Unforgettable artists, part 4; Raphael Gualazzi

Welcome to part four of my unforgettable artists! This week I give you Raphael Gualazzi!
An incredible number of artists have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest over the years. Some of them we never hear from again after the contest, and very often that’s just as well. Others have this special something which makes them unforgettable. At least that’s the way it works for me. In this weekend series I will share with you some of the artists I’ve “found” through the contest and that have become part of “my music”.
There are many different reasons why an artist catches and keeps my attention, anything from a cool performance to a song that just fits perfectly in with my taste in music. Very often, though, the voice plays a big part. Certain voices just manage to touch my heart. In this series I will take a closer look at some of the artists who, for me, have gone on to have a “life after Eurovision”. Most of these have found their way into my absolute top league, and their albums are on heavy rotation on my cd player.
Raphael Gualazzi represented Italy in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf, meaning he had the great honor of bringing Italy back to the Eurovision family after a 13 year absence. Raphael performed his own song Madness of Love/Follia d’amore and achieved a fantastic 2nd place, a mere 32 points behind the winner, Running Scared, from Azerbaijan. (He ought to have won, though…)

Raphael started singing and playing the piano when he was a young child. He was classically schooled at the Rossini Conservatory in Pessaro since the age of nine, but growing up he started focusing on first blues, then jazz, instead. He has worked with several renowned musicians and in jazz/blues circles he’s known and loved for his unique voice and his mad skills on the piano. Not least is he a respected composer.

Image; eurovision.tv
Image; eurovision.tv
So far Raphael has released three albums. On the first, titled “Love Outside the Window”, from 2005, the blues sound it dominant, but we can also hear hints of the jazz that would later, more and more, take center stage. This album didn’t really make much of a splash at the time, and Raphael had to wait for another five years before his music started getting the attention he wanted.

In 2010 he released a digital EP containing on cover song (Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop”) and three new songs he had written and composed himself. One of these, his first single, “Reality and Fantasy”, received a lot of international attention when the French DJ Gilles Peterson released a remix of it.

But it was the year 2011 that was to mark Raphael’s huge breakthrough. He took part in the Sanremo Festival, where he won no less than three categories; the main award in the newcomers’ class, the Mia Martini critics’ award for newcomers and the “Sala Radio-TV” award. He received all these for his own song “Follia d’amore”. This was also the song that RAI chose to represent Italy in their return to the Eurovision Song Contest.
“Follia d’Amore” was one of the tracks from Raphael’s second album, “Reality and Fantasy”, which was released a mere three days before the Sanremo Festival. On this album it’s very clear that the blues sound from “Love Outside the Window” has been pushed to the background and the jazz has taken center stage.
It’s very hard to think of artists with whom to compare Raphael Gualazzi, whether we search in the blues, jazz or pop universe. No matter who or what you compare him and his music to he stands out. In many ways you can say that he has created his own genre. During his years as a music student Raphael has experimented with numerous approaches, techniques and styles. From this experimenting his very own personal musical expression was born, the expression he feels is right for him and what he wants to convey to his audience.
Image; artist's twitter
Image; artist’s twitter
Creating and performing music is the only thing Raphael wants to do. He constantly composes new music and grabs any chance he gets to play live. This was very obvious in his meetings with the fans and press in Dusseldorf. During interviews, press conferences and meet-and-greets he seemed shy, awkward and not really all that comfortable with the attention, but give him a piano and he turned into an entirely different person; alive and happy and completely at ease with the situation. After his victories in the Sanremo Festival he went on tour in Italy, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France, and his performance in Eurovision was merely part of this tour. Or perhaps I should say; a short break from it?
Image; raphaelgualazzi.com
Image; raphaelgualazzi.com
Raphael’s music is obviously inspired by the ragtime, New Orleans-blues and both early and current jazz he has listened to growing up, and he is inspired by, among many others, the music of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder and Jamiroquai. This doesn’t however imply that his music is in any way oldfashioned. Quite the opposite. He creates music that is new and fresh, music that can’t very easily be compared to any other. And a great part of this is down to his amazing, one of a kind voice, which among other things has had people exclaim; “What?! His voice must be bipolar…!?!».
Raphael has just released a new song, accompanied by a wonderfully beautiful video, L’estate di John Wayne, which is the first single from his new album. I can’t wait to hear the rest!!

Part 1; Mumiy Troll
Part 2; BrainStorm
Part 3; Sébastien Tellier
An earlier, shorter version of this article (in Norwegian) was published on escNorge.net back in 2012.

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