An all-round artist – between music, theater and songwriting – Flo was literally born singing: from a very young age she fumbled with a toy microphone and grew up playing with melodies.
Shortly before graduation in Economics, encouraged by a friend, she joins a casting for a musical and is taken. Her life takes another direction where singing and writing are a constant, on the fourth album released a few hours ago she opens up her poetic world that celebrates these difficult times focused on the essential value of humanity and love. A world-class music that delve into the round and dreamy melodies of the Mediterranean.
31S is an album to listen to in one breath but also to ‘meditate’ in particular moments of our lives, just like a good book of verses or short stories that have the power to decisively steer the quality of our days.
We know (almost) everything about you from a creative point of view, I sense that you started very young but we know less about where you were born, what kind of childhood did you have, how did you develop the path you are following now?
I started singing very early for fun.
Then around the age of 12 I started taking singing lessons pushed by my dad who loved music but was not a specialist in the sector: he just sensed that I had a strong interest and that it needed to be deepened. Naples is my universe-world.
A gift, I would say!
A lot of effort. Then the first bands arrive at the gymnasium, as happens to many kids.
Until the age of 20-21 I was always in Naples. During a statistics lesson at the university, a fellow student and a dear friend of mine (Lorenzo) informs me of the auditions of a musical (Once upon a time scugnizzi by Claudio Mattone and Gino Landi).
I was shy, he insisted and in the end I went. Without a reservation, I auditioned last after over 300 people, there was the whole city of Naples at that call: you know in those years it was very popular to try to tread a stage.
A year passed during which I graduated and did my Erasmus but then they called me from the production, telling me that I had been chosen. From that moment on I began to be an artist in a professional way. With my first contract, my first tour.
And I never stopped…. I almost found myself making a choice without even having a ‘choice’!
You have done a huge job in the theater: starting from the musical one you then dedicated yourself to many other types of genres, working with the main contemporary directors all very different from each other and measuring yourself with important dramatists.
I saw that you also worked with Sara Sole Notarbartolo (who we also interviewed a few years ago)!
Something extraordinary happened in the theater, while in music I will be a little bit honest I expected that I would succeed (due to the commitment and determination lavished since childhood). I knew what would make the difference was my character, my strength to focus on things. Then I am of the sign of the Virgin, very rational!
In the theater, I would say, it was a coincidence. I have never studied acting, unlike music and for me there is no way to face a world without studying. Instead, it happened that the director Davide Iodice was staging Mimmo Borrelli’s A’ Sciaveca and they chose me, clearly because I had a slightly ancient way of singing that could be suitable for that of a dolphin-girl rising from the waters.
I entered the theater because I was singing.
I then found myself working with Mimmo Borrelli again (today I think working with him is the desire of all Italian actors), again with Iodice, and with Sara it was wonderful because she entrusted me with the real first leading role of my life. In the other shows while singing I always had a spotlight on the other actors who weren’t singing but in the direction of Sara I played Eleonora de Fonseca Pimental!
A huge responsibility for a Neapolitan with such a crucial character for the democratic history of the Kingdom and beyond!
A beautiful character! I still remember that during the press conference the director said that she didn’t really want a pure actress, she wanted a UFO more. At first I thought, oh God she says this in front of everyone … but then I realized: a strange person who could embody this young woman who was revolutionary from a very young age.
So Sara saw a uniqueness from several fronts: author, actress and singer but also passionate as she entrusted you with so much character … A role like Fonseca, however, played here contains more than one omen.
Even in your latest album 31S that is out now, you can see that you make a powerful world music that, however, does not indulge so much in the dream and escapism typical of the genre. Beside the enormous sonic richness I noticed a very dense work on the text even when it is intimate.
What relationship do you have with the songwriter? I would prefer to call you a songwriter rather than a singer, given the profound meaning you have with composition and themes, not just with the word in rhythm.
I’m happy with what you tell me because it took me four records to be recognized in this groove. They are only telling me this now.
I have always made records all written by myself to finally see written about me being a singer-songwriter and not just ‘beautiful voice’ I have spent six years of work and this should open an (important) reflection on ‘singer-songwriters’ and ‘songwriters’ in this country.
Didn’t you immediately find critics who read this quality of yours? For me it was obvious just listening to this album, since I have known you very little (and I’m going to buy the others!)!
It’s not just a matter of the topics covered but how you treat them, your writing is powerful and enthralling.
I don’t think it’s a matter of inattention, good and attentive critics have always reviewed me.
I don’t always want to be the hottie of feminism but the songwriter here is ‘male’. If you think of the extraordinary artists who come to mind under this heading, such as Guccini and others, you immediately notice the fact that, like them, not many female songwriters are mentioned. I don’t think there aren’t any, I think it’s a male-dominated cultural heritage.
I have a relationship with the word that has strengthened over time. I have always loved writing but I have never been a teenager with a talent for writing despite having attended classic high school. I was not one of those who writes short stories, books, novels. It was a love born slowly and almost out of a need to tell the things that happened to me. Almost like a psychotherapy that took me from a complicated childhood and adolescence. I think it’s good for others too, because they often write to me about how much good or how much dream a piece of mine has brought into their lives.
Today I can’t sing something that I haven’t written or someone who almost could be me, whose words I share in full. To say, do I have to sing Dalla? Of course … but I can’t sing a Mina’s song, I really don’t know where to start. Because that text doesn’t belong to me.
You have a special tone of writing: every song of yours, even if not associated with the rhythm, the sound, the powerful musical platform, has a strong poetic sense. When you write, do you immediately associate it with a sound or a vocalization or do the two remain separate for a while?
They are born together: I always write in my mind, I don’t use tools in the first moments (then they intervene later). It is as if I were thinking of the song with a melody and a few words that peep out from time to time (a few chewed words come out of her lips: this interview took place in video chat, Flo mimes primitive sounds to illustrate the method). Then slowly the parts come together: there is never the staff first and then the words or vice versa.
Your album 31S also won a Ministry of Culture award, being selected for a call that funds culture. How was the experience – so rare in our area – of being assisted for an artistic creation?
It was nice because we spent that money anyway … and it’s not a detail!
When there is the word ‘call’ or ‘fund’ in this country there is always the idea of a black hole, where you don’t know what and who will pass and what happens.
I was lucky because Area Live, my producer and label company that identified me to participate in this call together, has an exceptional curriculum: in these special calls the artist’s curriculum counts but at the same level that of the record company. Putting our forces together, we did it! The call finances a whole series of activities that you must scrupulously regulate at the SIAE (promotion, distribution, etc): I am particularly happy because thanks to this call I was able to afford a producer who arrived from France to work in Naples. With self-production or independent productions I could not have supported it.
Something is also moving in Italy for the quality show, it is a good hope!
You know… all those who look from outside the award called Per Chi Crea are always wary, here in Italy it is so unfortunately. There is always the stench of flaws and I am sure that someone will have thought ‘ah, the usual ones always win!’ or ‘ah, the winners are always the richer’
But it is also about competence, skill, specificity… do you never hear these comments too?
I guess I have to look like an opulent person on the outside! In reality, the path of an announcement/call/award seen from the inside is very clear: there are scores assigned to many aspects of an artist’s life (not only tours and albums but also awards).
And you – I see you very young even if you haven’t told me how old you are – you have already ridden many musical scenes and stages (not counting those of the theater) and also radio as well as very different audiences….
How important is reading in your life – even as a break from everything you have to study for your job – and what are your favorite genres?
I just bought myself a book by Manuel Vilas, entitled In Everything There was Beauty: a family saga, a true story of the author. I really like novels and very much poetry books. To use a comparison suited to the times, it’s not like you read poetry books: they are like the hand sanitizer, you always have them with you in your bag and you take them out when you need to dive into wonder.
In this world of today that has swept away the world of before very often the word has to find other ways. Your music holds together a redemption capacity of the individual and it is very nice that it comes from an entertainment worker who is perhaps the one who is suffering the most. Also bravely release the record now.
What will you do for the live? Will you perform online or something else? What projections do you have on distribution?
I released the record now because the record is for the public but it is also for me. It is something I want to do when I feel it. It seems something rhetorical and banal to those who do not do an artistic work: for us, in an extraordinary way, it becomes vital.
For me, releasing a record I wrote last year in a year makes no sense.
Moreover, we are not artists in the world of mainstream pop where the launch of the album is associated with a tour with the name of the album: we have an always open calendar. With Mentirosa, the previous album, I worked for two years. You don’t play concerts because you made a record, but because you produce music and play it.
I’m sure it will be like this for 31S too: people listen to it, they start to assimilate it and then they will come to listen to it live. Honestly, I am convinced that it will start playing again, I think this summer. If only because the government will no longer be able to keep all these artists who – true or false they are – have come out.
It is clear that, I say this even though I’m sorry, as last summer we worked hard and well with an acoustic trio project (The Brave Girls, less demanding than our quintet). Today who is a true artist and has a real experience remains on the scene. Those who do not have ideas did not work before and will not work later.
So this inauspicious period will perhaps be good for music, also to seek new interactions with the public, just for songwriters like you who already have a close relationship with their old and new fans. While the majors …
Maybe a new idea of enjoying contemporary music will pass through you?
We are used to working with a certain schedule (abroad almost always a year in advance) but since last summer we have found ourselves working with very smart calendars, where they call you 15 days before and confirm that a certain festival takes place.
The quintet (which is also what you listen to in 31S) would have been impossible to propose with this ‘new normal’ because people dance and participate more, this must make us reflect on the fact that we must become flexible. Which does not mean taking anything and making thirty thousand projects, but having the opportunity to tell about oneself in multiple ways.
With enormous firepower and a more agile mechanism.
The problem is that this work is not only true artists do it but also those who aspire to do it and declare themselves ‘musicians’, songwriters, actors, I’m sorry to argue but they are often people who have done ten concerts in their life. When the Government gave everyone without holds barred support as artists (600 euros, sic!) Both to the one who toured eight months in the most important theaters in Europe and to the one who played three times at the wedding of her cousin, aunt and nephew, it is clear that this offends the category. Those who speak and critics I believe that 600 euros of earnings from music have never seen them!
A question among our usual ones, deliberately left for last but much appreciated by readers: what do you feel you have learned so far from life given that since you always put yourself on the line, this question will already be overcome in 24 hours?
(She laughs heartily) What I have recently learned is to curb the enthusiasm a bit, especially on the web because many see us superficial and think ‘We are in the middle of a pandemic and Flo thinks to tell us that she is happy with a new review she got?’
We must also be very careful about our own optimism.
What I have learned over many years is that we have, alone and all within us, the resources to change what is not good for us. It is not the classic rhetoric of the winner, the optimist and so on. At 15, I never thought I’d be able to do the things I did; to sing in Canada in South America, in Africa … Things that I dreamed of and that I was able to do because I wanted and committed myself (and maybe I also have talent).
I would like to say to all the people who wear themselves out in jobs and lives they hate, that life goes by so fast that they don’t have another chance. This is what I think when I look at people who are unhappy by their own choice. It is one thing if you are sick and cannot heal, but if you spend your life angry and exhausted and you reach 80 years not thinking that you could change, separate, quit that job and live another life for real?
I wanted to ask you a more stupid question but I won’t ask you, indeed yes: do you miss traveling in these new and strange times too? It all seems so annihilated without going beyond our borders….
Yes very much. But I also understood many other things. For example, I don’t miss life in the city.
I decided to buy a house in Naples two years ago because I wanted to have everything under control. Instead things change at the speed of light: I have only started working outside Naples since then.
I am pleased to have a home in Naples but now I have discovered that since the trips are gone I prefer the calm and introspection of the sea in Anzio (Lazio Region). Of course, I miss the tours a lot, also because I love to stay a couple of days in the cities where I perform to get to know them a little. If it comes back this too is perfect and I swear I will not ask for anything more!
To follow FLO:
To call for her concert: https://www.arealive.it/artisti/flo/
To purchase the album: http://www.self.it/ita/details.php?nb=0806102255252&tc=c