s why I really love “Presence,” because it’s the track that changed the album. It’s also a universal word. It’s the same in French and English.
OTW: What was creating the album like? How long did it take you, and did you have an idea of what you wanted to create before you started?
Petit Biscuit: It started with a large idea. I just thought about creating something that I like. I started making some pieces and concepts one year ago, and it was really one of the greatest experiments in my life. I wanted to include in my tracks something more dynamic, and that’s why the album is a bit different from what I’ve released before in my projects. In this album, I think I’m more comfortable with the idea of electronic music. When I first started, my projects were more like pop music. I just want to be more comfortable with electronic music, and that’s why the album is a bit different from what I’ve released before. I’m really excited to see what people think about this album.
OTW: I completely agree. Even with “Presence,” the song itself is more electronic. Do you have any favorite tracks from the album?
Petit Biscuit: It’s hard to choose, but “Presence” is one of my favorites. All of the tracks are really different, and I really like some tracks because they’re collaborations. I also sing on some of the tracks, “Forever Being” and “On The Road,” which are important to me too. I really like them because it’s more me. I love all the tracks for different reasons (laughs). It’s so hard to pick. I can’t choose.
OTW: Like you said, you have some amazing artists that contributed to the album as well, like Lido, Bipolar Sunshine, Panama, and Cautious Clay. What were those collaborations like?
Petit Biscuit: All of the collaborations were really different, but all of the people I worked with were really professional. Lido, Panama, SONIA, they all have unique voices. It was really fun. With Lido, I met him in Paris, and he listened to some of my new tracks and one of the demos, and he said to me that he really wanted to sing on it. So he sent me something, and it was really amazing. With Panama, he works in Australia, so I didn’t meet him. We only interacted digitally. It was really different, but all of them have unique voices that fit with the tracks.
OTW: I think the Lido track is one of my favorites on the album.
Petit Biscuit: I really like that one too.
OTW: You’re also releasing the track on your 18th birthday, so happy early birthday (laughs).
Petit Biscuit: (laughs) Yeah, thank you!
OTW: Is there any particular reason, or did the timing just work out?
Petit Biscuit: The timing was really perfect. I think it’s a good symbol that I’m releasing the album on my birthday. The album is a little bit different from what I’ve released before, and I’ve grown up. I wanted to just blend the two events as one big event.
OTW: You definitely still have a long career ahead of you. Do you have any specific goals for the near future?
Petit Biscuit: I’m already thinking of a new album and what I can do to make my shows bigger and louder. I’m always thinking about the future, like the tour, new production…I have a lot of projects.
OTW: You’re going on tour soon, right?
Petit Biscuit: That’s right, in November. I’m going on tour in France, playing in some big venues. I’m coming back to the U.S. in December.
OTW: I know some producers say it’s hard to take their music into the live realm. Was that ever difficult for you?
Petit Biscuit: Yeah, maybe a little. You…
(In true international call fashion, the line dropped at this point. Thankfully, we managed to reconnect.)
Petit Biscuit: I was saying that it’s hard to reimagine how people can enjoy your music when taking your tracks to live performances. You have to think about other people want to see you when you play live, but it’s really exciting to think about how I can have the most beautiful reaction from the crowd.
OTW: As a young artist, do you have any advice you can give to other young artists who were once in your position?
Petit Biscuit: Some universal advice would be never give up, even if you have a small following, you just have to continue and make your own music. Don’t be scared to show who you are and just try to propose something unique. Also, I think it’s good advice to take one or two years of learning an instrument. For me, it was easier when I started producing because I knew how to play instruments.
OTW: Are there any rising artists you recommend other people check out?
Petit Biscuit: I have so many (laughs). I really love Bearcubs. He’s an English artist. He has a unique touch to his music. It’s really elegant. I also really love Knox Fortune. He makes some weird sounds, and he has a very interesting vibe on his tracks. I think he brings something new.