Irene Grandi. Our girl, always
Finally back on stage again at Sanremo 2020 with a song dedicated to women. Our interview
"The Irene did it!" Many will have thought it in the popular Florentine district of San Frediano, where the singer was born and raised. "L'Irene", as they call her here because of that all-Tuscan habit of making a proper name even more familiar by putting it before the article, is Irene Grandi, curls like an angel and black voice. Queen at the court of many kings of music, she has duetted with all the Italian champions, from Pino Daniele to Vasco Rossi, from Jovanotti to Bollani.
Always on equal terms, professional among professionals, repaying the trust given by the many big names who have written for her, with determination and passion. It must not have always been easy: at the beginning she was a pretty and exuberant girl. On stage a bomb. It was not difficult to find evenings and play on the Florentine circuits. But Irene wanted more and, with a great voice, she experimented with soul rhythms and rock sounds, changed her look like a chameleon so as not to become one of the many beautiful promises.
And she really did it, Irene. It's palpable when, sinuous and elegant, it reminds you of Mina as she sings the first verse of How You Want Me in the video remake of the famous song of the 60's. Everything, scenery, lights, look, is perfectly equal to the original. Only she is different from the great Mina, similar to the timeless icon only in her ability to make scratching lyrics that would otherwise sound sweet: I'm what you want me to be... how to say you have no choice, I'm yours. And this is her style.
Let's start from the beginning of your career, when you sang in Florentine clubs with your band. What do you remember from that time? Was the city busier than it is now?
Hmm... it's actually been a while. Let's see, it's been a necessary apprenticeship. No more. It was a very nice personal moment, full of energy. I used to play Be Bop every Friday or Tuesday night. Then there was Tenax, Flog sometimes, rock competitions like Rock Contest or Chianciano Rock. We played all the time and everywhere, out of passion. For me that period represented the best gym and when I arrived on stage in Sanremo the first time I had no embarrassment, thanks to the five years of live performances in Florence. Then there were many travel companions who made this journey better, the Florentines who did something in music and who started with me. Simona Bencini of Dirotta Su Cuba, Saverio Lanza who now plays with Biagio Antoniacci and then performed at Be Bop like me. Friends, accomplices in an adventure that then took us far away from Florence. But every time we found each other in the appointments on a national level, it was like finding our roots.
Then I definitely owe Florence a debt of gratitude: here, during an evening, Dado Parisini, my first producer, discovered me. From that moment everything else arrived, Sanremo, the excellent collaborations, the albums, an exciting vortex.
Today's city is as it was then: there were three or four clubs, but if you wanted the opportunities, you could just go and look for them a bit. In Florence, if you scratch a bit 'under the patina, there is ferment ... always!
After Sanremo, the collaboration with the big Italian names began. I remember one of them, the beautiful duet with Pino Daniele. Even then you go from pop to rock with an extraordinary ability, which involves not only the voice but all of you. It makes you wonder how you do it...
Instinctively I'm a singer, I like to play the songs they write for me. And I change my look, my attitude. Even the way I'm on stage changes when I change gender. I'm an interpreter by nature and this has pushed me to constantly research new sounds, even when the successes I've achieved suggested going down paths already taken. I listen to everything: soul rock, Brazilian music. And I sing everything. It's nature, my way of living music. Next to it, an inexhaustible desire to evolve.
Then comes the cinema, directed by another excellent Tuscan, Giovanni Veronesi. Is this the sign of a strong bond with your homeland? By the way, do you still live in Tuscany, near Florence?
At that time, in '95 the film with Giovanni represented an opportunity to make myself known nationwide. Even though I had already appeared in the Italian music scene thanks to duets with names like Vasco Rossi and Jovanotti, I was still not known to the general public in the South. In the film I was the guardian angel, as well as playing some pieces of the soundtrack. The best known is the single Stai con me. Years later, however, I especially remember how much fun I had during the filming in Rio de Janeiro, with the crew. And then being among the Florentines is always good for me: I started travelling very early on, always with my suitcase in hand. And, a bit like emigrants do, I looked for corners of Tuscany everywhere. Now it's over: it's also because I have my home and roots in Impruneta with my husband Alessandro.