People

Nolwenn Leroy – biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

IntroFrench singer
A.K.A.Nolwenn Le Magueresse
Is Singer 
Songwriter 
Musician 
Pianist 
From France 
Type Music 
Genderfemale
Birth 28 September 1982, Saint-Renan, France
Age:37 years
Star sign Libra
Family
Father: Jean-Luc Le Magueresse 
Genre:
Pop music
World music
Pop-folk
Instruments:
Celtic harp
Voice

Nolwenn Le Magueresse (born 28 September 1982 in Saint-Renan, Brittany, France), known by her stage name Nolwenn Leroy ( [nolwɛn ləʁwa]), is a French singer-songwriter, musician and voice actress.

Originally classically trained (violin and opera singing), she rose to fame after winning the second season of the French television music competition Star Academy, in 2002. She has since recorded seven studio albums and scored two number one singles, “Cassé” and “Nolwenn Ohwo!”, on the French charts. In 2012, her album Bretonne was certified two times diamond for sales exceeding one million copies.

Leroy is fluent in English, having spent a year in the US as an exchange student. She sings in many languages, including French, Breton, English and Irish. She has also performed in Italian and Spanish.

Leroy has received numerous awards and nominations. In January 2015, she was ranked 17th on Le Journal du Dimanche’s 50 Most Loved Celebrities in France, making her the top female singer on the list since December 2012.

Early life and career beginnings

Leroy’s parents left Saint-Renan (Finistère) when she was four years old. After living in Paris, Lille, and Guingamp, her mother, Muriel Leroy, and her younger sister, Kay, settled with Leroy’s grandparents in Saint-Yorre. Her mother divorced from her father, professional footballer Jean-Luc Le Magueresse, in 1993.

Nolwenn studied at the “Collège des Célestins” in Vichy. When Leroy was eleven, her music teacher noticed her musical talents and encouraged her to learn the violin. At the age of thirteen she won “Les écoles du désert”, a contest sponsored by the Cora supermarket chain, which allowed her to travel with a humanitarian mission from Gao to Timbuktu, Mali; she later claimed this had a profound influence on her.

In July 1998, Leroy was awarded a scholarship by the Vichy Rotary Club to travel to Hamilton, Ohio, United States, as an exchange student. While attending Hamilton High School, she took music lessons at the Performing Arts School and became fluent in English during her stay there. When she returned to France, she began classical singing classes at the Vichy music conservatory. In 2001, she enrolled in the University of Clermont-Ferrand to study law for a potential alternative career to music.

Career

2002: Star Academy

After watching the first series of Star Academy broadcast on TF1 in 2001, Leroy was impressed by Armande Altaï, a singing teacher and one of the show’s judges, and decided to join Altaï’s singing classes in Paris for over six months. In 2002, Nolwenn was selected for the second season of the show, but she was also given the part of Scarlett O’Hara in the French stage musical Autant en emporte le vent (Gone with the Wind) by Gérard Presgurvic. Leroy finally chose the television singing competition over the musical and joined the Dammarie-lès-Lys castle in late August 2002, where she followed acting, dancing and singing classes for four months. She was declared the overall winner, ahead of her fellow finalist, Houcine Camara, on 21 December 2002.

2003–04: Eponymous debut album

Leroy’s first album, Nolwenn, was released in March 2003 and was certified platinum by November for sales exceeding 300,000 copies. In 2006, the album was certified two times platinum by the Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique (SNEP) for more than 600,000 copies sold. Both the album and the hit single “Cassé” topped the charts in France and Belgium. Three further songs from the album were released as singles: “Une Femme cachée”, “Suivre une étoile” and “Inévitablement”. Leroy went on tour in France, Belgium and Switzerland in late 2003 to promote songs from the album.

2005–08: Histoires Naturelles

Leroy’s second album, Histoires Naturelles, was released on 5 December 2005. It was produced by Laurent Voulzy and Frank Eulry. The album’s lead single “Nolwenn Ohwo!”, co-written by Alain Souchon, Voulzy and Leroy herself, topped the French charts. The second single was the title track, “Histoire Naturelle”. Music videos were made for both songs; the video for “Histoire Naturelle” expressed the main theme of the album with Leroy being portrayed as natural history museum exhibits. Of the other single releases, “Mon Ange” was distributed digitally while “J’aimais tant l’aimer” and “Reste Encore” were promotional-only. The album reached platinum status with 400,000 copies sold. Songs from Histoires Naturelles and Nolwenn were performed on Leroy’s second tour entitled “Histoires Naturelles Tour”, which started in September 2006. It was followed by a Summer Tour in 2007. Leroy’s first live album was subsequently released in late October 2007.

2009–10: Le Cheshire Cat et Moi

Le Cheshire Cat & Moi was a project that began in 2007, co-written by Leroy and Teitur Lassen, with contributions from Jonatha Brooke, Michelle Featherstone, Mike Errico and Rupert Hine. It was arranged and produced by Lassen, and recorded in Sweden and the Faroe Islands. The album’s lead single, “Faut-il, faut-il pas ?”, was released in November 2009 along with a music video directed by Yoann Lemoine. Leroy was observed to feature “a lighter sound than on previous releases” and the album gave the opportunity for her to write all the lyrics. The album was released on 7 December 2009 and was later certified gold. A tour entitled “Le Cheshire Cat & Vous” to promote the record was held in 2010.

2010–12: Bretonne

Leroy released a fourth studio album, Bretonne, on 6 December 2010. Cover versions of traditional Celtic songs such as “Mná na h-Éireann”, “Tri Martolod”, “La Jument de Michao”, and contemporary songs such as Christophe Miossec’s “Brest” were included on the album. Most of the songs related to Brittany, the singer’s birthplace, four sung in Breton (“Tri Martolod”, “Suite Sudarmoricaine”, “Bro Gozh ma Zadoù”, “Karantez Vro”), one in Irish (“Mná na h-Éireann”), and the others in French and English. Leroy collaborated with Jon Kelly for the musical arrangements. The album topped the French album charts for 7 weeks and the Belgian album charts for 5 weeks. It was certified double diamond by the SNEP for sales exceeding one million copies.

The album was re-released in November 2011 as a Deluxe Edition which added 7 English language tracks, including “Amazing Grace”, “Scarborough Fair” and two Mike Oldfield tracks, “Moonlight Shadow” and “To France”. The American version of the album, retitled Nolwenn, was released on 8 January 2013 with a different track listing. The album peaked at number 10 on the Billboard’s World Album chart. Leroy made her New York City debut at Drom.

As part of the Bretonne Tour, Leroy played over 100 dates in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. In June 2012, she performed as a special guest with The Chieftains in Paris.

2012–16: Ô Filles de l’Eau

Leroy’s fifth album, Ô Filles de l’eau, was released on 26 November 2012, preceded by the lead single “Juste pour me souvenir”. The album was produced by Jon Kelly and recorded in London. The title reads ‘O Daughters of the Water’ but is phonetically similar to ‘au fil de l’eau’ (‘with the current/flow’). Like Bretonne, it contains Celtic inspired music but with more ocean themed lyrics. It includes two tracks in English (“Homeland” and “Limitless”). “Homeland” contains the James Horner composed theme of the film Braveheart. “Ahès” is the only Breton-language song of the album. Leroy wrote and co-composed 9 songs, including the singles “Juste pour me souvenir”, “Sixième continent”, “J’ai volé le lit de la mer” and “Ophélia”. The album cover was created by Australian artist Vee Speers, inspired by her portrait series, Immortal. Reviews of the album were strong, with some praising Leroy’s vocal ability and Celtic music and lyrics, noting that her singing in English and Breton was brave and proved her to be an evolving artist, with strong sales to match. Two months after its release, the album was certified triple platinum by the SNEP. Furthermore, it was named RTL’s Album of the Year 2013.

In 2013, Leroy toured France, Belgium and Switzerland in support of the album. Additionally, she was a special guest soloist on Vladimir Cosma’s symphonic tour in France. In early 2014, she was nominated at the World Music Awards for the first time, in four categories: World’s Best Album (Bretonne), World’s Best Entertainer, World’s Best Female Artist, and World’s Best Live Act.

In 2014, she provided several songs in English and French for the Academy Awards-nominated animated film Song of the Sea, and voiced the character of Bronagh in the film’s French version.
On 3 May 2014, Leroy performed the Breton anthem “Bro Gozh ma Zadoù” at the Stade de France before 80,000 spectators, for the 2014 Coupe de France Final (aired on France 2) opposing two Breton clubs, the Stade Rennais to EA Guingamp.

Leroy’s second live CD/DVD, Ô Tour de L’Eau, recorded in Saint-Brieuc, was released on 1 December 2014. In March 2015, she embarked on an acoustic tour in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

On 11 June 2015, she was invited to talk about her career at Oxford University. In November 2015, Leroy announced that she would perform at Celtic Connections in Glasgow’s City Halls on 30 January 2016, along with Karen Matheson.

2017–present: Gemme

On 13 May 2017, she released “Gemme”, the first single from her sixth studio album Gemme (English: Gem), produced in London by Jamie Ellis. The album was released on 1 September 2017. Leroy wrote and co-composed most of the songs. The album features three songs in English: “Run It Down” and two poems by Edgar Allan Poe set to music (“A Dream” and “The Lake”). The other songs are in French. “Stephen” refers to a theory by Stephen Hawking. A Limited Edition was released on 8 December 2017, including two remixes and two acoustic versions. In March 2018, Leroy embarked on the 55-date Gemme Tour through France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Medical research

Leroy’s music was studied for its neurological impact in geriatric populations. Researchers found that Leroy’s recordings might have a more beneficial effect than other music, noting that: “the music of Nolwenn Leroy was found to be significantly superior to other music tested”. To describe the phenomenon they coined the term the Nolwenn Effect, saying: “the music of Nolwenn Leroy appears to have a different effect on brain-based modulation of gait and stance than other music tested to date”.

Mozart and Dutch and French singers were tested; only Mozart and Leroy’s music were specified. The U.S. study was completed in February 2008, but no substantial results appear to be published.

Endorsements

In 2011, Leroy appeared in two television commercials for the Nintendo 3DS and she became the face of Pantene for France and Belgium.

Philanthropy

In 2006, she joined the Les Enfoirés charity ensemble and she became one of the Abbé Pierre Foundation’s patrons for housing people in need.

On 27 November 2015, she participated together with Camélia Jordana and Yael Naim at the national memorial day for the victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks singing the song “Quand on n’a que l’amour” from Jacques Brel.

Personal life

Since 2008 she has been in a relationship with Arnaud Clément, former French professional tennis player and captain of the France Davis Cup team.

Discography

Studio albums

YearTitlePeak chart positionsCertificationsSales
FRA

BEL (Wa)

SWI

GER

QC (Fr)

US (World)

KOR

KOR (Int)

2003 Nolwenn112
  • FRA: 2× Platinum
  • BEL: Platinum
  • SWI: Gold
600,000
2005 Histoires Naturelles3744
  • FRA: Platinum
  • BEL: Gold
400,000
2009 Le Cheshire Cat et moi2632
  • FRA: Gold
50,000
2010 Bretonne112013910349
  • FRA: 2× Diamond
  • BEL: 2× Platinum
  • SWI: Gold
1,200,000
2012 Ô Filles de l’Eau553560
  • FRA: 3× Platinum
  • BEL: Gold
350,000
2017 Gemme3315
  • FRA: Gold
2018 Folk6528
  • FRA: Gold
“—” denotes an album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

YearTitlePeak chart positions
FRA

BEL (Wa)

SWI

GER

2007 Histoires Naturelles Tour2521
2014 Ô Tour de l’Eau2636
“—” denotes an album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Singles

YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum
2003“Cassé”114 Nolwenn
“Une Femme Cachée”402378
“Suivre Une Étoile”122444
2004“Inévitablement”3126
2006“Nolwenn Ohwo !”1329 Histoires Naturelles
“Histoire Naturelle”3039
“Mon Ange”146*
2007“J’aimais Tant L’Aimer”
“Reste Encore”
2009“Faut-il, Faut-il Pas ?”6* Le Cheshire Cat et moi
2010“Textile Schizophrénie”
“Suite Sudarmoricaine”19* Bretonne
“Mná na h-Éireann”25*
“La Jument de Michao”3613
2011“Tri Martolod”5129
“Brest”42
“Moonlight Shadow”4832 Bretonne (Deluxe Edition)
2012“Juste pour me souvenir”4313 Ô Filles de l’Eau
2013“Sixième continent”11*
“J’ai volé le lit de la mer”4*
2014“Ophélia” (Live)12* Ô Tour de l’eau
2017“Gemme”287* Gemme
“Bien plus précieux”91
“Ce que je suis”95
“Trace ton chemin”4*
“—” denotes a single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Other charted songs

YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum
2017“Quelque chose de Tennessee”96 On a tous quelque chose de Johnny

Music videos

YearTitle
2003“Cassé”
“Une femme cachée”
“Suivre une étoile”
2004“Inévitablement”
“Le dernier mot”
2005“Nolwenn Ohwo !”
2006“Histoire Naturelle”
“Mon Ange”
2009“Faut-il, faut-il pas ?”
2010“Mná na h-Éireann” (Women of Ireland)
“La Jument de Michao”
2011“Tri Martolod”
2012“Juste pour me souvenir”
2013“Sixième continent”
2017“Gemme”

Other charted songs

YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum
2014“La ballade nord-irlandaise”142 La Bande à Renaud
2016“Un enfant assis attend la pluie”135 Balavoine(s)
“—” denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

As featured artist

YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum
2007“Aimer à perdre la raison”22 La Caravane des Enfoirés
“L’amitié”7 Les secrets des Enfoirés
2012“Without You”9149 Le bal des Enfoirés
“Attention au départ”5349 La boîte à musique des Enfoirés
2013“Jeanne”4425
2014“Laissez-nous chanter”196 Bon anniversaire les Enfoirés
“Dès que le vent soufflera”9614* La Bande à Renaud
“Lucie”193 Kiss & Love
“—” denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Soundtracks

  • 2012: Die Wanderhure – Best Of (German TV movies)
  • 2014: Song of the Sea (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and its French version Le Chant de la Mer

Voice acting

  • 2012: Rise of the Guardians by Peter Ramsey, French voice of Tooth Fairy
  • 2013: Lady Ô (evening show at the Futuroscope), the storyteller
  • 2014: Song of the Sea by Tomm Moore, French voice of Bronagh

Horse riding

Leroy owns a horse named El Aberkan. She showed her horse riding and jumping skills on unfamiliar horses a couple of times for French TV shows broadcast on France 2, including the 50th Gala de l’Union des Artistes charity in 2011, alongside Alexis Gruss.

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryResult
2004NRJ Music AwardsFrancophone Breakthrough of the YearWon
2006Étoiles Chérie FMÉtoile de la SensibilitéWon
Étoile Chérie FMWon
Song of the YearWon
2007Female Artist of the YearWon
France Bleu TalentsAudience Choice PrizeWon
2010Le TélégrammeGrand Prix du DisqueWon
2011Breton of the YearWon
Planète Musique Mag (France 2)Planète Musique Mag d’orWon
RTL – MetronewsRTL Album of the YearNominated
RTL – Le ParisienPerson of the YearWon
2012NRJ Music AwardsFrancophone Female Artist of the YearNominated
Francophone Song of the YearNominated
Best-selling Francophone Album of the YearWon
Victoires de la MusiqueFemale Artist of the YearNominated
Globes de Cristal AwardBest Female ActNominated
Bro Gozh ma ZadoùPrix Bro Gozh ma ZadoùWon
2013NRJ Music AwardsFrancophone Female Artist of the YearNominated
Globes de Cristal AwardBest Female ActNominated
Grands Prix de l’UNACGrand Prix de l’UNACWon
RTL – MetronewsRTL Album of the YearWon
2014World Music AwardsWorld’s Best AlbumNominated
World’s Best EntertainerNominated
World’s Best Female ArtistNominated
World’s Best Live ActNominated
2017NRJ Music AwardsFrancophone Female Artist of the YearNominated
RTLRTL Album of the YearNominated
2018Globes de Cristal AwardBest Female ActNominated

Honours

The main belt asteroid 353232 Nolwenn was named after Leroy.

In 2012, her wax figure was unveiled at the Musée Grévin in Paris.

Footnotes