Today we have another wonderful interview with Onstage.
Tiziano Ferro’s latest album, L’amore è una cosa semplice, has done very well: well received by the critics (also by us at Onstage) and more importantly, many people have bought it. The circle closes with the tour, if possible even greater and more rewarding for the artist from Lazio. One sold-out show after another, a beautiful stage, a great band, enthusiastic crowd. The maximum that Tiziano could aspire to in this moment. And the future? We will see.
Tiziano is happy. “Everything’s going well, the show is exciting, the setlist works well and the band is incredible.” And there are lots of people. “I don’t know what happened in the last years, but I’ve gone from one date per city to two or three on this tour.” The enthusiasm and joy – I can’t see him but I’m sure he is smiling – with which he tells about the experience he’s going through is contagious, thanks to that voice that can be extremely reassuring (even on the telephone, with bad static) like something between a caress and a pat on the shoulder. “Seeing the list of tour dates grow larger because they were selling out really lifted our morale, not just mine but also the technicians and the musicians. The whole entourage was very excited from the start.” I don’t doubt it, even though before this interview I had only seen a few amateur videos, uploaded to YouTube by the people who came to the first show.
The new tour is a project that Tiziano has been working on since the summer of 2011 – when the release of L’amore è una cosa semplice hadn’t even been announced – and that little by little transformed into something very important, with a crescendo of optimism due to the numerous dates added along the way, because “it gives extra incentive to work with the privilege of knowing that your audience is looking forward to what you do.” In short, the atmosphere is idyllic and Tiziano really couldn’t ask for more, despite a technical glitch that threatened to compromise the first date, in Turin. Our conversation starts right from that episode.
Judging from the videos of the concert in Turin (on the internet you can find hundreds of them), it seemed that you were tense. Perhaps the great expectations caused a little tension? To be honest I had been very calm the whole time. But you’re right, at the beginning of the concert in Turin I was very tense, but only due to a technical problem: the cube in which I had to make my entrance wasn’t working, the catapult that at a certain point ejects me from it was jammed, and I risked “breaking” the first entrance. For at least six songs I was really anxious. I was out of breath, I feared for my safety! But outside of this episode I was always calm and at ease. Sometimes there are delicate moments, perhaps vocally you’re not in shape, or there’s some kind of small technical problem. But it’s normal. With time I learned to manage the space you have on stage, to enjoy it, to prevent the excitement from clouding everything. Not enjoying your own show is the worst crime an artist can possibly commit.
I was impressed by the scenery. You have done things in a big way, bringing on stage a production worthy of big international artists. Were you inspired by something in particular? Some ideas came to me, for example the effect where my image is multiplied on the screens. I believed so much in them that I even outlined them for the set designers! But generally I tend to listen to the opinions of those involved with the set design, because they are very talented professionals. I leave them to bounce ideas off of each other until the right inspiration comes. I wanted to focus on sobriety, also given the moment we’re going through, and I gave this input to the team that was working on the stage. Determining the setlist last summer, I realized that I had twenty singles behind me and others were coming with the new album. So I wanted a concert that’s easy-going, where the stage is a beautiful setting, but not intrusive. And in fact it is minimalistic, black, elegant, and even the videos are sober in their beauty. Even though it’s a structure that requires a lot of work, it’s not a dismountable circus: the music must be the central element, it shouldn’t be the pretext for a visual spectacle.
You really determined the setlist in the summer of 2011? That’s right. And since then only one song has changed, the order and the content is identical to the one I made last year. While I commend the great professionals I collaborate with to create the stage, the musical direction is only up to me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have to admit I am a bit manic when it comes to the setlist!
Other than the stage, I was surprised to see you dance. You’ve already done so in the past, but I could have sworn that it would never happen again. Did they persuade you or was it your idea? I did it really because no one was expecting it. I come from an album that has a vintage approach, in which I devote myself completely to the music and the vocals, and they are actually the most important things. But as for the show, I wanted it to be entertaining. So I made a clear choice: I wasn’t going to sacrifice the old hits in favor of the current album, like many of my colleagues do. During the show I go through all of the past decade, including those sides of mine that maybe didn’t come out with the previous album. And so there’s also the dancing, which is an important part of my career. The concerts are different from the albums, they are shows, the people have to be entertained. So, despite having focused on the sound, which is more mature thanks to an incredible band, I couldn’t do only that. I am many things, including someone who pisses about on occasion, and I believe the people appreciate that.
Speaking of the band, when you talked to me about the album, you spent a lot of words to emphasize the importance of being confronted with the musicians who accompany you. How important are they on this tour? They are fundamental. Because they are phenomenal. I could never bear the outside world, I’ve always made my albums in Italy with Italian musicians, and I didn’t want to abandon them because they are friends and great professionals. But I have to say that when it comes to certain genres of music, the Americans are better at it. It’s like opera music in Italy: we invented it and we do it better than anyone. They have a certain rhythmic attitude that simply works best, nothing you can do. So I “surrendered” to this need, even live, the songs asked for it, they require a certain sound, and I did not hold back. During rehearsals I lost myself listening to them and it happens also now, on stage. There are incredible moments of soul, even when it comes to Italian ballads. They’re able to give a completely different edge to things written on another continent, with another mentality. There’s a swing section that I adore – a small set where Reggie straps on the double bass: for me they are moments of pure pleasure. I’d stop singing to listen to what they do. Some things I’ve heard only on CDs by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Babyface.
You said about L’amore è una cosa semplice that it’s a kind of greatest hits album, because musically it embodies the best of what you’ve done the past 10 years. That’s why you consider it your best work. Can you say the same thing about this tour? I would say yes. Of course it follows from my evolution as an artist, but also from having more possibilities today. I learned how to manage the energy on stage, to choose, to listen. And, not unimportantly, I have a large budget at my disposal so that, for example, I can afford a certain kind of band. This tour is the natural consequence of the album, but I don’t forget that if I have the fortune of playing in a full arena, it’s because there have been several songs over the years that have brought these people there. That’s why I can’t sacrifice my repertoire. And to tell you the truth, when everyone sings the old songs it’s so very beautiful, they are the most intense moments, because there’s a genuine sharing of emotions.
It’s been ten years since your first concerts. Your audience, which at first was comprised only of people your own age and younger, has changed: do you notice it on stage? I notice it even off stage, especially this last year now that I’ve come back to live in Italy. It was a very powerful experience to come across girls and guys, more or less my age, that I’ve known for years: now they come to the concert with their children! It’s really satisfying, because if I think of my life’s path, today I still carry with me the artists that I listened to as a kid, maybe to forget about a bad grade in school.
And what about the new generation that follows you? I’m very touched, because they’re starting to speak a language that I don’t understand. And then I wonder: do they understand me? I feel a bit like an uncle, I meet boys who are half my age… but this is why music is beautiful, it erases any demographical difference.
Even U2 had to try hard to grasp the language of the very young (I think of the deal with Apple where you could get a custom U2 iPod). They’d already passed the age of 40, you’re younger than that. I know, but rock music is a universal language, it’s a little easier. Pop on the other hand is disparaged, sometimes people listen to it but don’t admit to it, and so paradoxically it’s more difficult to communicate with the young generation. The fact that a boy of 15 goes to a pop concert means a lot, while convincing him to see a rock concert is easier, because it’s cool. Rock music is immediate, it communicates easily with everyone. It’s a strange theory, but I think it’s like that.
Surely an interesting theory, we’ll have to delve deeper into that. We end with the July concert at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, that’s probably the highlight of your career. From here on out eclipsing it will be more and more difficult. If after every album I had to think about the future I would get stuck. Right from the start, all of my albums have been too big, considering my age at the time. But all I do is live my life with serenity, the answers come from the sun. I don’t feel the burden of having to prove something to someone. I will continue to write whenever I want and follow my own path. Three years ago I wasn’t thinking of the Olimpico, six years ago I wasn’t thinking of one Curva of the Olimpico and eight years ago I wasn’t thinking of the PalaEUR. When I was playing in clubs it was already a lot, and each successive step has been a privilege. Artists have to relax, the music shouldn’t come under pressure, there should be other stimuli. Then, if you end up with more than one would expect, all the better. But “more” isn’t necessarily what you’re looking for. I already have a lot more than I ever wanted and I am satisfied. The fact that there are many people willing to listen to what I have to say stimulates me, but I don’t allow being in this position to give me any stress.
So for Tiziano Ferro, music remains a matter of art, which has nothing to do with numbers and success. The day I no longer think of it like that, I will let it go. Frankly, if the music becomes too stressful, we are finished. But as for me, I don’t think that will ever happen.