Paolo Conte, the craftsman of music on Florence
Interview with the famous Italian singer-songwriter
Welcome aboard our Aguaplano.
The journey starts now. We’ll tell you about “eyes that seek and mouths that look”, our bodies will be incapable of finding calm to the sound of an ‘’orchestra that swings like a palm tree” and love will be “a variety show”.
We will have an outstanding “pilot”, whose name is Paolo Conte. Born in 1937, he is a lawyer from Asti with a career as a singer-songwriter which began in 1974.
Earlier there was jazz, there was the piano, there was the construction of a Mocambo called poetry.
We meet him shortly before his highly-anticipated concert in Florence [February 12 at the Opera di Firenze]. What is striking is his humanity, his genteel gaze, his reserved manner, that of a true gentleman.
Your worlds are stories of beauty, where the exotic equals the unattainable, and the province is the reality. What is the source of your stories?
Are they generated through real, or imaginary experiences?
This exoticism originates in a form of modesty: some stories, that could possibly be set in everyday life, I move, I camouflage, and I make them live in other settings.
My lyrics are generated mainly by my imagination, they are stories that I imagine and dream of.
You like to define your work as musical craftsmanship. Describe the workshop and the tools that have made your creations unique.
I compose the music first, sitting at my piano, at night, in silence.
At that point the song awaits its lyrics, its words: this is a turbulent phase, because the music suggests very abstract, sketchy dreams, with a disruptive force, while the words bring you back to reality, they attenuate this dream and everything becomes more precise.
Sometimes I regret it, because I’d like to leave the dream as it is, just music.
Together with you, in the great realm of famous Italian singer-songwriters, there were De André, Bindi, Endrigo, Paoli, Lauzi, Tenco. What are the things you remember about that period?
I want to be honest: I took advantage of that period and of the breath of fresh air it brought.
I’ve never been a typical singer-songwriter, I didn’t come from the academic world, there were no social issues in my music.
I grew up with jazz, I started by writing songs for others, I was an atypical singer labeled with the adjective “alternative”, which was very fashionable in those years. I was hosted in that environment and their audience appreciated me. That’s it.
We are in Florence.
What places in this city would you willingly visit?
I confess to being a lousy tourist, I’d like to wander around the city on foot, without any precise destination.
One word to describe jazz
It was a very important word for my youth.
Only a very few of us discovered and played jazz; it had always been prohibited by Fascism and by the Church.
I followed and loved it, as a record collector. Now, in my listening, I have gone back to its archaic origins, where there is no technique, just instinct.
If you could live another life, who would you want to be?
A great physician.
After almost forty years of concerts, what drives you to perform with the same enthusiasm as ever?
My audience is always pleasant company, and then, what could be better than spending an evening making music with an orchestra? Nothing.
Paolo Conte’s greatest fear?
How does it feel to be a living legend?
On the one hand it doesn’t seem true, on the other, secretly, I tell myself: “I deserve it”.