When I read Un’avventura Straordinaria, the story that I loved the most was the story of Sanremo. The decision by the guys to take on the Sanremo Festival. This story brought out their personalities, their differences and how they are so bound to one another that they could make the decision of a lifetime together even if it meant they could lose what was so important to them, their country and their people!
In our story today we witness the guys making some important decisions about their career. But before we hear about those decisions, let’s step back and see where the guys were in 2014.
2014 started out as a bad year. Their contract with Universal ended and was not renewed and they found themselves wondering what would happen next. This is when they stepped up to the plate and began to see Il Volo from the inside out!
After many sleepless nights, they approached Sony and asked to be under contract with them. Following some lengthy negotiations and, what seemed like an eternity, Sony put them under contract.
Then suddenly things were happening. They were invited to sing at the Italian Senate. This was an event of immense importance for them. It said Italy was finally noticing them so, it only made sense that it was time to take a giant step!
Time to go to Sanremo!
But this story doesn’t start with Sanremo, nor does it end there! Sanremo was the door opener!
They will tell you that the decision to go to Sanremo was a good one but, in contrast going to Eurovision may not have been their best decision. My reply, going to Eurovision was an excellent decision!
Let’s see how these decisions were made and what path they chose!
So where do you begin to make the decision. Well, you have to start with the decision itself.
Who’s in and who’s out!
From day one, Gianluca wanted to go. He was so convinced that they would win that he never backed down from it. He had no doubt in his mind that they would win.
Always the pessimist, Ignazio. He said “No, we can’t win. It’s too hard.”
So that leaves Piero! Piero at first was not on board but Gianluca persuaded him. Gianluca said, “No one trusted, no one believed it. It was I who persuaded Piero to persuade Ignazio to go to Sanremo. Because I told them: ‘Guys, if we go, we’ll win it, I’m sure, I’m sure’”.
Piero said, “We said to ourselves: ‘Guys, make it or break it, in the end, we were not anyone here in Italy, at most we would not be anyone even afterwards.’”
Decision made! It’s official the guys go to Sanremo!
Then there’s the second problem, the song!
At Sanremo you must perform an unpublished song. How do you begin to find such a song?
Now this is the part of the story that’s really interesting and sometimes funny! Oddly enough, the one who wanted this the most was the one who did not agree to the song. I so enjoyed listening to this dialogue between the guys. This is where we begin to hear the guys make important decisions together. They’re really good. When they begin, they’re not agreeing but as time goes by…. Well, why don’t I let them tell you how they finally got to Sanremo?
Gianluca: I did not agree to go with that piece. If I think about it now, I’ll say that the next time I must reflect better before judging, try to sing a song and then judge because our voices change the songs. We arrange them by cutting them on our voice, and I did not take this fact into consideration. The song when we first listened to it was not very ugly!
Ignazio: It’s not that we’ve heard only that, no. Do you think it is easy to choose a piece for Sanremo? We started to do a search and a selection of unpublished tracks. Our policy was: either we go with something strong, or we do not go, right?
One day this song comes to us through Michele: Grande Amore by Francesco Boccia and Ciro Esposito, two Neapolitan authors. As usual, I am pessimistic. I listen to it and it does not make me crazy. Not even Gianluca was convinced. The only enthusiast was Pie …
Piero: (interrupts) I loved “Grande Amore!” I did not believe that we would have won, but I was the one who pushed, I and Michele pushed for “Grande Amore” because the audition that we heard was not beautiful, but we imagined it if it was made by Celso Valli and, I must say that we had guessed right.
Ignazio: (interrupts) And I said it too if you let me talk. I was saying, in fact, that “Grande Amore” was not as we hear it today. It was always called “Grande Amore,” but it was totally different. So, we start to think: who can produce the piece? And Michele calls the great Celso Valli. After several weeks of work in the studio, we manage to churn out a song that could leave its mark at the Sanremo Festival.
Gianluca: (interrupts) That’s why when we left for Sanremo I was very convinced we had the piece, the right project.
Piero: He wanted to influence us, but we are superstitious ….
Gianluca: Every day at lunch and dinner with Michele and the president of Sony, I say: ‘Guys, we will win Sanremo.’
Piero: (interrupts) Do you know what a week like this means?
Ignazio: Piero and I were all day touching iron and the low parts. Gianluca was convinced that the little lion (the Sanremo award is represented by a lion) would be ours? And the two of us tried to keep the situation under control.
Gianluca: (interrupts) What should I tell you? I am an optimist. They took it something like ‘he makes fun of us,’ but I felt it inside. I do not know why.
So many interruptions! Ignazio, before he was interrupted, was about to tell us about the first night they sang.
Ignazio: The 65th edition of the Festival begins on Tuesday, February 10th. We sing the second night, Wednesday the 11th. The strange thing is that normally my legs tremble before the performance, but mine trembled even after the performance! Perhaps too much adrenaline, it never happened before.
Piero: (interrupts) Or maybe it was because we came back to the Ariston stage after going around the world. It was like coming home, because we experienced the beginning of our career here with Ti Lascio una Canzone. One thing that cannot be described: in Sanremo, in Italy, to sing and receive the applause of the Italian public. It cannot be explained.
Gianluca: Can you imagine for me this was also my birthday? I turned twenty on the Ariston stage! Of course, I was moved in the end, and it was too much emotion to my sensibility to play bad jokes at times. And then, we felt the pressure in the air. Even though I was optimistic, the tension was there.
Although we had taken care of the smallest details of the song, we had tried and tried again, and we had taken care of even the smallest details of the clothing. First evening look more rock: total black with leather jacket.
Because when we do our work the image matters, too.
Piero: (interrupts) Count, of course that counts. But do you remember how we were dressed before? I remember that time at Una Notte per Caruso, in July 2009, it was the second time we saw Torpedine. Michele arrives with another white Range Rover, not that of Jesolo, and as soon as he arrives, we do not even say hello and we go to see the car. Let’s run, let’s open the car. Ignazio immediately goes up to the car. We went crazy for cars, one like that, we did not see every day. The day after we go for a ride in downtown Sorrento, a shopping trip, and we enter Gucci’s. Michele spent almost two thousand euros and we with that written number at the counter, we exclaimed: “Mizziga! (Damn!) Two thousand euro” with wide eyes. And we still have those clothes, at least I personally still have them.
He had bought us a jacket, but above all the need for us to dress all in white and blue. I had the blue jacket and the white shirt, Gianluca had blue trousers and white shirt, Ignazio the blue shoes and everything else white, Michele the blue jacket. And we took a picture in front of the hotel.
Gianluca interrupts: We were just dressed badly to be singers by trade, we were children, we came from families of workers. What could I buy? There was not even the need.
Piero: (interrupts) And then you remember the restaurant? Afterwards we went to a restaurant near the sea. When we finished eating, the three of us took off our shoes and ran to the beach. Michele ran behind us telling us: ‘Guys, calm down. Guys, slow down.’
At this point Ignazio loses his patience. “YES, but, what does that have to do with it, Pie? We were talking about Sanremo. What has Sorrento got to do with it?
Ignazio gets the conversation back on track!
Ignazio: Sanremo 2015, from the 10th to 14th of February, we sang on the second evening, legs shaking, Gianluca’s birthday.
Among the many interviews, the diary that we kept every day for TV Sorrisi e Canzoni … We had fun with the diary!
It was a sort of ‘pill.’ A very few minutes, in which we recorded from the 9th to 14th of February. We talked about some of the emotions we felt. For example, the time that Gianluca almost stumbles on stage or the happiness of seeing the audience get up and applaud the first night we sang “Grande Amore.” The recording, then, went online on the site of the magazine.
What was I saying? Ah, yes, among the many interviews, the diary that we kept every day for TV Sorrisi e Canzoni, meetings and press conferences …
Piero: (interrupts) And the criticisms we felt in those days? People at home voted for us, appreciated us, and journalists gave us votes that we thought were postponed until September, I also said this at the press conference after the victory. Five that flew (bad votes given by critics). But we see that the criticisms have done us good.
Ignazio: Can I do a criticism of you?
Piero: Ah, tell me…
Ignazio: You interrupted me. I was about to tell the final. I can continue?
Ignazio: In short, the final evening arrives, February 14th. I realize from my shirt that in a week we have eaten more than we sang. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m a boy who does not say cat if I do not have it in the bag, then until Carlo Conti said….
Piero: (interrupts) And indeed, whoever wins does not know it until the end! Sorry, Igna’. Speak you!!!
Ignazio: Until Carlo Conti said: ‘The winner of the Sanremo Festival 2015 is … Il Volo!’ I said to the boys: ‘No, guys, we do not win, it’s difficult.’ And on the one hand I had Piero with shining eyes and on the other Gianluca with a smug smile as if to say: ‘Do not worry.’
Gianluca: The truth is that I was right from the beginning, and no one had ever listened to me, ever. I believed it so much that, if you notice, maybe I’m the one with the least surprised look on my face when Carlo Conti announces the winner. Then, of those moments, one remembers little, there is great confusion, emotion. It was a dream to be able to shout, ‘Thank you, Italy!’ from that stage. I look at Sanremo as a child, when there was Pippo Baudo, and I was there and have won because people were on our side and it was a dream, I repeat even if I have already said. The emotion was only when my grandfather told me almost in tears: “Who would have told me that in life I saw Modugno win at the Festival and then I saw you win?”
Taking the conversation back, I have to say, to me this was the best conversation we could listen to. They disagree, they find middle ground, and they agree but, most importantly they listen to one another and that’s what makes the bond so great!
In the end Gianluca said: “In short, Sanremo was just a dream that brought us many different emotions. Too bad it was not repeated also in Vienna!”
So, they gambled and, they won. They were happy and they finally felt accepted in their own country. It seems that everything worked out well but there’s a little piece of the puzzle missing.
The one disappointment they had. Or as Ignazio put it, “Eurovision… one of those things that I do not like to talk about, but we’re telling the truth, so let’s tell it all.”
Many of you know the winner of Sanremo goes to Eurovision to represent Italy. After winning Sanremo and the popularity of “Grande Amore”, the guys were fairly confident they could win Eurovision. And to some degree, Ignazio believed it too!
So, let’s join Piero as he tells us about what happened at Eurovision….
Piero: Vienna, the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, was a rather strange experience because we came as favorites. So, we were loaded, convinced! From February 14th to May 17th, the day we arrived in Vienna, we sang “Grande Amore” so many times that we convinced ourselves even more that we would make it. I mean, Gianluca and I, convinced ourselves while
Ignazio was pessimistic as usual. However, Gian, your presentiment this time is wrong.
Gianluca: But do you know what happened to Eurovision? Unlike Sanremo, the vote of the public was not as important as the Festival: fifty percent vote from home and fifty percent vote of the jury of journalists. And this put us at a disadvantage. But the public had voted for us, we arrived first for the people at home.
I cried when it was over. Why did I cry? I knew we had lost not because people did not love us, but for other reasons. Mom, I cried….
Ignazio: Do we really have to talk about it? I’m not so happy to talk about Eurovision because I do not have a great memory.
Piero: What a blow that night …
Gianluca: I started crying, then I looked at Piero, he too cried …
Piero: Gianluca in the end had convinced me to say: “We win, we win.” We had taken it in Sanremo, it could be that we would take it in Vienna, right?
Gianluca: Look, I guess because we won the televoting, I repeat it.
Ignazio: And I always am the pessimistic one, with my feet on the ground, saying, “No, guys, it’s hard. It does not say that we succeed.” Even though I had believed it myself a bit.
But it happened we came in third, behind the Russian Polina Gagarina, second with A Million Voices, and the Swedish Mans Zelmerlow who won with Heroes.
Gianluca took it very badly, he cried. Piero as well. Everyone took it very bad. What could I say? “Come on, guys, we got third, not everyone does that, the last one was Modugno.”
Piero: In the end, however, Gianluca and I looked at each other, a look as if to say: “Now what do we do?”, and a moment before we cried and the next moment we laughed. We had lost, what could we do? By now, it had happened.
Gianluca: We could not cry forever. And then, the public’s heart was ours.
Ignazio: Instead, the undersigned, after having done a little shoulder to others, the next morning I felt very bad, but very bad. For two or three days I was very bad, I threw it all out, later.
Piero: In life you cannot always win, that’s what we learned.
Where’s the beauty? Not all women can say yes to you. After that, how do you try to seduce one, if you already know that she will tell you yes?
So, when we came back from Vienna, many people in Italy asked: “Are you sad about the third place?”
Absolutely not, indeed we are very satisfied, but maybe even too satisfied, because our goal of Eurovision was to show us to two hundred and twenty million people. Even in Australia they saw us. But think how many are two hundred and twenty million people? A sea, is, a sea!
And can I tell you something? I have never loved the tricolor flag so much in my life. Knowing we were there at the Wiener Stadthalle with the roar of sixteen thousand people to hear us sing live and another two hundred million to see us at home, to know that we at that moment represented Italy for all of Europe is a great responsibility, however it is also a great stimulus to do it in the best possible way.
We represent Italy around the world with singing, with bel canto, and we believe we have done it better in Vienna. We put it all, we worked hard, we really gave our heart for this occasion.
It was a completely different experience from the others because it was not a competition between artists, it was a competition between Countries, it was a competition between origins, and we were there to defend our nation.
It was really very strong!
As Italy is a member of the Big Five, the guys went straight into the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Vienna on May 23rd, 2015. “Grande Amore” came in 3rd with 292 points but, they won the televote with 366 points and the Marcel Bezencon Press Award, as best song according to the collective voting of the accredited press. The extended play “Sanremo Grande Amore” was released in Italy on February 20th, 2015, and it was certified triple platinum by FIMI. They won the televote and the best song according to collective voting by the accredited press. The people have spoken!
This is how I see the situation!
What they saw as a disappointment I saw as a great achievement. Look at how far they came! They won the Latin Music Award, they won Sanremo and finally they won Eurovision (third is a win you know)! They saw Sanremo as the harder win. I saw Eurovision as the harder win because here they were representing something very dear to them, their country! As Piero said, “it was a competition between Countries, it was a competition between origins, and we were there to defend our nation.”
As much as they were disappointed in the Italians in the beginning of their career because they felt they were not on their side, they were never disappointed in their country. They loved it and brought it around the world with them but, Eurovision was the moment when they were able to say this is Italy, we are Italy! This is my country that I am singing my heart out for it and, I will always be there to represent it. And never has that been more evident than today. Look at what the guys have done for their country and the Italian people in just this past eighteen months. Bottom line, Eurovision was when the guys really came into their own.
Against all odds they pulled it off. The part of the story they missed was the Italian people. They were always on their side. Even when they were traveling around the world and hoping to perform concerts in Italy, the Italian people were always waiting for them. The press was against them but never the people. They wanted them home as much as they wanted to go home.
In Contrast the decision to go to Sanremo was good but it was even better going to Eurovision!
Time to go back to Sanremo! How about all those unpublished songs you guys are holding on to? Maybe there’s a winner among them!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!