Following the release of the single Not A Waste, we caught an interview with artist and songwriter Paola to find out more about her musical journey so far. Here’s how it went.
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Hey – thanks so much for the interview, and congrats on the single! What does Not A Waste represent for you, and how did you come to write it?
I can tell Not a Waste has a story. The producer and bass player Reuben Cainer (Bilal, Bigyuki, Alex Han etc) picked the originally called “It’s not a waste of time”, the one and only song that I ever wrote in a major key! We made so many versions of the track and at the end of the day we have been naturally transported back to a darker and introspective mood. Working with him surely made this first single more electronic and contemporaneous compared to the RnB/Soul-Jazzy vibes I usually favour.
You describe the song as “a conversation between the instinctive side of an artist and the half-sleep predator part which is ready to sabotage new inspirations.” For many creatives, this is an all too familiar concept. To what extent has it affected your work, and has it made a positive difference to address the issue openly and artistically?
I always fight with this kind of feeling. The same thing happens when I start painting something I already drew in my mind. The big and shared problem is right there : I don’t wanna disappoint my vision, I want to be good enough for my idea. What makes “clear” what to do is trust a “way”, choose the best way you are comfortable with, even if you’re not sure and take it from there. So I trust in myself no matter what I’ll choose, because it comes from me, and that’s my truth.
What’s the songwriting process like for you – where do you begin, and how do you know when a song is truly finished and ready to share?
At the beginning I used to improvise some chords on the piano and then come up with a melody. Then I start thinking more about chords progression and harmony relationship. Lately I like to create the whole pre-production, starting from the drum beat, bass and synths lines and so on. My favourite part is recording backgrounds vocals! How do I know when a song is finished? I don’t know! I just get bored of it.
What can you tell us about the upcoming EP – will there be an underlying concept, will the sound follow a similarly dreamlike approach to the single?
Yes, the sound will follow this dreamlike atmosphere. For sure there will be five tracks I wrote in the past two years and they will feature two/three amazing collaborations. I’m so excited!
You’ve had a fairly eclectic background so far – in what way do you feel your experience at Berklee College of Music helped shaped your musical approach?
Being at Berklee has been the dream of my life! I had the privilege to attend the lessons of Jacques Schwarz-Bart (D’Angelo, Roy Hargrove, Erykah Badu etc), Tia Fuller (Beyoncé, Christian McBride, Grammy nominated) and George Garzone (Aretha Franklin, Joshua Redman, Dave Holland etc), to name a few. I’ve been the first singer admitted in the George’s Avant-garde Ensemble.
You’re also a visual artist – how does the painting process differ for you in terms of therapeutic benefits and expression, and is there a connection between the two art-forms for you?
My parents always say that every morning before kindergarten I used to draw a small piece of artwork. It was my meditative ritual to start the day. And it’s still like that way! And yes, there’s a some kind of correlation between my music and my visual art : I love Surrealism, Dadaism and every “weird” associations you can invent among the elements of the artwork.
Do you come from a musical or artistic family?
Actually both. My father is a passionate drummer player and blues lover, my mother is an ex singer, my brother is a funk soul singer/composer and keys player and my sister is a jazz singer/composer and arranger. It is a curious fact that every one of them is also a painter. I really thank them for letting me grow up with genuine freedom and love.
Who in your life would you say has had a great effect on your music and your direction as an artist?
I’d say Pasquale. He brought me so many new inspirations, he brought me the knowledge of the coolest innovative music. He’s ridiculously talented! I remember the time we recorded our first song together : he literally destroyed me! I have to say, I’m so so grateful, I really thank him for always pushing me beyond my limits… maybe he was the one who believed in me before me.
Is live performance an important part of your plans, and if so – what can audiences expect from a live show?
I love performing, that’s the best part, it makes me feel alive at 100%, it makes me feel safe and blessed. In my performances I love to rely on inspiration, moods, vibes and connections. For this reason is always different and surprising.
What’s life like as a musician in New York right now, and who will be helping out with the EP recording there?
That’s so important to always have inputs and motivation and New York is the best place for it. Opportunities, people from all around the world, super dope concerts etc. All this is a source of lessons.
How did you come to meet and collaborate with producer Reuben Cainer and keyboard player Pasquale Strizzi?
The two of them are great friends since Berklee, they also have an incredibly interesting and unique project together (stay tuned for that). I met Pasquale (Marcus Miller, Casey Benjamin, Meshell Ndeogeocello etc) at Umbria Jazz Berklee Clinics, he was the piano assistant and I was the student. So Pasquale introduced me to Reuben, this crazy/amazing guy full of unusual ideas.
What’s the bigger picture for you – what are your hopes for the future as an artist?
I hope to always be able to create interesting music and art, and be surrounded by love.
Is there anything else we should know?
I bite my nails haha.
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Find & follow Paola on Instagram.