INTERVIEW: Experience Italy through the music of classical singer Carly Paoli

Classical singer Carly Paoli is a BRIT nominated artist and ambassador for BBC Music Day. We speak to Carly as she releases her latest single, I’ Te Vurría Vasá.

We caught up with Carly to find out how she got into classical music, how her Italian heritage has influenced her and what it’s like to be nominated for a BRIT award.

How did you first get in to classical music?

I fell in love with music watching Disney movies as a child, I loved singing and watched sing-a-long films. It was when I was nine years old my mum took me to Stage Coach, close to Mansfield where I’m from, and I met my signing coach there.

She told my mum that my voice was good and I should have private coaching because it would be worth it – and thank goodness, because she was right. I’m still with her as my coach.

She was working for Opera North at the time so I was always trained in classical style and I think my default was always so in tune to be a classical voice as well.

Did your Italian roots influence your music career?

It certainly influenced my inspirations and choice in songs. I spent time out in southern Italy with my family and they introduced me to Italian music and folk music; although you say folk it isn’t like that. They are beautiful songs by tenors and sopranos that have been sung for years with this wonderful romance.

I got in to Italian film music, so many of the great producers wanted to make movies and work with Italian composers for film music, it is such rich and beautiful music that is descriptive and dramatic on stage.

After being shortlisted for a Classical BRIT and being number one on the iTunes classical chart, how do you stay grounded?

My mum doesn’t let me get caught up in it, she travels with me and my dad, too. If I’m driving it’s my dad that drives me so wherever I am travelling its home from home.

To have my family with me is an enormous blessing, the main reason is because it’s also all I’ve ever wanted to do, it has been my dream since I was nine years old, seven even.

I’ve always had that dream and always put 150 per cent into making myself better, even now I still work five days a week with my coach.

There’s always a new way to challenge yourself and to keep developing, the most important thing is to understand that you never reach the peak, keep working. There’s always something else to do and someone more passionate than you if you don’t push yourself.

I won a scholarship when I was 16 to go Tring Park School of Performing Arts, and so every child there studying with me all wanted this career. They all wanted to be an actor or actress, a signer or dancer, and its such a cut throat business.

You’ve got to be so ready and level-headed and understand there’s no guarantee, that’s something that was instilled in me at an early age. I still got all of my A levels because of that, my parents made sure I kept my A levels up and didn’t put all of my eggs in one basket and thank God they supported me.

How did it feel when you released your first album, Singing My Dreams?

I suppose the title absolutely encapsulates everything I felt. It was a dream and wasn’t just my dream, the dream of my family and all my team that put everything into believing I could be a success.

It was an emotional time but one of best moments of my life. To be singing songs that I loved, often artists are very dictated to by the record label on what to record and how it should sound, whereas I did have artistic control. That doesn’t often happen.

To listen to songs that meant something to me, songs that I’d always wanted to sing and perform with an orchestra, it was a dream come true.

I think Disney is a fantastic window for children into finding music. They still use beautiful symphonic sounds that you don’t get a lot of anymore. You don’t hear the richness of strings and brass on the radio, Disney brings it to a younger audience, that’s what I fell in love with.

What is the background behind your new single, I’ Te Vurría Vasá?

This is a song that I’ve loved for a long time, I used to perform it during my student years. When I was finished for summer I would spend it working in Italy and perform in piazzas at outdoor events.

My grandfather introduced me to it, it translates to ‘I want to kiss you.’

It’s just a beautiful song known and loved throughout Italy with poetic lyrics: ‘I want to kiss you but don’t have the heart to wake you up’. A gentlemen wrote around 100 years ago when he fell in love with a lady above his ranking.

He saw this great lady pass by him every day on her way to Mass, so he wrote these words for her. They knew they weren’t fated to be together and she wore his lyrics on a pendant, it’s wonderful.

How does it feel to work with names like Andrea Bocelli?

It’s amazing, I mean these are people I have listened to throughout the years. It really is amazing, you never know what life has in store and I thank god everyday that I’m able to live my dream and take along the people I love most which is very special.

He (Andrea Bocelli) was just a sweetheart. I was quite nervous, it was the first time I worked with someone that had sort of been a role model for me and we performed together at Windsor Castle for the Princes Trust Foundation.

That was an experience in itself, an amazing evening. Before we performed he told me to eat pasta with a drizzle of olive oil before stage, I did just as he told me to.

How does it feel to be a role model for young people in the classical music industry?

People often ask me what’s the goal and I’d say it is to inspire more young people because I was inspired by Disney and the voices behind that. It brought out creativity and a ginormous dream to do what they were doing. I hope one day there might be a child out there who listens to my voice and is inspired in the same way.

 You have been outspoken about funding for music in state schools, why is this so important to you?

I think it’s a shame that in a lot of schools we are suffering the loss of music experiences. It has been proven that it lifts self-esteem.

What I have found as I went into schools last year and worked with primary children, there would be 100-200 students in the room at any time. I’d like to think about what could’ve happened if it was smaller group, more one to one and I could have given each child more time.

During those occasions, one young boy came up and asked for my autograph, I signed it and had a long conversation about how he was gong to get his grandfather to laminate it. The teachers were gobsmacked because he was autistic and they had never seen him approach a stranger and be engaged and comfortable.

That was just evidence of the one music session I had with someone, it makes you think about what it could do if it was every week or month and to smaller groups.

It’s not just about developing musicians for a career, it does something for confidence and people skills all round.

I’m no expert on how to work finances or anything, it’s not in my skills, but it would just be nice if we could reserve a little bit to give people the opportunity to develop.

Things like weekend courses for children interested in that, but it’s finding a cost effective way that everyone can have the chance not just those who have the money to afford it.

Being at school is a time for developing and finding out what you’re like. If you don’t get opportunities or the chance to experience it you might miss something that you’ve got that you never knew you have. For a lot of people it’s not for them, but it’s a shame not to have the choice.

You have been lucky enough to work with some incredible designers, how does that feel?

One of my other passions is clothes. I have to say that’s my weakness and so I’ve always been a great lover of a nice dress, as has my mum.

It has always been one of equally exciting parts of performing. Developing the  music, working out how it will sound and how to present it to an audience, then also the thing that can heighten a look is the costume.

It has become quite a part of my performance what I’m going to wear. It’s one of things that we get excited about. Working with people like Dolce and Gabbana, stylists that I love and to perform with it’s really rewarding. I suppose they are artists in the same way I am, so it’s nice to use different artists together.

I had a beautiful Giambattista Valli on in one performance called La Dolce Vita to celebrate the music of Italian cinema. I came out in this enormous red tulle dress and it was so big it looked like the orchestra could’ve fitted under dress.

It’s an illusion as well as a dress.

Another has always been precious to me, my grandmother bought it for me when I was 13. It was an unusual wedding dress in the sense that it was olive green and gold. She bought it in Nottingham and it looked as if it was medieval queenly dress.

It still gets used quite often, I wore it for a concert for Help the Heroes, so Nonna’s dress popped up in that.

What’s next for Carly Paoli?

I am working on a new album which is on the horizon, I’m not able to tell you about it yet or I would have to kill you. It’s quite exciting and takes me more into a classical route which is always lovely. To be part of that challenge and go back to my roots as well.

Of course my new song and video have been released and show a window in my life and time spent in Puglia, in the south of Italy. Its a little insight into what you might find there.

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