Steve Holley has been a fan of Adelmo Fornaciari Cavaliere di Gran Croce, aka Zucchero, for many years, and recently had the honour of speaking to him, in the midst of his ‘Wanted’ World tour, which commences June 30. Zucchero will also be performing at the Cornbury Festival, in Oxfordshire, on July 13.
EP: Hi Mr Fornaciari, Zucchero, how are you?
Z: Good and you?
EP: Is it ok if I ask you some questions about your new album and tour. After the critical acclaim for your last studio album ‘Black Cat’, what made you think it was time for a retrospective like ‘Wanted’?
Z: ‘Black Cat’ was my sixteenth album produced by three different producers, Don Was, Brendan O’Brien and T Bone Burnett. We recorded in Los Angeles, Nashville and New Orleans. It came out 2016, was very well received from the critics and I think it is my most blues album in terms of sound, of songs. Its been released worldwide and then we started a long tour of one year and a half. Saying that, the record company decided to release last Christmas a big box set of thirty years of my career, with 10 CDs, 2 DVDs, different rarities and duets, different versions with more than 150 songs. That was last Christmas. We finished this long tour the end of March and we will do the last leg in July with festivals across Europe including Hyde Park with Eric Clapton and Cornbury. I will finish this tour and then…
EP: Take a rest maybe?
Z: (laughing) start to write again for the next album.
EP: Speaking of ‘Black Cat’ and working with T Bone Burnett and recording in Nashville, have you ever considered moving towards Country music. The honesty of it would suit you I think?
Z: I love country music, I love Nashville. There are great musicians there and I like the vibe of the City. Who knows? Maybe not the country like the cowboy songs (laughing)!
EP: I was thinking more because you started writing music very acoustically…
Z: I was, I’m still a big fan of Johnny Cash, especially the last work with Rick Rubin, the American recordings.
EP: That’s more what I was thinking because ‘Black Cat’ was recorded in a more traditional, more stripped back production.
EP: It really reminded me of the American recordings in that you can really hear your voice, you can feel the emotion in those records.
Z: I like the records because the production is very minimalist and the voice is amazing.
EP: I agree. Your voice is amazing on ‘Black Cat’. Listening to ‘Wanted’, it’s incredible to see how diverse, how timeless your songs are. Have you enjoyed touring with such a huge amount of material to choose from?
Z: Yeah! As I say, we were on tour for almost 1 year and a half all round the world. More than 160 concerts and now we’ll do the last leg in July, another 20 shows or so. I love touring, especially on this ‘Black Cat’ and ‘Wanted’ tour. I have a great band, probably one of the best bands I’ve ever had. Thirteen musicians. They have played with Prince, Beyoncé, Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. We have the living legend on organ with us that is Brian Auger. I’m enjoying it, we keep going until July and then I have to write a new album.
EP: Fantastic, I can’t wait! Over the last 30 years of music you’ve collaborated with some of the greatest musicians from all sorts of genres. Will we get some special guests on your UK dates?
Z: As I say, Hyde Park there is a big bill with Eric Clapton headlining. Santana, Steve Winwood and Gary Clarke Jr. will be there. It’s a great bill. For the others, why not. I’m not planning anything but sometimes on the road I have guests as a surprise. A last minute thing.
EP: Spontaneity is the best way…
EP: I have a strange question for you. With ‘Black Cat’, and your love of using all sorts of things for percussion and sound within your music, has there ever been a chance to work with the legendary Ennio Morricone? Your voice, his orchestra…is this something you’d like to do?
Z: Absolutely, he’s one of my heroes! We already did something on the album ‘Oro Incenso e Birra’ in 1989. Probably the best selling album of my career. He wrote a beautiful piece of music and arranged the orchestra for the song that closed the album. We are friends, we know each other very well. For a long time I thought it would be great to do an album with him…
EP: Wouldn’t that be something!
Z: Fantastic! The problem is that he’s more than 85 years old and he keeps touring. His time and energy are valuable. He’s always touring and when he’s at home he wants to relax so I can’t push too much but it would be one of my dreams.
EP: Will you be touring at 85 Zucchero?
Z: (laughing) No, I wish! A different life then….
EP: Relaxing and drinking good Italian wine?
Z: Good wine is probably helpful (laughing)!
EP: Your music is very personal. But there is a humour, an irony, almost a sarcasm in some of your lyrics. Have your influences changed over the years since you started out?
Z: I would not say that, I love the double meaning, especially in the up tempo where I love seeing people moving and dancing and laughing at the concerts. It makes the atmosphere more confidential, more friendly . That’s why I still use double meaning , a little sarcasm, a little irony. You’re English, you know what I mean!
EP: Absolutely, I was thinking about songs like ‘Partigiano Reggiano’…
Z: Exactly. For the ballads I try to be more poetic, if I can say that.
EP: For sure. I’ve seen you play the Royal Albert Hall a few times. When you play these gigs there are many Italian people that come and the atmosphere is electric, it’s free. Are you looking forward to playing the UK festivals as audiences here can be more reverential. Are you going to get them dancing?
Z: This is my job. I hope so. I think that music talks. I’m gonna sing some songs in English but I’ll keep singing in Italian. I think that music talks and with this band and my energetic repertoire, I will do my very best to get people dancing and being happy.
EP: I think you do turn the Italian language into another instrument. Even without understanding the words, the songs still make sense.
Z: Exactly, I remember when I was in a studio in California. We were in this villa with all the band and there was a couple taking care of the food, of the house. An American couple. They didn’t understand Italian. One day I gave them as a present one of my albums. The day after, the man, John, came to me and he said, “I love your album, I love your music, I love your voice. I don’t understand the words but
there is a song that makes me cry because it makes me think of my grandmother.“
The song he was talking about was ‘Diamante’ which I actually wrote about my grandmother because Diamante was her name. So you see? Music talks!
EP: It’s a beautiful song and a great note to finish on. I have to confess, I’m a huge fan of yours and I’d like to thank you for the 30 years of incredible music you have given us.
Z: Thank you very much!
EP: Thank you for your time, and good luck with the album and the rest of your tour. Grazie mille. Ciao!
Z: You’re welcome. Have a nice day! Ciao!
For further information about Zucchero, his tour, and his music, please visit his official website.