When COVID-19 hit this spring, musician Emel Mathlouthi was visiting her family in Tunisia to celebrate her father’s 85th birthday. As everything shut down, she found herself trapped there as a short trip unexpectedly stretched to months. She wrote in the announcement:
I was separated from my husband, my band, my collaborators, and all my equipment. But I was immersed in a feeling of nostalgia and memory, surrounded by the blossoming wildflowers, tweeting birds, and blue skies of my hometown. Also, thankfully I was sheltered in with two of my favorite people in the world. Together we were three generations under the same roof – free from school, work, and from outside world distractions.
These feelings drove me to want to create, and to revisit the old spirits that haunted my early years as an artist. All I had with me was my laptop and a simple tape recorder, but through Facebook I was able to find a fan who lent me a classical guitar (a kind of guitar I haven’t played since I was 18!) and a mini-USB cable which made it so I could make decent recordings.
She used that minimal equipment to record her new album The Tunis Diaries on top of her family’s rooftop in Tunis. The album contains two types of covers: Covers of artists that influenced her and “covers” of her own songs, stripped way down from the powerful electronica-meets-Middle-Eastern music she’s embraced on recent albums. She tackles David Bowie, Nirvana, and Rammstein, and gives a proper recording to the live Jeff Buckley cover we wrote about last year. Maybe the best of the bunch, though, is her mesmerizing version of Placebo’s 1999 single “Every You Every Me.”
“I’ve always loved the song so much,” Emel tells Cover Me in an email. “I struggled to record it as it’s a high pitch. I’ve always refused to change the key… I thought it was perfect for the song to convey its beautiful feeling. I had to redo it so many times I felt helpless, but at the same time I was so inspired each time because I felt supported by the frogs and cicadas blasting from surrounding hills that kept me going.”
Listen to Emel’s “Every You Every Me” cover below, then pick up the full album at Bandcamp.