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Issue 1084

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PAULO NUTINI: MEAN STREETS

Paulo Nutini
Paulo Nutini

Itâs been an impressive year for the young Scot: a top-selling self-penned first album, a month and a half tour across the States, a sold-out European and UK tour and a whole array of festivals lined up for the summerâ¦. and heâs just turned 20.

At B&S, we sometimes come across an artist we are unsure of covering - Nutini is a prime example. From the outset heâs another young, solo, British singer in the pop industry⦠but if you delve that bit deeper this boy has old soul running through his veins, and that is what caught our eye. I caught up with Paolo towards the end of his sold out European and British tour. He has just finished six months on the road with performances back home in the city of Glasgow to sold out dates at the Carling Academy, his tour more an informal gig rather than a âshowâ. I asked him about his on-stage persona. He simply says âI donât see myself as an entertainerâ¦I donât have the chat!â His broad Scottish accent, although sometimes lost on a crowd, should be taken as part and parcel of his modest stage personality and heâd like people to think that âmaybe thatâs just the way he likes to do it.â Is his accent lost on the Americans? âAye, a little bitâ¦I mean itâs not that hard is it for fuck sake! Maybe Iâll have to put on an Edinburgh accent in the future- or maybe Iâll just have to go English! Itâs nerve-wracking on stage, I do try and pronounce all my words, but sometimes the accent just comes out strong.â

You may have heard his hits, including âJenny Donât be Hasty,â and the newer acoustic-groove and light-hearted âNew Shoes,â that is the epitomy of fun American soul. What stands out about this singer-songwriter is the soul influence in his sound. With numerous comparisons made, from early Cat Stevens and Otis Redding to Finlay Quaye, Nutini explains he doesnât quite know how to judge it.âI grew up listening to singers like Ben E. King and The Drifters, Smokey Robinson and Ray Charles. They were very inspirational and I just loved their voices.â He attributes much of his musical taste to family, and specifically his late grandfather who introduced him to many singers he continues to idolise. âIâd ideally love to work with Bill Withers, or singers like Willie Nelson or Shooter Jenningsâ¦. Iâm a big fan of Louis Prima- do you know him? He was the voice of King Louis in the Jungle Book but more importantly a great singer whose songs youâd know at a drop of a hat- such as âWhen Youâre Smiling.â To me he has one of the most distinctive voices you could ever hear.â Nutini pays tribute to the âKing of Swingâ on tour with his own rendition of âI Waâna Be Like You,â (the monkey song from the Jungle Book), complete with animal noises and moves, bringing a light-hearted finale to his show. He also covers âNatural Bluesâ, known more recently through Mobyâs sampling, but as Nutini iquickly points out, âItâs an old cotton blues song, the lyrics are actually different to that of Mobyâs.â

He recently covered Amy Winehouseâs Rehab for Radio 1âs Live Lounge, improvising with a neat sound of soul and Scottish folk, and it is a song Nutini says he loved when he first heard it on the radio. âFrom hearing the horns at the beginning, I really get it, itâs like hearing an old Aretha record or the Supremes- you can hear Baby Love at the beginning of Back to Blackâ¦itâs sort of hip hop meets old soul. It doesnât really fall in the same category as me but it could be cool if we worked togetherâ¦there are talks on it.â They had the chance to hang out in Texas whilst both touring and working in the States. âShe was lovely- definitely a wild child!â What they both have in common is that vintage fifties era jazz/ soul appeal but with contemporary urban lyrics, rooted in nostalgia.
âI love the early Johnny Cash and Cat Stevens records as they keep it simple and come out with the most amazing turns of phrases- real romantic guys but men at the same time, ya know?â Such influences are clearly at work in his own songs, maybe an indication on why the album is so popular. âLast Requestâ could be an old motown record, rooted in experience and heartache youâd expect from an ageing American soul artist, rather than a teen from Glasgow. Nutini tells how his album came quite easily to him as it depicts the events and experiences heâs been through over the last three years- love gained, love lost and the upheaval from his beloved Scotland, as he sings âcross the border into the great unknownâ¦â
âIt started as a sort of diary and then the next day I would write about how certain things were resolved. My band would offer up some chords and a song would be written.â

With Live Earth, Glastonbury, T in the Park and hopefully a trip down under to Australia coming up, Nutini is certainly not at a loose end, and actually admits heâd like to have a bit more spare time to go into the studio and finish off one of sixty songs he has in the pipeline. âI like doing some of the smaller festivals, the more intimate gigs, as well as the big ones.â He is looking to begin working on the second album towards the end of the year to follow up on the original and enjoyable 'These Streets', which if you haven't heard yet, you might want to take a listen as this young man is here for a while yet.

'These Streets' is out now on Atlantic Records.
Words Kate Chaundy

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