Born and raised on the French Riviera — an area that tends to favor DJs over live music — singer-songwriter and Astoria resident LiLi Roquelin knew even as a young teenager that one day she’d make the move to the United States to pursue her music career.
Moving first to Cleveland to live with a cousin, Roquelin quickly made waves in the city’s alternative music scene, fronting a pop-rock band and later, a melodic hard-rock outfit.
After recording an album with that band she was introduced to producer Sean Bilovecky, who helped Roquelin create what is now her signature ethereal sound, teaching her to infuse cool trip-hop sounds with piano compositions.
Together they wrote the song “I Saw You,” one of Roquelin’s most successful tracks. “I had the vision of singing with a piano, so I started taking piano lessons,” Roquelin said. “It all felt so natural, like I was ready to go and do all this. Also, I enjoy the big freedom of being able to do whatever I want without having to check with four different people!”
Then, just over a year ago, Roquelin made the move to New York — Cleveland’s big-city rival for the title of “Home of Rock ’n’ Roll.”
“I felt I was ready for something new and exciting,” she said.
Settling in Astoria after a short time in Washington Heights, she has embraced her adopted neighborhood’s emerging art and music scene.
“Manhattan … didn’t have that community feel I was looking for,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before every cafe here invests in a P.A. and welcomes live music.”
She credits the Astoria Music and Arts group with energizing a cohesive music scene in the neighborhood. The collective also helped Roquelin book local rock shows, including the “Make Music New York” on Steinway Street last summer.
She makes regular appearances at L.I.C. Bar, and was featured in its “Queens of Queens” showcase of emerging female artists last December.
Roquelin has also performed at several venues in Manhattan, including the Bowery Poetry Club, where she’ll be playing this weekend.
Roquelin’s recently-released self-titled EP shows off her new style — “chill-out, down-tempo with trip-hop behind my voice and piano” — with the artist often fluidly moving between English and her native French.
The three-track EP also features Roquelin’s winning entry for Best Music Video at last fall’s Queens International Film Festival, “I Saw You.”
Writing, composing and performing the songs in her studio, Roquelin brought in three-time Grammy-winning engineer Marc Urselli to mix and master the recordings. “Marc is brilliant,” she said. “I am pretty detail-oriented and I think that helped us work well together.”
Roquelin will perform at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, on Sunday at 6 p.m. Cover is $5 and her CDs will be available at the special price of $3. For more information, go to liliroquelin.com or myspace.com/liliroquelin.