Helen Gillet

Jazz-based cellist, singer, composer and improviser Helen Gillet grew up in Belgium, Singapore, Chicago and Wisconsin. Performing her own eclectic mix of French, Contemporary Jazz, North Indian, Blues and Classical styles, Gillet has forged a path for the cello in the New Orleans music scene since her arrival in 2002, winning Best Female Performer (2014 Gambit Big Easy Awards), Best Mixed Bag (2012 Gambit Big Easy Awards) and Best Contemporary Jazz (2011 Gambit Big Easy Awards).


1. Cello is a bass
2. Cello is a drum
3. Cello is a trumpet


1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Nature, human and otherwise

2. How and when did you get into making music?
Music was always around me in my household because both my mother played classical piano and clarinet and my father played improvised piano and baritone horn. In early childhood, I performed with my Belgian cousins at family reunions and in school musicals mainly singing and dancing. When I was 9 years old I began taking cello lessons and was very committed to learning the instrument.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Prince: Around the World in a Day
Abdul Wadud: By Myself
PJ Harvey: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
Ilhan Ersahin: Istanbul Sessions
X-ray Specs: Germ-Free Adolescence

4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Museums, analogue sound, street performance, tall trees and wide sidewalks.

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Study nature

7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Roy Wood: “Boulders” (former ELO cello player)

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Pj Harvey (it as prince but…. R.I.P.)

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Most recently… Chicago String Summit solo set June 13, 2017.

10. How important is technology to your creative process?
At this point, when I am performing my own music, I am pretty tied to my loop pedal – even if I only use it as a splash of color, I need to have it as a compositional tool in my toolbox. It is quite important.

11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have a brother who is two years older than me. He is a drummer, geologist and computer programmer. He has always been supportive of my work. I asked him to answer this question and he said: ” We used to name on faith no more riffs in high school and now I think it’s badass that you have mastered the art of Hungarian cello metal”