Italian singer-songwriter Zucchero has sold over 25 million records but is only now undertaking his first full UK tour. Ahead of his Symphony Hall show Andy Coleman finds out why.
Q. Your shows in Britain are being billed as your first UK tour. Why have you not toured here before?
A. For many years I have wanted to tour the UK but it has not been possible because of timing. Each time I play London I meet many people who have travelled from all parts of Britain for the show.
How honoured do I feel now that I am at last able to perform in their towns and cities. I would like you to thank them from me for all their support. It is something I am really looking forward to.
Q. You’ve collaborated with so many people – who particularly stands out in your memory and why?
A. This is a very easy question in some ways and very hard in others as I have been privileged to work with many talented people and each bring their own personal memory. If I have to pick one collaboration it would be ‘Miserere’ with Bono and Pavarotti which is very emotional especially now that the great man is no longer with us. It is strange how we got to know each other. I called his home and his daughter took the call. She was such a big fan of mine she convinced her father to make a song together, which we did. A chance meeting which turned out to be a great friendship which I really miss. He will always be in my memory, generous spirited and for being ‘The Maestro’.
Q. Is there anybody you’d like to work with and why?
A. There are many musicians that I admire: Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, The Roots, for example, and I am always interested in working with different people from different areas of music. I met Amy Winehouse before she was famous and I remember listening to her, thinking that she had an exceptional voice and have thought ever since that we would make a great duet together.
Q. We’re told that you ‘discovered’ Andrea Bocelli. How did that come about?
A. When I wrote ‘Miserere’ I did it with Luciano Pavarotti in mind. I needed to make a demo to play to Luciano... so I auditioned many singers to record it.
At this time I met Andrea and I loved his voice and recorded it with him. After that I recorded the song with Luciano. As I had to go on tour and Luciano could not come I took Andrea with me. I really believed in Andrea so I co-wrote and produced a song for him that won the San Remo song contest. The rest is history.
Q. A ‘Best Of’ album is out now - what will your next release be and will it include new material?
A. As we speak I am also releasing my new live album and DVD called Live In Italy. It is a two CD/two DVD set taken from my San Siro Stadium and Arena Di Verona concerts. It has four new tracks on it, one of which I have dedicated to my mother, Una Carezza.
Q. The Best Of includes covers of Wonderful Life, You Are So Beautiful and I Won’t Let You Down. How do you choose which songs to record?
A. I have always loved I Won’t Let You Down and had wanted to record it for some time. You Are So Beautiful is a favourite song of mine and I had performed it at some of my live concerts. The people seemed to like it so I decided to record it. Wonderful Life was a suggestion by friends of mine, Tony Swain and Max Hole at Universal Records.
I suppose it comes down to what I enjoy singing and also I test it out, usually with my fans on the stage, to see what they think. If they like it I normally go with it.
Q. What’s your all-time favourite Zucchero song?
A. This is hard for me to say as there are so many. Each song over the years has a memory of a time and place. Each collaboration also. Again, I guess I have to think of the emotion behind ‘Miserere’ but then I also like some of the more uptempo songs like ‘Baila Morena’, ‘Diavolo In Me’, ‘Libidine’. These songs are very difficult to translate into English as the lyrics are very ironic and they are an integral part of the song.
Q. Your current tour has taken you all over the world. Which places and shows have been especially memorable?
A. So many... I have already played a sold out concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the middle of this year, which was an incredible experience for me as the audience was so great.
They sang along to all my songs and had such a good time. When this happens I feel I have really done a good job at entertaining. I also played at Carnegie Hall in New York, Yerevan in Armenia, Rock In Rio in Madrid and my first tour in Australia. Two amazing moments do stand out.
The first was performing at the Pavarotti Memorial Concert in Petra, Jordan. Petra is such a powerful almost spiritual place to go to, this massive city is built into the rocks which is hidden away in the mountains. To perform there was like performing to the spirits, the power of the place was tremendous. Secondly, of course, Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert in Hyde Park. It was an occasion to celebrate a man who had achieved so much in his lifetime and it was fantastic to be asked to contribute and to be there – a moment that I will never forget.
Q. How will you be spending Christmas?
A. Sleeping! No, seriously, this year I have travelled across the world so I think Christmas will be time to relax and enjoy good food and wine in the company of good friends and family at home.
* An Evening With Zucchero is at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Wednesday, December 3. Tickets are £20 from 0121 780 3333.