Shades of Feeling: An interview with Italian musician Violetta Zironi
by Jess Morgan
Hearing Aid in conversation with the lovely Violetta Zironi about her first single, Half Moon Lane, a transition from commercial pop to a more authentic mode of expression: jazz, the Italian X Factor and the liberal atmosphere of Berlin make for an enlightening and joyful discussion.
Where does the inspiration for your music come from, and what musical instruments do you play?
My musical influences definitely come from my family. I grew up in a musical environment, my dad is a blues musician, so I was raised listening to blues, jazz and a lot of classical music. My hometown, Reggio Emilia, has a musical background, and although it’s tiny, there is always a concert to go to. I love acoustic guitar, I think it best represents my personality, and that’s the instrument I usually write my songs for. I also play the piano – my first instrument, I started taking lessons at the age of 5 till the age of 16 – and ukulele.
Do you find the Italian or English language more conducive to songwriting? Does one feel more natural than the other?
Actually, I love to sing in both languages. They are very different, and I think there are certain songs that would never sound good in Italian, but some other songs would sound so much better in Italian! English is very direct language, perfect for pop music or rhythmic music. It’s got short words and sentences and you have the ability to give your own meaning to a word. Italian is much more specific and complicated, and there is a specific word for every context… It’s difficult to write songs in Italian, but when you find the right words, it will just sound beautiful and poetic, with the power to portray every shade of a feeling.
You appeared on Italy’s X Factor in 2013 as just ‘Violetta’, and released Dimmi Che Non Passa that same year. The pop single is very different from Half Moon Lane, which has a beautiful pared back guitar and original vocals. What changed?
I guess that pop single was the X Factor single, it had to be that way. Although I always had clear in my head that I wanted to be honest and genuine in my songs, and be able to talk to people through them, after my appearance at the X Factor the people around me led me to think that I wanted something different. Leaving behind the whole TV experience, I realised again what I was supposed to do, and what I wanted to do.
You accompanied Ben E. King on stage at the 2014 Summer Jamboree, a festival of 1940s and 1950s American Music and Culture…
It was fantastic! I was so honoured when I was asked to support him, and so nervous. It was even worse (in a good way) when he approached me asking: “Hey, are you the girl who plays ukulele? Would you like to join me on stage to sing ‘Stand by Me’?” I couldn’t believe it! I will never forget that night.
And supporting Jack Savoretti; how did that come about?
I started writing songs with Pedro, Jack’s guitarist. Then he introduced me to Jack, who the asked me to support him on tour. It’s been an amazing experience, and I have learned so much from it, and from Jack himself, who’s now a good friend of mine. He’s an unbelievable artist, and performing on stage with him was emotional every time. I would say that the experience on the road with Savoretti almost changed my life.
You describe the process of writing Half Moon Lane as partly inspired by the street you lived on in London. Do the places you find yourself usually influence your songwriting?
Absolutely. Every place I go to is a source of inspiration for me. It must be because of the people that live in those places, the things they do, and the way they do them. I get to experience different ways of life in the new places I am in. I like to write about my feelings towards places and people, and how my relationship with those slowly makes me more mature and aware.
What was your experience of Berlin, the location for the recording of your EP?
It is! In Berlin, I found a stimulating environment. Challenging at the same time. I figured out that Berlin gives everyone a chance to do what they want, without being judged. People are open and curious about everything.
And finally, what are your plans for the next year or so?
I have just recorded my EP in Berlin, and it will come out in February. It will definitely have a folk/ Americana influence, but with this record I wanted to let the listener know me for what I am, so I took reference from a lot of Italian music from the 60’s, the chansons from Luigi Tenco, and the cool movie soundtracks from Morricone and Piero Piccioni.
Listen to Violetta’s other charming singles, Don’t Make Me A Fool and Toast, released in late 2017.
With thanks to Christian Müller at Pon’t Danic Music and, of course, to Violetta herself.