The Behind the Scenes video of the guys recording “Tous les visages de l’amour” inspired me to write this story. I know you’ve seen it a hundred times but here we go again!
In many of my stories I use this video because this best represents who the guys were when they began their journey. Three teenage boys, 15 – 16 years old! They were so wise, so intelligent, so far ahead of their time. So, so professional! Yes, they were led on this journey, but they were the moving force! They were able to pick up on everything so easily. Why? They had three amazing voices and an innate ability to naturally understand music! What does this mean? It means they had a born predisposition for music. Of course, their musical ability would be nothing without their experiences in very early life that realized that potential. Put another way, a seed is just a seed until it is given the soil, water and sunshine to grow.
And now the result of all the work in the studio!
Each one was discovered at a very early age! 1 – 5 years old. Let’s take a look at how it happened with each guy….
Gianluca’s grandfather was the first to think of bringing him closer to music.
They tell me that, when I was three years old, I sang ‘O Sole Mio’ in the town square in front of all the elderly gentlemen friends of my grandfather who, sitting around the bar table, were listening to this little boy with such a particular voice.
This was my first audience but, of course I don’t remember it. My grandfather wanted me to study music, he always told me: ‘Gianluca, study the piano, study an instrument.’ I’ve never done it. It would be a dream to sit down on the piano and start playing and singing. Let’s say it’s one of my next goals: learning to play the piano.
As you know Gianluca has achieved this goal!
Ignazio tells us about his mothers’ recollection of him playing piano at the age of one….
When I was three or four years old – I played with the piano my parents had given Nina. My mother says I was one years old when I played. Nina taught me to play Happy Birthday with one finger. I was a happy child. My mother told me, ‘You’ve never been a child,’ in the sense that I was always quite serious and responsible.
Ignazio said he was mischievous in school but…
With the passage of time, I found something good to do at school, that is, an activity that was able to hold my interest enough to prevent me from slipping into some disaster. I joined the school choir. I always liked to sing, to be “in the middle” of the music. And more and more passionately I began to understand how to make better use of Nina’s famous pianola. I learned how to start the musical bases and flip through them. And that’s when I discovered ‘La Donna È Mobile.’ I liked it so much that I sang with the base and invented words. I don’t remember the words but, it certainly was a song about Pavarotti. Having seen Pavarotti on TV, I knew he always had a big handkerchief so I would invent text and sing on the air ‘La Donna È Mobile.’
Piero tells us, his grandfather Pietro, would come out on his terrace every morning and find a cool place to sit. Pietro always had a recorder with him. He has been blind for many years, and he used the recorder to record music, recite poetry and compose songs.
Piero said one morning he was in the backyard on the swing, and, on the terrace, Pietro was preparing to record a song. The song is only two lines, and it is pure Sicilian. E lu suli talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta petra luci ci duna, that is and, (the sun, look, look, look, to this stone gives the light.)
I was swinging on the swing, I was about four or five years old, I was really, very, small. I listened to him a little and at a certain point, when he stopped singing, I started: E lu suli, talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta pedra luci ci duna. What can I tell you? It just came out like that.
His grandfather turned off the recorder and called his wife. Rina came out on the terrace, and he asked her, “Unni è Piero?” (Where is Piero?)
She replied, “In Altalena” (He is on the swing)
Pietro asked, “Ma cu cantava? Iddru?” (But who was singing? He?)
She replied, “Eh, si.” (yes)
He told Rina to call Piero.
So, Piero got up and went to his grandfather. Pietro lifted him up and put him on the table next to the recorder and told him to “sing the song again.” Piero sang the song exactly as his grandfather sang it.
After this Pietro took charge of Piero’s early musical education.
All of this was the beginning, the foundation, the groundwork which opened the path to Ti Lascio una Canzone for our guys.
So let me give you a little insight into how things were in the beginning for the guys. Of course, it was all so strange. One day they’re competing on Ti Lascio Una Canzone and, the next day they’re on the road to stardom. Fate put them in the same place at the same time and now they were embarking on, as Gianluca put it, “a professional artistic career.”
After Ti Lascio Una Canzone the guys became one so, when one speaks, all listen and, all have a say in the conversation. We can now listen to their thoughts, their ideas and begin to understand what it meant to go from three to one!
So, we join Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca after Ti lascio Una Canzone!
First stop ~ Miss Italy!
At the end of this video Caterina Balivo spoke to the guys…. The following is a short transcript of what they talked about.
Caterina Balivo (the presenter) greeted the guys and said the names of all the gymnasts who performed on stage, then she congratulated our guys and asked for a well-deserved applause from the whole Palasport of Iesolo (where the Miss Italy contest was being held).
She asks Ignazio how it feels to sing in front of so many people (it was one of their first performances) and Ignazio says that it is always very emotional.
Caterina asks what they do backstage before entering and Ignazio says that they have their own ritual, but they cannot reveal it (it is when they clasp hands and say shit [so I’ve been told]), even Gianluca tries to change the subject by saying that they review and criticize their evidence. As you can see, they did this from the very beginning!
A person in the audience wants to ask them a question but first Caterina says that the school has just ended, and she asks our guys how it went, with what vote they were promoted. Ignazio says 7/8 Gianluca 7 in short with a positive vote but not the maximum
Now to the man in the audience! Before I tell you who he is, let me present his question. He asked the boys at their age were they more excited to sing on stage or to see all the beautiful girls and Ignazio admits that backstage they made evaluations of the various girls.
So, to man that asked the question….
If Italy were still a monarchy, that young gentleman would be the King of Italy. He is Emanuele Filiberto, grandson of the deposed last King of Italy, Umberto II, who was exiled in 1945 when Italy became a republic. His father was Vittorio Emmanuele.
Nice detour let’s continue our journey….
Gianluca: We finally finished Ti Lascio Una Canzone and they invited us to sing on June 27th, 2009, at the nineteenth edition of Miss Italy in the world. The evening was broadcast on Rai Uno.
When we arrived in the dressing rooms, I saw Raf. ‘Oh my God, there’s Raf!’ I said, ‘Let me take a picture.’ I run to him like crazy, ‘Can I take a picture with you?’ We were three children at the park playing. Ignazio, to name one, poured Coca-Cola on the floor in the dressing room and it ended up on Michele’s jacket. Michele turns and says, ‘Barbara look,’ I still remember it, with a face looking like ‘Oh my God’
Piero:And after the Coca-Cola there were plums. Our first meeting with Michele Torpedine ends with plums flying from one dressing room to the other and Michele comes out with white hair, indeed no, because he already had white hair. No, he comes out with straight hair saying, ‘Are you three, crazy?’ In practice we threw plums from the door of our dressing room, to the one next to us, where Raf was and where Gianluca had gone immediately to ask to take the picture of which he spoke. We had a mess that night …
The day began well, calm, and quiet. I was having lunch at the hotel restaurant and a gentleman with a sand-colored raincoat and graying hair arrived. I heard footsteps behind me and a ‘Hello, Piero’ with this deep voice. You recognize Michele’s voice anywhere. You know, when I tell of that meeting, I seem to tell things like I’ve seen in American movies. It was from this that we started, three fifteen-sixteen-year-old idiots, and Torpedine, who had already become an icon for me. So, he sits with us, and we start talking.
After lunch, we got ready for rehearsals. We go to the dressing rooms, and you already know what’s going on between plums and Coca-Cola.
What has changed from that day to today? Nothing. On tour, in the television broadcast rooms and sometimes even in the recording room, one of our favorite activities is the fruit launch. The best are the grapes (but we also use cherries). Ignazio throws them from a distance and, I have to take it on the fly with my mouth. It doesn’t matter if the Pope or Bono is in the dressing room next to us, it doesn’t impress us.
A little impression we had when we started to hear about America. Who knew us, there? Nobody! So, what happened? We discovered what it means to have a manager.
Thanks to an American lawyer, Peter Lopez, a contact from Tony Renis, one of our auditions is at Interscope Records in the United States. It is a label of music production that is part of the Universal Music Group America, the largest record company in the States. To give you an idea, it is the label of Eminem, Sting, Lady Gaga, Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani, just to name a few.
Imagine the desk of Jimmy Iovine, the president of Interscope, a large desk in a large American office. They take a laptop, put it in front of Iovine, they start “O Sole Mio” recorded by Ti Lascio Una Canzone. When it arrives at “Ma n’aaaatu sole!” Iovine closes the computer and exclaims: ‘We got it!’ All right, we do it. And we sign a millionaire contract.
Now imagine this: The day before, I’m working in my uncle’s workshop and the next day I sign a millionaire contract with an American label.
At the beginning it was really a dream, even if I do not like repeating it, because you find yourself traveling the world and doing it, from one day to the next. However, I repeat, always without realizing the importance of the thing, without fully understanding what was happening.
Now we will listen to the guys tell us about their experience recording in the studio for the first time.
Ignazio:So, a dream that Piero, in the clouds, has forgotten to say is the most important thing: it was the first time that Italian singers signed a contract directly with an American record company.
In 2009 we recorded our first album. It was not easy.
For us today there are seven takes to sing. At that time there were thirty or forty. What language does he speak, will you say? English, Spanish and also a little Italian. So, a take is the recording of the single phrase that each of us sings when we record a song. We continue to redo it until we get the best version. In 2009, our first recording, took almost two days to record a song, until it was good. I remember that I made the absolute record of takes in ‘Smile’: I repeated my part for fifty-seven times.
We were small and inexperienced and, the English language did not help. Tony Renis along with Humberto Gatica, who was one of the best-known producers and sound technicians in the world, worked with us and if they were not satisfied, they would tell us clearly. They worked with Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Pino Daniele, Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion.
Gianluca:Piero forgot to mention that ours was the first contract signed directly by Italian singers with an American label, but Ignazio forgot to mention that the first recording studio in which we entered all three together for our great adventure was called Forum and it was in Rome.
I remember, and it is one of the few things that I have very clear in mind of that period, that we have compiled the lineup of the tracks with Tony Renis, and most were the ones we had sung at Ti Lascio Una Canzone, plus five other American songs
But the first time in front of the microphone was still in Rome in the studio where we had done the auditions before the program began. Roberto Cenci had assigned the songs to all the children, he had arranged the arrangements, and we had recorded the compilation that came out in May after the end of the program and immediately entered in the rankings.
But that was the first time alone in front of a microphone, and it was … (to Piero) What are you looking at? Do you want to say something?
Piero…it was nice because it was the first experience. We did not sing well because we had no technique, so it was as Ignazio said. We did a take sixty or seventy times.
At that time, we arrived in the studio, and we found everything ready. The songs to sing, the subdivisions, the arrangement, this and the other things. Now, after the third album, we do everything together, we create everything with Celso Valli, our producer.
Those first times we did not have this freedom, everything was imposed because we did not have the skills to do it.
Now we have them and we share the parts, we know each other better and, in the studio, we help each other. It is also nice to see that each of us now has his way to enter the recording room. Gianluca and I sing with the light on in the recording room. Ignazio, on the other hand, enters and the first thing he does is turn off the light. They are small details, but they mean that we have grown and, we have our own way of working.
Between the three of us, we have split up the roles. If there is a problem with the mixer, Ignazio works on it with the producer to fix it. Gianluca is the one who listens to the songs from morning to night and offers: ‘Guys, I discovered this songwriter. Guys, I discovered this artist, what do you think?’ I like the managerial part, I like managing, I like to contact people, I like to proposenew things to Michele, ‘Why do we not do that? Why do we not try to do that? How can we get to this person?’ I like us to put our heads together and think of how we can improve. We have a complete professional balance. We have grown physically, but also professionally. So even if we get a producer we do not know, we do not have any problems, we know how to talk to him and tell him what we want. This is the most important aspect: being at the same level. This is the reason why for some months now I have this big black leather folder, that I always carry with me. If I have to tell the truth, Torpedine lent it to me and, as it brought good luck, I stole it from him and, as I told you, I always carry it with me, with the pieces we have to do, the notes, the notes of what is lacking to be fixed, what is not lacking, the notes of what we need to do: everything is much more professional.
Now we are working with Celso, one of the most important record producers in Italy. He has collaborated with Vasco Rossi, Lucio Dalla, Eros Ramazzotti, all the big names. He’s really a great person.
We have had great luck. We can afford to deal with the older ones, it is not easy. It’s something that brings to mind the words of Torpedine. ‘You must always invest in your future.’ Celso has agreed to bet with us on our future and we worked together on the last album, ‘L’amore si Muove’ (Love Moves) which came out in September. It is a pleasure working with him because he lets you talk, lets you express your ideas, lets you try, and this is a fundamental thing, the most important thing when you want to improve and grow.
And we always have had the desire to grow, since we were little children. We have since we were baptized and, we were ready to … take flight.
So, we turn to the Baptism of Il Volo which tells how sometimes finding a name is much more complicated than it may seem.
Piero:Do you know that at one point they wanted to call us La Scala?
Until that time, in 2009-2010, during the recording of our first CD, we did not have a ‘real’ name. In the transmission with Antonella Clerici, we were baptized Tre Tenorini, for that thing that we resembled Luciano Pavarotti (Ignazio, for the waistline). Jose Carreras (Gianluca, for the elegance, says Torpedine) and Placido Domingo (me, for the tenor voice). But who could have imagined that one had to find another name? We did not even believe that we would continue to sing, imagine if we thought we needed a name.
Ignazio:Then, at that time when we were looking for it and we could not find it, we were recording We Are the World 25 for Haiti, at the beginning of February 2010, and we called ourselves The Tryo, which we then used as guests at the second evening of the Sanremo Festival, a week later, singing in front of Queen Rania of Jordan, only then we translated it to: Il Trio.
Gianluca:The problem of the name? It was one of those impossible marketing missions: it had to be short and easy to pronounce in practically all the world. For example, there is a group called Il Divo, and they also sing a genre similar to ours, and Il Divo was just the kind of name we wanted: short, easy to pronounce and also very international, because it has a clear meaning to everyone.
And that’s why the name La Scala came out. Elettra Morini, the wife of Tony Renis, had proposed it. Elettra, who was a dancer there, told her husband: ‘Why do you not call them La Scala?’ Surely everyone in the world knows La Scala.
Ignazio:And then, there was the question that they called us the Three Tenorinis, the Lyric, La Scala, La Scala …
We chewed it a little but, they did not convince us.
Piero:But who was looking for the name? All of us: the three of us, Michele, our parents, whoever belonged to our family, or our working group said a name, two or three, and it was written on a list. That list become worse than a telephone list: we got to more than five hundred proposals.
This thing of the name was becoming a joke. We were going to record the album, make a meeting, or engage in anything else, and we ended up talking about this name, but never got the right idea. In the end, one day, out of the blue, a gentleman working for Michele, Stefano, says: ‘Il Volo’.
Ignazio:IL VOLO? What about IL VOLO? IL VOLO? It began to turn in the air (ha ha) and so the birth of Il Volo.
Piero:But then we discovered that there had already been a group by this name in 1974, composed by Mario Lavezzi, Vince Tempera, Alberto Radius, Bob Callero, Gabriele Lorenzi and Gianni Dall’Aglio. It was a collaboration that lasted a year and a half and had gathered all of the best musicians. But now we liked the name, so we decided to keep it. Also, because it immediately seemed to us a good omen to fly, to take flight, get up in the air.
But we risked a little.
Think about it, if this project did not start, if we were not really able to ‘take off,’ could you imagine how they would have made fun of us? ‘The Flight has taken off? No, Il Volo has crashed!’ At that point, we had the CD, the name and we left for the United States.
And so, we end our little Behind the Scenes adventure! We leave the guys with their name, their first album in hand and on their way to America where they will steal the hearts of the American people.
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
It’s been a while since I posted a letter from a fan. This is a letter I received from Leena in Finland. Our guy’s touch people in every corner of the world!
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful website “Il Volo Flight Crew” that I have been following for about 6 months now. I have mostly been reading texts written by Daniela and Susan and felt touched every single time.
My name is Leena De Blasio and I live in Finland. I am married to an Italian man, and we have two children. I have always known about Il Volo but did not really pay attention to them until last October. I happened to watch a long interview with them where they talked about how the pandemic had influenced their career. By the maturity of their answers and their scenic presence on that occasion I immediately fell in love with them. After that I watched the concert at the Arena of Verona from last June four times and oh my God how much I cried watching it. Since then, I have been trying to learn everything about “our guys” looking at old recordings of their concerts, interviews, even ordering their book “Un’avventura straordinaria” which I unfortunately have not yet read because it is not possible to have it sent to Finland.
By profession I am a teacher of Italian, teaching at an institute which offers evening courses to adults. Currently I have 39 students in four different groups. My students are mainly elderly people, about 60-80 years old. Every semester when I get new students, I speak about Il Volo to them and some of my students have fallen in love with the boys too. Just before Easter with one group we listened to “Ave Maria Mater Misericordiae” and one student of mine started crying. I consider that this was the biggest moment of my career and I feel like crying myself too when I think about it.
As we live in Finland, I was convinced I would never be able to go to an Il Volo concert because I am sure that Piero, Gianluca and Ignazio will never come to sing here. Miraculously, last week I realized that this summer they will be having a concert in Ostuni not very far from where we will be on holiday. This was only on the third day of the ticket presale that I realized it. I rushed to the computer to buy the tickets but was totally sure they would have been sold out already. To my amazement I got four tickets to this concert and not bad places at all, the fourth row!!! How can this even be possible? This is unbelievable, I feel like crying, yelling, shouting and running at the same time. I am sure that I will cry through the whole concert. This is a miracle. I would like so badly to have a small chat with the guys before or after the concert… Let’s keep the fingers crossed there will be an occasion to do that.
I wish every reader of this wonderful blog a wonderful springtime and thank you once again to Susan and Daniela for their effort in keeping these fantastic stories going on!
We thank you for your readership, Leena! I hope you will be able to meet the guys. Keep an eye open on www.ilvolomusic.com for Sound Check and Meet & Greet!
Credit to owners of all photos and videos.
Thank you to Danilea Perani for the translation of the video!
*Excerpts from: Il Volo, Un’avventura Straordinario, La Nostra storia