Hypnotic Italian folk / blues / jazz musician Luca Gemma will make his inaugural trip to Australia next month to promote his latest CD, Blue Songs. Intimate and almost confessional, the album is his first performed entirely in English, but the passion that Italians are known for remains.
Rising to fame on the Continent through his work writing for other Italian singers, and for film soundtracks and theatre productions, Luca's solo career has rapidly progressed since he branched out to create his own music in the 90s. His signature mash-up of rock, pop, soul and folk across voice, guitar, brass and electronic work quickly generated a committed following.
Whilst Blue Songs retains his signature style, it also reflects a shift towards simplicity. Luca explains, 'I read the book Miles on Miles, meetings with Miles Davis, who says: "The first rule in my life has been less is more." I think I have arrived at this concept with this album. "
The less is more approach definitley doesn't apply to the meaning behind the music, however, and throughout the album there is an idea of transformation, the ability to start over from scratch, finding the courage to change – something that times in well with the album's title.
As Luca says, 'These songs are not only about me, and the blue is that cadence, that melancholy that sometimes shines also by the joy, not necessarily with sadness. I always like to put a blue thread in the melodies."
Blue Songs is available now from iTunes.
Luca Gemma will appear at:
Paris Cat Jazz Lounge (Melbourne) on Monday 7th March, 7pm, and
Kiama Blues Festival (Sydney) on Saturday 12th March.
Food and Wine Festival, Crown Casino (Melbourne) on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th March
Question: How would you describe your music?
Luca Gemma: Well I look for beautiful melodies and intense words in a mashup of folk, indie-pop-rock and soul. I look for a mood and for sounding lyrics.
Question: Did you have any pre-conceived ideas about the music industry?
Luca Gemma: Not at all, but working in it since a couple of years allows me now to have my own opinions about it.
Question: Do you write your own songs? What's your inspiration?
Luca Gemma: Yes, I write my own songs but sometimes I collaborate with other songwriters too. And sometimes I write tracks I won't sing at all because they are composed for others. Inspiration for me is a matter of a very quick perception, then I have to work hard on it. A quick instant of an intense emotion delivers a word, a melody, a guitar riff or a mood. And this can arrive from everything: my life, other people's life, persons, music, movie, the sky, a book, love.
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
Luca Gemma: I listen to a lot of different music and artists, to vocal songs or instrumental music. It depends on the mood of the day. There are days for Domenico Modugno and other italian artists like Luigi Tenco. And there are moments for soul and black music like James Brown or Alabama Shakes. Beatles, Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra. Tom Waits, Nick Cave or Caetano Veloso from Brasil. Miles Davis and Chet Baker.
Question: What's next? Tour/Album/Single?
Luca Gemma: After the Australian promotional tour for my Blue Songs album I'll be touring in Italy and France till July 2016. Then I'll start working on a new album with my producer Paolo Iafelice and my band. I'm writing a lot of new songs right now.
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?
Luca Gemma: Of course yes, it happens once or twice a month! But fortunately music and singing still heal me.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Luca Gemma: I prefer both!
Question: What/who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Luca Gemma: I always wanted to sing, write songs and be on stage. First with a band, then as a solo artist. When I finished university, I studied Politics, in Milan, I was sure I wanted to sing.
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Luca Gemma: Being an indie-musician in Italy is still an everyday challenge.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Luca Gemma: When I'm at home, I wake up early because I have two kids who go to school. Then I play guitar or piano, sing, write and record quiet everyday in the morning and in the afternoon, for the great joy of the people who live above me! In the evening I cook the dinner for my family. When I go out at night I usually go out for a drink, a concert or a movie. That's it. It changes when I'm on tour or in the studio.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Luca Gemma: Singing and writing songs. In Italy this is called being a "cantautore", which means writing and singing your own songs. Like Bob Dylan does in the Usa. This music in Italy generated a great musical and cultural movement beginning in the Sixties and going on in the Seventies. But at the very beginning also being the lead vocal in a rock band.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Luca Gemma: I'm very happy to collaborate now in Australia with Ross Ward for some songs in the gigs. Remaining in your country I would like to write a song with Nick Cave. I love the sound of the Bad Seeds.
Question: What should we expect from your Australian performances?
Luca Gemma: Intense gigs with the solo versions of my tunes in english, in italian and then some covers of songs I love very much: Modugno, Morricone, Sam Cooke and so on.
Question: Can you tell us 5 things required for a happy healthy & enjoyable life?
Luca Gemma: In Italy people use to say " as long as there is health " and in fact that's right. Because when you're not healthy, the perception of life and of who you are changes completely.
Happiness and joy are made of fast and intense moments that don't last long so you have to be ready and able to capture them. Then I guess there's a great need of being curious and openminded to other people around us, to what happens in the world. Enough information and culture to develop our own opinions. Love and Music. A blue sky above
Interview by Brooke Hunter