Paolo Nutini’s inspiration in the everyday

Siena Yates
Sunday Star Times
January 25, 2015

WAIT IS OVER: Paolo Nutini is back on the circuit touring his new album Caustic Love.

WAIT IS OVER: Paolo Nutini is back on the circuit touring his new album Caustic Love.

When an artist takes a notably long break between records, there is always speculation about why.

A breakdown, a trip to rehab – or maybe the talent’s just dried up.

For Paolo Nutini, his five-year break between albums has a simple, less dramatic explanation.

“Well we toured for about two years after the last album, then I thought I had to do a little bit – explore some things, see some things and get out of that routine,” he says, in a thick Scottish accent.

“You can’t get too caught up in any reality, you’ve got to do things you can write about, have interactions, and get inspired.”

The 27-year-old behind Jenny Don’t Be Hasty, Pencil Full of Lead and New Shoes is known for his eclectic style, fresh rhythms and growling, soulful voice, breaking into fame after his first two album releases These Streets and Sunny Side Up.

But Sunny Side Up was released in 2009, and Nutini’s come a long way since.

“Doing it now, I can come at it from a different angle than I did when I was 19 or 21. I definitely feel like the more experience you get, the more of a handle you have on it. It’s just good to be back and having that conversation again, and be back on the road and experiencing that thing, that adventure,” he says.

“I literally just was on the move a lot, on my own in various cities, meeting people in bars, meeting musicians, writing a song, staying up late, smoking cigarettes, going and getting a bit of sun, getting a bit of heat about me and just resetting.”

Which, for a man who says his songwriting is “all observation”, has to make a pretty big difference.

He literally wrote his popular hit New Shoes, after buying some new shoes one day and having that day turn out well. Simple as that.

“I just remember things weren’t going too great and then I got some good news afterwards and I thought it was funny, like, there you go, just gotta buy some new shoes.”

So if a hit like that can come out of something so small, it’s no wonder the latest album Caustic Love is so strong after Nutini’s extended break.

It definitely feels more established and sure, and something has matured in his vocals.

The album sees collaborations with Tchad Blake (Elvis Costello), bassist Pino Palladino (D’Angelo, The Who), drummer James Gadson (Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye) and Janelle Monae. It’s more of a blues/funk/soul offering, though anyone who knows Nutini’s music knows he’s hard to classify by any specific genre.

Lyrically, there are still the songs about love and sex, but there’s also a kind of existential awareness and dialogue.

“I think that especially when you’re moving around, you get a sense of what’s going on, and most of the time you’ve been there before or you’re going there soon. When something goes on that I can relate to I try to put my take on what’s going on. It’s personal as well as being observational.”

Despite being on the music scene since 2006, Nutini hasn’t necessarily garnered as much attention or acclaim as his contemporaries, but Caustic Love seems to be taking off, sending him on world tours including a host of new fans on the US circuit.

“It’s quite an experience coming to America because it’s been very much re-establishing ourselves, but most people that we played to had never heard the music before,” he says.

The Caustic Love tour has been so successful it’s bringing him all the way to New Zealand for the first time ever for two shows – because the first sold out in the first couple of hours.

“I’ve never been lucky enough to come [to New Zealand], I’ve only heard the stories so I’m excited. You know I actually have family there? I have cousins in Auckland I’ve never met, so maybe I can meet them,” he says excitedly.

Not only is he planning on exploring New Zealand and meeting his Kiwi relatives, he’s also planning to have some new songs for fans when he arrives.

“You guys might be the first gigs to hear those new songs. It’s nice to be looking forward and knowing that’s on the horizon, it gives me a buzz.”

Paolo Nutini will play two shows at Auckland’s Powerstation on April 6 and 7. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

 

Paolo Nutini, O2 Arena, review: A singer truly on top form

The Independent
Roisin O’Connor
January 13, 2015

Capture

Paolo Nutini has matured considerably since his debut album These Streets was released in 2006.

Performing at the O2 in London, Nutini’s croonings for “Alloway Grove” and “Diana” are intimate despite the overwhelming size of the arena; the stage set up – filled by a nine-piece band – enhances this with free-standing lights resembling lava lamps for a retro feel and a backdrop flooded with deep red and orange patterns: all very old-school Hollywood.

Material from his older work is surprisingly prominent given that his latest LP – the much-lauded and ambitious Caustic Love, released five years after its predecessor – was such a neat step across from a focus on acoustics and nostalgia into a more muscular funk and soul inspired sound. The singer is on top form tonight – vocals are clear and vivid – while his willingness to engage with fans is interspersed with his becoming utterly immersed in the music.

Nutini’s revision of old material is canny – the audience are thrilled by their favourites while he is able to show off a prowess in transforming tired songs into something that is still relevant. A mash-up of “Jenny Don’t Be Hasty” and “New Shoes” whips the crowd into a frenzy: feet stamp and hands wave in the air while he gestures to the band to keep up.

While he rarely moves around the stage, he is supremely confident when faced by around 15,000 screaming fans: raising a clenched fist to the air to share his triumph with the audience. This and an occasional frailty that recalls the late Amy Winehouse suggests artistry that was not quite so apparent a few years ago.

“These Streets” – a song written when he first came from Scotland to London – is supported by a montage of old film from family holidays. Words that recall how homesick Nutini felt at the time strike home and make his success now seem all the more exciting.

“Iron Sky” challenges and unsettles the audience in a way that Nutini’s previous work has not and showcases an ability to sound far older than his 28 years.

He’s a true soulman, caught up with spirit unfamiliar to his peers.

 

Nutini is fully aware of the naivety that comes across in his previous work and is clearly determined to work through it.

“Oh, that’s life/ That’s dripping down the walls,” he sings as footage of Charlie Chaplin being a buffoon plays across the backdrop; his ferocious speech from The Great Dictator flooding through the crowd.

A brass-led riff of MGMT’s “Time To Pretend” is breathtakingly good. Nutini makes the song his own and throws in a wicked sax and heavy drum beats for good measure. Likewise for “Pencil Full Of Lead” with its upped tempo: his sheer talent is astonishing, yet a rictus grin that meets cheers from the crowd suggests that he still doesn’t quite think he deserves it.

He may not win every heart, but we’re certainly lucky to have him around.

Paolo Nutini, O2 Arena, review: ‘the best British male soul singer this century’

Neil McCormick sees the handsome Scotsman back on spectacular voice and squeezing passion from every note.

The Telegraph

The great Joe Cocker sadly died before Christmas. His successor already seems firmly installed in the hearts of the British public. Paolo Nutini’s ripped-throat vocals squeeze passion from every note in a way inevitably reminiscent of the late Sheffield soul man.

Eyes screwed up, body bent double, hands contorted into claws, Nutini loses himself in the music and the moment. Horns swell, resonant washes of organ splash, jazzy electric guitar lines weave dazzling patterns, backing vocals rise in harmonic counterpoint as his virtuoso nine piece band concoct a bubbling, pungent funk, rock, soul stew, while the handsome 28-year-old Scotsman sings with exultant abandon, as if finding pure joy in the simple act of opening his mouth and letting his ragged vocal chords resonate.

Nutini is, I would say, the best male soul singer this island has produced this century, and there have been a few strong contenders, including current popular favourite Sam Smith. Nutini, though, allies qualities of intense intimacy and fervorous release to a northern grit and scruffy charm reminiscent of Cocker’s brusque commitment to the music above all else.

Nutini’s current tour was rescheduled from last year due to tonsillitis, so it was a relief to hear him back in such good voice. The sold-out London O2 arena was the biggest headline show of his eight-year career. “I’m actually a little overwhelmed,” he admitted, which is perhaps why he didn’t say much else all evening, though he smiled broadly in dazed acknowledgement of the 20,000 strong crowd’s noisy support. He looks fitter and more muscular than when he first appeared on the scene in 2006, though he still evinces a certain boyishness. His persona is that of a romantic stoner whose songs are full of twinkly-eyed apologies for roguish misdeeds.

His vocal tone is actually very similar to Otis Redding, and it is nostalgically wonderful to hear him mine that particular retro groove on Let Me Down Easy and No Other Way, but stylistically he is working with an ambitiously wide musical palette. Three albums have showcased a singer-songwriter of considerable character and his set encompasses driving funk, acoustic sensitivity, dramatic trip hop, understated nu soul jazz and even shoegazing psych rock that hints at what the Velvet Underground might sound like with the Tower of Power horns.

I get the impression the crowd would be perfectly happy if he focused on anthems such as uplifting belter Pencil Full Of Lead and singalong encore Candy. Nutini, however, is getting heavier and bolder with each tour. Set finale Iron Sky builds into a Pink Floyd-style epic, if you can imagine the prog rock giants with an old-school soul man on his knees, weeping into the microphone. It is quite something to behold.

Behind the Scenes at SSE Hydro

Behind-the-scenes as Paolo Nutini plays two rapturously received shows at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro

Jan 11, 2015 13:42 By Mickey McMonagle

THE Sunday Mail was given exclusive backstage access to interview the Paisley-born superstar as he returned to Glasgow to play his first show at the new state-of-the-art Hydro venue.

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Scottish singer Paolo Nutini plays the first of two nights at the SSE Hydro on Friday

PAOLO NUTINI threw the biggest birthday bash of his life for 12,500 fans at the SSE Hydro – and we were there to help him party. Chatting in his dressing room minutes after coming off stage, Paolo couldn’t quite take in the rapturous reception. Friday’s gig – along with another storming show last night – was scheduled to take place in October but was postponed when he fell ill. So he didn’t quite know what to expect from the rearranged date – his 28th birthday.

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Band members and friends raise a glass to toast Paolo Nutini’s birthday backstage at the Hydro

Paolo told us: “That was wild. Those were the first shows I’ve cancelled so it was a weird time. I didn’t know what it was going to be like after that. “So to come around now like that, it just didn’t really seem like the cancellation had played a part at all. That was amazing. I didn’t feel pressure, there was nobody that made me feel any pressure.“The truth is I was just really looking forward to doing it.”

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Paolo Nutini relaxes backstage at the Hydro with his band

The show felt like a party, with fans singing Happy Birthday to an astonished Paolo as his parents, little sister Francesca and girlfriend Amber watched. He laughed: “We were going to try and squeeze it in at the end of last year or something in a quite hasty way but the chance to play at the turn of the year I thought was good.“Then I found out it was on my birthday. This made it a very vivid and special one. “I have to remember, ‘I have to do tomorrow night as well’. “It feels like such a one-off. That’s what I like about playing for the audience, they never make it seem pedestrian. “The whole thing for me is a bit like a tug of war. A wise man told me, ‘You’ve each got an end of the rope and you don’t want anyone to win really. You’ve got to keep each other balanced’.”

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Paolo Nutini looks out towards the sell-out crowd at the SEE Hydro

There was a homecoming feel to the show, with fans going wild every time Paolo sang the lyric “I’m home” during No Other Way – to the delight of the singer. Paolo admitted he enjoyed playing the Hydro as it has “soul”. He said: “It’s nice that this place has been made for music. “It’s cool the venue’s orientated around that. It’s got soul, it’s got a bit of a feeling to it.” As we headed off to his mum’s backstage room for birthday cake with the family and his band, The Vipers, it was clear Paolo had been blown away.

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Outside Paolo Nutini’s dressing room at the SSE Hydro

He said: “It was mad, like some weird trip. It feels like some mad video game – I’m waiting for Sonic the Hedgehog to go speeding past me.“That was one of the most cosmic shows I’ve done. I’m not going to forget that show.”

A Special Performance of “Iron Sky”

Paolo performed at Reggies in Chicago on December 4, 2014. This performance of his award winning “Iron Sky” is simply beautiful. The music, the emotion, and the amazing harmonies with Michael McDaid were captured by our dear friend and videographer Angela. Enjoy!

Here is Angela with Paolo after the show.

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Can you spot the difference in these photos???

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Thanks for the laugh, Paolo!

And, thanks to Lauren Banning and Gigi Kang for the photos!