In one of the comments from an article I wrote, a woman named Linda wrote: “I wish Il Volo would be a household name in America!” I thought funny she should say that because Il Volo from the beginning was more popular in America than they were in Italy. It took a long time and a great decision for Italy to open their arms to our guys and there were many obstacles along the way. So, I thought maybe a little behind the scenes look at the guys and some of the challenges they had to overcome to get Italy’s attention would make an interesting story. There were some good memories and some not so good but, I’m getting ahead of myself….
Let’s pick up their story in 2013 with memories of the first South American Tour.
North America, South America and Latin America Tour ~ Memories 2013
One of the first things Gianluca remembered is Ignazio’s birthday in Messio, on the evening of the first concert of the tour. Let’s enter into their conversation to see where this is all going….
Gianluca: The most special thing about Ignazio’s birthday was that we celebrated with the fans.
Piero:Actually, I remember an important thing about the South America tour. This is when we realized we were really famous. The fans were in front of the hotel waiting for us. But it happened slowly, slowly, relatively slowly, month after month. Because two months before we were in Argentina and there were twenty fans, the next one there were a hundred, the one after there were three hundred, and then a thousand, two thousand. Now the situation is unbelievable if you have not experienced it, you will not believe it because we are with bodyguards twenty-four hours a day. It’s another world.
Ignazio: I only know that when I finished that tour in South America I was nicknamed “Ignazio the tank” by myself: I had done twenty concerts with bronchitis. The worst was in Caracas, Venezuela, six thousand five hundred people, at seven in the evening: soundcheck….
Let’s start with the first song. I try to sing and, the voice does not come out, there is nothing to do, it does not come out. And here comes the most total panic, we stopped the soundcheck, the production calls a doctor and, I was punctured with Bentelan. In short, for a month and half I sang only thanks to the cortisone and breathing technique that our teacher Sergio Bertocchi taught us.
Piero: “Our,” because he is also my teacher. But maybe we should say master. Sergio Bertocchi is the person who helped me most in singing, the one that solves my doubts and my problems. If I enter a lesson with him with a doubt, I go out another Piero, happy and relaxed…. You do not know how important it is to have an experienced person like Sergio Bertocchi to guide you.
Ignazio: I know for sure, that without his breathing exercises I do not know how I would have sung. Without a voice I was completely out of it.
Yes, the boys had challenges! Long periods away from their families, concerts, recording sessions, interviews, just endless. Sometimes it’s just too much to handle and like anyone else they find a crashing point. For the most part they kept it together but there were times when everything would just fall apart. So, Ignazio made it through the tour but, Piero reminds him of something else in the tour that did not affect his voice one bit….
Piero: Igna’, but the voice, you had in that interview! It was March 2013 we were in Argentina at the famous Los 5 edicion broadcast of QMusica TV. What was the problem? We spoke Spanish and sometimes we were wrong, so we stopped the recording and went back. So, Ignazio was already a bit tired out, let’s say. But the worst thing is that in Argentina they do not have the V in Volo, they have the B, they say “Il Bolo”. And one, and two, and three, always “Il Bolo.” At that point, Ignazio begins to correct the guy who was in the studio and repeated to us the things to say, and once, and twice, and three: “Il Volo, it is said Il Volo, V!”. Until the guy in the studio runs off new “Il Bolo” and Ignazio starts with a string of bad words in precise Sicilian that are immortalized in the off-wave scenes.
Ignazio: However, guys, we are serious people, now…. Where were we? Oh yes. The end of the Latin American tour.
Christmas 2013 was approaching and, the record company wanted to come out with a record of Christmas songs. So Universal decided to complete the EP that came out two years ago with just five Christmas songs. So, after the Latin American tour we started promoting the Christmas album
My house began to fail me. Being four months away, changing cities, hotels and planes almost every day is not easy. From the age of sixteen, finding yourself catapulted into a world completely different to the one I was used to, it was not a simple thing to manage. At first no, actually the first two years I thought “What a beautiful life!”. Then I realized that All That Glitters is Not Gold.
To get satisfaction and achieve the goals you have set yourself, you have to give up many things and, work hard. Stay focused on your work. It’s not easy.
Sometimes people say, “But these guys never get tired?”. Well, yes, we get tired too, sometimes. Personally, there was a time when I thought only of friends. I wanted to go out, I never answered the phone, the emails, the messages, I was out of this world.
It was thanks to my family, to the boys and to Michele that I realized that I was neglecting what was always important for me: the music.
Gianluca: True, Ignazio is right. It was not easy and, neither is it now.
In those years, in 2012 and 2013, no one knew us in Italy, we were just the three children who came from Ti Lascio Una Canzone.
But in America, in South America, in Europe we were very well known. And not only there. After the release of our first CD we went on tour in places that none of us could have imagined we would go to: Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and New Zealand. In Singapore we also had a gold record with that first CD.
So, before Sanremo, we lived two lives, two completely different lives. Abroad we were stars and, we came to Italy to rest. I took refuge in Montepagano, Piero in Naro, Ignazio in Marsala. It was nice to come back to a “normal” life. But… we felt that something was missing, that it was bad to be so successful outside of our country and not be able to have it in Italy.
The following interview is one of the best interviews the guys did in 2013. It showed how humble they are and that they are living their dream, but their heads are not in the clouds! The interviewer Larry London was so impressed with our guys.
The guys talked about being on the road and how much they miss their lives even though they are living amazing lives.
Ignazio: 2014 was not our best year. In fact, along with Eurovision, which is one of those things that I do not like to talk about, but we’re telling the truth, so let’s tell it all. That year the contract with Universal expired, so we started looking for a new record company.
It’s just that finding a new record company is not something you do in two days. We did not sleep at night. We talked with Michele about it until late in the evening to look for solutions.
The first thing that came to mind was to take charge of everything. Not that we could stop because we were looking for a new record company. So, we continued to work on the projects we had, new records and tours. We planned a new tour in Canada and the United States for that summer. We could do it.
You see, being brave brought us luck because, after a few months an email from Sony Latin arrived: they were interested in us. After a few weeks and long negotiations, we went to Miami to sign the contract.
This was unique and emotional because, we were underage when we were signed by Universal, our parents signed for us. This was the first record contract signed by our fist!
In the intermediate stages of negotiations with Sony, when it was not yet official, the final evening of the Billboard Latin Music Award arrived, that is the annual award linked to the American magazine “Billboard”.
In 2014 we were competing for the Latin Pop Albums Artist of the Year – Duo or Group, in which we had already received two other nominations, in 2012 and 2013.
The concept is that, even though we are always compared with South American artists, it was really very difficult for us to win.
Gianluca: That year, then, was really special to us with all that was happening.
We arrive at the BankUnited Center in Miami on the evening of April 24th, 2014. the theater is full of people.
When the nominations were announced, the choir starts from the public: “Il Volo! Il Volo!”. A moment later Paola Nunez, the Mexican actress who presented the award with her colleague Jorge Graciola, confirmed it: “Il Volo!”
I’m standing up, I jumped, I arrived on stage first, I hugged everyone. I could not believe it. I was bursting with happiness.
Piero: And who believed It? It was the first, really, important first prize we received. In Italy they still saw us as the Tre Tenorini (Three Little Tenors) put out by Ti Lascio una Canzone, but in South America we were a recognized musical group.
So, they found a record company to produce their music and they won the Latin American, Latin Pop Albums Artist of the Year for 2014 but, still no recognition from Italy. But soon that would start to change….
Ignazio: However, Italy made us close in 2014 with a flourish. What started out very badly finished very well: with the Christmas concert in the Senate.
Piero: Actually, Igna, “first there was Taormina. Our first concert in Italy on July 20th, and then the encore on the 21st. I hold these events very close for many reasons. In the meantime, not only was it the first time in our home but, it was in Sicily, at the Greek Theater of Taormina. If you’ve never seen it, you must go there, it is a “place of magic.”
So, it was already emotional plus the fact that there were our relatives and all the friends who until then had never been able to hear us because we were doing concerts in America, in South America and how could they get there? And moreover, among all my relatives was my grandfather.
Since he has become blind, he never leaves home, never. Before Taormina, he had only come out one other time and always for me. When we were in Rome, he took the plane for the first time in his life, to participate in Arena of Massimo Giletti.
In Taormina it was even more beautiful because I dedicated, to my grandfather, Pietro Ognibene, “Non ti scordar di me” and I told everyone that he was the first person to hear me sing, and that if it were not for him, I would never have done this job.
It was the first time he had heard me sing since we became singers by profession, the first time, just goosebumps. A great emotion!
Ignazio: We also want to talk about the thrill of singing in front of the highest offices of state! What twenty-year-old boy has something like that happen? It happened to us, and it seems to me a beautiful result, an honor.
The concert was on December 21st. You cannot imagine the emotional feeling to be called “guests of honor” inside the Senate. We were accompanied by the, fantastic, Filarmonia Orchestra Veneta conducted by Diego Basso. Half the beauty of the song is in the orchestra.
The most exciting moments? Every one! But the hymn of Mameli was the heart-pounding one, the first song, singing in that place, with everyone singing along with us, including Giorgio Napolitano, (President) and Pietro Grasso (President of the Senate). It is one thing that I cannot explain.
And then, of course, the pleasure of shaking hands with the President of the Republic and of feeling that he knows Marsala, he has been there.
In short, in the end, instead of remembering it as the worst year of our lives together, 2014 brought us well: great changes and an important step towards Italy, towards home.
So now the boys have been recognized in the Senate and by the President of the Republic of Italy but still, no recognition from Italy. But wait, they have an idea….
Piero: Meanwhile, the first thing that comes to mind, after so many years of great success abroad, the greatest successes there has been, one wakes up one morning, indeed, three wake up one morning and decide to go to the Sanremo Festival.
When one is famous all over the world, there comes a moment when he must also be able to say: “Wow, they love me even in Italy”. He must be able to say: “They also love me in my country”.
You go abroad and, during the interviews, you hear the fateful question: “You are loved even in Italy, right?” And you have to answer no. No one can understand how much we suffered in those moments.
Also, in meetings with Universal, in the United States, we sometimes tried to say: “Why do we have concerts all over the world, except in Italy?” We wanted the record company to try to support us in this sense too.
I remember that once, during a meeting with the president of Universal, I asked him for the thousandth time. And what does he do? He had a globe on his desk, I’m not joking, he gives it to me and says: “Turn it around, then stop it and find Italy at the first shot”.
The problem is that you have to look for it because it is a small country, very small compared to the United States and Latin America or Australia. Then I got mad: “Oh, no, it’s my country, and the country where I was born, and the country where we come from, you cannot say it’s not important, do not think about it.”
For us, Sanremo was a decisive opportunity to let us be known to Italians, to say to Italians “We exist”. And we are proud and really happy that our music genre was appreciated.
Ignazio: As they say, Piero? A prophet is not recognized in his own land, so we were snubbed, perhaps because they never had the opportunity to really know us and show, once and for all, who we are personally and humanly, as well as being singers.
Then, after a few months of night phone calls with Michele, towards the end of 2014, we finally decided: “new year, new life: we go to the Sanremo Festival”.
In the beginning the guys were living in a dream world but they found out that All That Glitters is Not Gold!
Next time we will watch the guys fulfill their dream! The Night the Lion Roared!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!