When you bear one of the most well-known surnames in Italian music, the expectations of others (record companies, the public, the press) can be an unbearable burden. Yet one of the immediately noticeable qualities of 25-year-old Matteo Bocelli is an innate serenity, a perfect emanation of those polite manners that contributed to making his father Andrea Bocelli an icon of music and style famous in Italy and around the world.
For the Bocellis, music is a family matter. It was his father who launched Matteo’s career five years ago with the duet “Fall on Me,” a single from the album Sì, which debuted atop the Billboard 200. Not bad for his first public appearance.
Now Matteo Bocelli is ready to fly with his own wings. And he wants to do it in his own distinctive way: In the 12 tracks (14 in the deluxe version) of his debut album Matteo (out now via Capitol Records/Universal Music), his father’s operatic vocal style gives way to a clear pop approach that encompasses Ed Sheeran-style ballads (his great idol) as well as uptempo songs.
How did he come to find his own sound? How is he building his career? Billboard Italy met Matteo in Milan shortly before the album’s release.
Your artistic “baptism” was five years ago with the single “Fall on Me” in duet with your father. What did that moment represent for you, and what have the last five years of your life been like?
“Fall on Me” was unquestionably an important start. It was the spark that started everything, and these years were full of emotions and beautiful experiences. The song opened many doors, for example the possibility of signing a contract with Capitol Records in Los Angeles. The team supported me right from the start, allowing me to work on the project in the best way until reaching this first album. “Fall on Me” was a unique experience. Now it’s time to continue on my own two feet and start a new path with a project that I feel is totally mine.
Despite what one might expect from your surname, your project has a clear pop dimension. Over the years, how have you honed the sound you wanted to achieve?
I have always been close to opera and classical music, but the music I sang at home was pop. But that doesn’t mean you know exactly what you want. You need to work on things, to try, to experiment. These years were very useful in finding the sound I’m comfortable with. In recent years we wrote about a hundred songs, then we selected 14 for the [deluxe] album.
Talking about pop music, who are your idols from the past and the present?
I always say Ed Sheeran. He is not only an incredible artist, but also a beautiful person — at least that’s what I perceived the times I met him. Yes, I could say he’s an idol of mine. Plus, I’m a romantic, and he’s the king of ballads! But at the same time, he’s been able to achieve a huge success with more uptempo songs too. That has always been a dream of mine: to have slow and sentimental songs but also be able to make people jump at concerts. However, I have always listened more to the music of the past, especially Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Queen, as well as the great Italian artists.
The album starts with “For You,” an uptempo track. Why do you think it is the best opener for the project?
In that case, I asked the record company for advice. Capitol Records focused a lot on that song. When I made a demo of it, I immediately understood that it was a song in which I felt really good from a vocal point of view. Also I perceived it as a “top” song for concerts.
“Chasing Stars,” written by Ed Sheeran with his brother Matthew, talks about their relationship with their father. It seems like a song tailor-made for you.
I met Ed when he released “Perfect Symphony,” the duet he did with my father. He then sent me a couple of ideas. “Chasing Stars” was the one that struck me the most. I was struck by the melody, because Ed has an unmistakable touch, and the message, perfect for my story. Even when a song is written by someone else, you have to see yourself in what you sing. When you sing certain words, you have to feel them. Yes, that seemed like a song written especially for me. We have in common the fact that we have a family that loves music and has encouraged their children to learn about it.
The songs are mostly sung in English but some are in Italian. Why did you want to use both languages?
Having signed the contract with Capitol Records in the United States, I also have to make music in English. But the deep reason why I signed with them is that I grew up singing in both Italian and English. So it has always been my desire to sing in English, and I knew that label would give me many opportunities to collaborate with great international songwriters. At the same time, it is important not to forget your origins. I consider Italian lyrics the deepest and most beautiful in the entire history of music. English-speaking songwriters consider us almost saccharine, excessive. But I think that’s the beauty of our language. We are romantic, there is nothing we can do about it!
Your project has a strong international projection. What idea of “Italianness” do you want to convey abroad?
To put it simply, I’m very proud to be Italian. I hope that beyond our national borders, people can appreciate the songs I sing in our language. Italy is so loved around the world; there is no need for Matteo Bocelli to push that.
In 2019 you performed at the Sanremo Festival in a duet with your father. Now your album is out: Is it the right moment to go there again, as a contestant this time?
It’s a question they’ve been asking me ever since… [Laughs] I understand that in Italy, the Sanremo Festival has a fundamental importance, it is the best thing an artist can aspire to. And I don’t deny that it would be a great emotion for me too to go on that stage — not alongside my father as a guest, but on the frontline as a contestant. But in my opinion you must go there when you are truly convinced, with a song that really identifies you.
Last year you collaborated with Sebastián Yatra. Do you also wish to step into the Latin market too?
One of my biggest fanbases is the Mexican one, so it’s important to keep an eye on that market. But you have to get there starting from the assumption that you must do what you like. I will never [do] something just because that’s what the market expects. If a collaboration with another Latin artist were to happen and convince me, then why not?
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