Hi Alfio, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I have been well thanks for asking… how about you?
Can you talk to us more about your recent release, “After Love”?
“After Love” is the studio recording which accompanied my recent PBS CD and DVD release, it is a culmination of an Italian and English repertoire that extends to a wider demographic of listeners. “All By Myself” is the opening track and is my rendition of an already amazing song – instead of using the already recorded piano concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff (who died in 1943 and is buried right here in NY’s famous Kensico Cemetery), I incorporated the music from ‘Il Pagliaccio’ by Ruggero Leoncavallo – fusing these two pieces of world-renowned music together was like the marriage of two people in love, they blended perfectly both musically and lyrically, and I am so proud that I was the first to make it happen.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write the title track?
When love is lost and you are in despair, you feel that your entire existence is shattered, I have been there twice in my life and I have lived through it to tell the tale and I did indeed find love again. However, being a writer means you are a thinker and the thoughts in your head can be of events from way back in the past to the events of the future which are fabricated in your own mind.. A thought from the past can stir up the exact same emotion today as it did when it happened, and lyrics are born to events which may or may not yet have occurred.
Why did you name the album after this track in particular?
“After Love” is one of those tracks which has a great message of hope for those in despair, or for those who have lived through a hard break up and also found love again. This, coupled with the more contemporary and almost country pop feel, presented itself as a stand-out and worthy candidate for the title track of the album.
Can you talk about the recording and writing process?
Writing a song can be as simple as a melody and lyric coming to you in the still of the night when the world is asleep and your brain is in a quiet state, or it can be hours and days, months and years of visiting and re-visiting a melody which is missing a lyric or a lyric which is missing a melody. Some people write music and lyrics together, some do the music first and some the lyrics first; there are no set rules or formulas, the important thing is that it connects with the listener and it is executed with real conviction. Recording then is a matter of ‘how big do you want to build your house? what materials are you looking to use?’ To use that analogy is the best way I can describe it… the production process has many, many more variables and possibilities than building a house and it all comes down to the one person who is producing the song .. the architect of the home.
How has your Australian-Italian upbringing influenced you as an artist, and the decision to become one?
Well I guess this all comes down to roots and basic building blocks of what makes us who we are. I am blessed to have been born in an Italian house, where music was always all around us. It was just the way things were.. all of my family sing or play either the piano or guitar, so me being the youngest, I absorbed the best from my older siblings and my parents. I always say that I got my voice from my dad and the emotion from my mum.
Were you always drawn to ‘the classics’?
The classics have something which a lot of music is lacking today… MELODY and MEANING … how can anyone compare on a musical level and also on a lyrical level; a song like ‘You’ll Never Know’ as performed by Frank Sinatra, to songs of today that talk about the most horrific and meaningless topics. My writing style is not aiming to bring back one thing or another, it’s just how my being vibrates and what I love to do.
Tom Jones and Michael Buble are among some of the acts you have been compared to – do they actually play a role in your approach to your music/performance style, or is pure coincidence?
I don’t sit there and watch these performers sing on stage and study their every move, they are on their own path and I am on mine… we are doing the same thing in a parallel universe of different locations of planet earth. It’s flattering to be compared to them and it does give me some form of encouragement to pursue my love and passion for music when I see people like Wayne Newton still performing in Vegas at the age of 74 and Tony Bennet still making music into his 90’s!
You have performed in different countries – do you tend to take a different approach depending on the location and audience?
I always pick my songs right before the show after I have gauged the crowd, it may be part of me being the crowd pleaser that I am. You need to have a good understanding of what songs have made it around the world and what people anywhere will love – i.e. if you go to China, you can’t go wrong if you sing ‘Torna Surriento’ or ‘O Sole Mio’ and if you sing it well, then you’re gonna be just fine! I also try to learn and sing songs in as many languages as possible.
You also sing in different languages – do you write in one language, or does it depend on the song’s lyrics and theme – as to whether you would you write/sing in English, Italian, etc.?
Writing in Italian does have an effect on the melody and where my brain is taking me to, which direction , which genre. Writing in English allows me to express myself in my first language but it can sometimes lack the emotion and passion which the Italian language encapsulates. It is said that Italian is the language of love and it is true that all of the operas and arias from centuries ago were sung and originated in Italian… so how can that truth be denied?
What’s been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I cannot put this down into one answer, it has been a series of events such as the recent Emmy nominations, dinner with Luciano Pavarotti or singing several times at Madison Square Garden or the Melbourne Cricket Ground for 80,000 people. The biggest achievement to date is the knowledge that this is all a journey and there is no single event that will make you or break you. I have resigned to that fact that I am on this journey for life and I look forward to where the next chapter takes me.
How are you preparing for the upcoming tour dates in the U.S.?
Being happy with who and what I am and have become… this shines through like a bright light while I am on stage performing. If you don’t love what you do, you should not be doing it. My band are amazing and we have a great energy on stage, we always rehearse before the shows and we make sure the show is well rehearsed, but only musically, then I run with it and throw new things in during the show so the band doesn’t know what to expect. That adds a fun energy to the show which the audience sees and appreciates. I always tell my musicians to have fun and play whatever they feel they should play.. I never restrict them to a regimented format.
What can audience expect to see at your show?
Expect to be blown away haha! My shows are unpredictable, I have no lines scripted and I refuse to wear in ear monitors, as they block out the sound of the audience. The audience are there to see me, and I want to see and hear them too, what they are saying and when they are laughing or crying or smiling. I am one together with my audience…if it were not for them, where would I be and who would I be singing for? I always make sure there is a good mixture of songs that the audience knows and enjoys: world renowned classics, some of my originals, stories in between, audience participation and making sure everyone leaves with a handshake or a hug from me if physically possible!
What is happening next in ALFIO’s world?
We are working on the next phase of touring together with PBS and I am working on more new music and a new concept for the next PBS show for 2017. It is all very exciting stuff and I am so honored and proud to be able to be doing this as a career. I’m also about to sing at Madison Square Garden again, this time I will perform both the American and Canadian National Anthems on Nov 6th. Stay tuned people and follow me on social media and like what you like and comment and interact with me while you do. http://ww.facebook.com/alfiomusic | http://www.instagram.com/alfioofficial