Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
I live in Palermo, Sicily. A charming and controversial city in the middle of the Mediterranean, source of most of my artistic inspiration. Its art scene is vibrant and growing faster each year, and it’s rich of singer-songwriter who choose very different styles, moods and even languages. It’s like Berlin in the 80’s, but warm and on an Island in the Med.
This spring you’ll will releasing ‘Lights’, your new album that was recorded and produced by Dani Castelar (Paolo Nutini/Editors/REM) in Valencia and at Studio Indigo in Palermo – a studio that is fast becoming one of the most popular music hubs in Italy. Please tell how what influenced the sound and songwriting for ‘Lights’?
Teamwork at its best. And the team includes my engineer, Francesco Vitaliti, and the band (Carmelo Drago, Donato Di Trapani and Adam Dawson). I can’t believe we’ve been together for such a short time (a couple of weeks) and yet so much on the same wavelength on the choices regarding arrangements and sounds. Everything was so fresh, I would even write the lyrics at the same time as we were tracking the final takes for the songs. The album is made up of 11 love songs, all dealing with empathy, union, betrayal, sex. The colors are shiny and lively though.
How did you come to work with Dani Castelar?
I hired him for my previous album, “Of Shadows”. I looked up for producers who had made some of my favorite contemporary albums and he was number 1 in the list. Turns out he was the first to answer my email, with the most enthusiasm and will to experiment. Since day one we created a bond that made him one of my best friends and the only producer I want to work with at the moment.
What was it like working between the two studios in Valencia and Palermo?
We did the most of the band tracking in Valencia, in a country house studio among the orange groves. We were isolated, and that made us do a great job, I guess. Most of the vocals were tracked in Palermo, in a completely different situation, as Indigo Studios are in the historical city center, an area which vibrates with people all day and night, a constant stimulus source. My songs were all about stories around those streets, so it was vital for me to daily alternate the lyrics-writing, the recording takes and the real Palermo life.
What programs / equipment did you use to record?
You have to ask our producer Dani Castelar and engineer Francesco Vitaliti that regarding. They’ll be happy to answer.
How do you usually go about writing music?
I only write about my own experiences. Love, loss, happiness, seduction… I don’t have the slightest control over my creative process. As far as I’m concerned, every song could be my last. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to have a healthy long-term relationship with Miss Inspiration.
Is the end result of ‘Lights’ the same as you imagined it to be when you first started the recording process?
I was open to anything. I entered the studio with literally no songs, except for a couple of vague harmonic ideas. The flow during the recording was so smooth that today I think this album was meant to be just like it is. There is no other way.
You’ve been touring the USA and Europe, what do you find most challenging and rewarding when touring and is there much of a difference between touring in the US as compared to Europe?
I’m very lucky, I always perform in front of audiences that are there to be involved in my world. From country to country, they react in different manners, but I always see this involvement, the aim of my performance is to take the listener out of his/her comfort zone and raise into them the same questions, fears, joys that brought me to write this or that song. I don’t want my music to be relaxing, I want it to be a soul-investigation self-practice though catharsis. I want to inspire tears and laughter, resentment and forgiveness, joy and pain, memories and oblivion.
What have you been working on recently?
I’m currently planning a book and a record based on Leonard Cohen’s youth, together with my friend and fellow singer-songwriter Dimartino. We’ve worked on something similar regarding Mexican singer Chavela Vargas (“the Latin-American Edith Piaf”…) a couple of years ago.
What do you have planned for 2019?
Many gigs to bring the “Lights” tunes around the world.
What do you like to do away from music?
I love analog photography. I always have my Leica with me during my tours.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
The latest, amazing album by The Paper Kites, “On The Corner Where You Live”.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Pretty easy, I’m Sicilian… Pasta! (I’m a pretty good cook too!)