Scottish Singer-Songwriter Paolo Nutini at the Wiltern
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Born and raised in Paisley, Scotland, Paolo Nutini is a 20-year-old singer/ songwriter blessed with a soulful, passionate voice and the natural gift of being able to tell a story in a song. Like many of the truly inspired singer/songwriters before him, Nutini has absorbed the soul of classic artist from both sides of the Atlantic and channeled it into something original, captivating, and dynamic.
Despite their Italian name, the Nutini family has lived in Paisley, Scotland for at least four generations. Paolo’s great-grandfather opened the fish and chip shop in Paisley which his parents now run. Paolo’s musical education began with his late grandfather, who introduced him to Scottish folk songs as well as a wide range of other styles.
“He was a big music lover, my Nonno,” Nutini says. “He loved boogie woogie piano, he adored opera, and it was him that really encouraged me to sing. He always wanted somebody in the family to make music their living. He’s not around to see it, unfortunately, but I’m doing just what he wanted, and I’m doing it in his honor.”
Paolo’s exposure to classic R&B stars like the Drifters and Ray Charles came via his dad and an auntie’s record collection, while his own post-adolescent explorations brought him to the work of such troubadours as John Martyn and Van Morrison. Nutini first started singing publicly in his school choir, and though the choir’s choice of songs were hardly his favorites, one teacher quickly spotted his prodigious talent and guided the young singer through a more soulful repertoire.
p. “Initially, I’d wanted to be a football player,” Nutini recalls, “specifically a goalkeeper. But the more I sang, the more I realized it was just something I could do. I was hardly going to walk away from that, was I?”
At 16, Nutini hit the road with a friend’s band, acting as roadie, T-shirt vendor, and occasional on-stage support act. From there, the die was cast – Paolo quit school in Glasgow and moved to London, where he started performing regularly at clubs around town. His bold voice and provocative songs created an instant buzz and he signed to Atlantic Records shortly after his 18th birthday, immediately heading north to Liverpool to work on his debut album with renowned producer Ken Nelson (Coldplay, Ray LaMontagne, Badly Drawn Boy).
The result of their labors, ‘These Streets’, follows Paolo’s departure from his beloved Paisley to his arrival in sprawling London – as chronicled in the title track’s aching lament, “Where it takes you about an hour to cross the road/Just to stumble across another poor old soul”.
“Basically, the album is an autobiographical journey, " Nutini says, “a diary if you like, of my last three years.”
Many of the songs tell of Nutini’s already rich romantic life, such as “Jenny Don’t Be Hasty,” about an older woman he met at London’s famed 12 Bar. “She was 23, so I told her I was 22 – and she believed me,” Paolo grins. “In fact, I was only 18.”
In July, Nutini’s moving first single, “Last Request,” went straight into the charts at number 5. The debut album “These Streets” followed, at number 3 on the album chart, going gold in less than two weeks and certified platinum just four short weeks later. In addition to its popular success, the album received a bounty of critical praise. Uncut Magazine awarded “These Streets” four-out-of-five stars, noting that “For once, comparisons with the great Al Green are not entirely far-fetched.” The Observer hailed Nutini as having “a talent for elegant, melodic songwriting and an admirable willingness to vary the tempo.” And in the U.S. Rolling Stone have recently named Paolo as one of its “10 Artists To Watch 2006.”
A truly charismatic live performer, Nutini has supported such superstars as Paul Weller and the Rolling Stones, in addition to making sensational TV appearances on Top of the Pops and Later with Jools Holland. In May 2006, Paolo appeared at the New York Pops Birthday Gala at Carnegie Hall at the personal request of the evening’s honoree – Atlantic Records Founding Chairman Ahmet Ertegun. In July, Nutini brought the house down during a special tribute to Ertegun and Atlantic Records at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The only new artist on the bill, Nutini shared the stage with such icons as Solomon Burke, Robert Plant, and Kid Rock. One of Paolo’s heroes, soul legend Ben E. King, was so impressed that he invited him on stage to sing with him, an amazing moment for the young singer.
But for the gifted young artist, all that really counts is having his music heard.
“Everything that has happened to me so far has been really good, really fluent,” Nutini says. “There have been a few bumps along the way, sure, but nothing fatal. All I want now is for enough people to identify with my songs so I can keep on singing them. I like to think they’re worth hearing.”