Zucchero Fornaciari, the proud father of Italian Blues, sat down with Lovin Malta ahead of his sold-out show at the MFCC in Ta ‘Qali Saturday night. We discussed Zucchero’s current – and most ambitious – “Black Cat” world tour, as well as exciting and inspiring collaborations on his latest and correspondingly-titled 2016 album “Black Cat”, and how Otis Redding’s “Sitting By the Dock of the Bay” first seduced him into a life-long love affair with the Blues.
“I’m very happy to be back in Malta! If I’m not mistaken this is the third or fourth time that I’m back.” Zucchero told us in Italian. “I like the idea of bringing my music across the world – especially to those places where music is scarce.”
It’s been a long tour for Zucchero and his 13-member band – having made stops throughout America, Canada, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand throughout their almost year-long journey on the road. And the tour is far from over.
Zucchero proudly states that he and his band are making history – noting that his 11 consecutive show-streak in the Verona Arena has set a new record. His last big tour was his Americana Tour in 2014 – which coincided with his impressive collaborative-compilation album, “Zucchero and Co.”, featuring artists like Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, BB King, Jeff Beck, Dolores O’Riordan, Luciano Pavoratti, Andrea Bocceli, Macy Gray, Vanessa Carlton, and many, many more.
“That tour was not as long as this one. On this tour, we played for the first time in new territories where we had never played before, like New Zealand for example, and Japan. We’ve been to Canada, and the United State we did 35 concerts alone!”
The album that Zucchero has been promoting, also called “Black Cat”, has some rather impressive collaborations as well. Lovin Malta asked Zucchero about one track in particular, “Streets of Surrender”, in which he collaborated with Bono of U2, and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
“With Bono – we’ve known each other a long time. We’ve already done four songs together, including “Miserere” with Pavoratti. He’s a fantastic man – very straight, very humble, and intelligent. He’s always been very attracted by my voice, and personality. Since we first met, the chemistry worked between us.”
Zucchero stated that this time around his lyrics are more poetic, and he couldn’t help but make social commentary and talk about different forms of love within the human condition.
“When I wrote the music to “Streets of Surrender”, I gave it to him and asked if he wanted to do the lyrics in English. Then I went to Los Angeles, and he kept touring with U2 – and I didn’t hear for one month. So at first I thought that maybe he didn’t have any ideas, or he didn’t like the music.
But then he called me up – and it was four o’clock in the morning in Los Angeles where I was. Bono said he had just arrived in Paris after the attack at the Bataclan. He was shocked to see the city that he loved so much, just – the vibe was very, very bad. So he told me his idea to write about Paris – that you can’t fight hate with hate. Someone has to surrender. That doesn’t mean that someone has to surrender militarily – but, surrender to be more open to others.”
Zucchero has worked with tons of impressive artists throughout his nearly 40-year career – which earned him an Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. Looking back all of his legendary collaborations, Zucchero said:
“All these artists that I’ve worked with share this common thing. They’re very straight, genuine, no-bullshit people. They don’t do this for the money, because they don’t need the money. They do this because they love the music. They love art. And they love working with someone they respect – and the same is for me.”
Legend has it that a man named James from Memphis, who was studying in Bologna when Zucchero was a young boy, is responsible for introducing Fornaciari to rhythm and blues. As we all owe this mystery man a huge thank you – Lovin Malta dug in:
“Ah yes! This guy!” Zucchero said with a nostalgic grin. “Yes, he was a student, a black guy from Memphis, and he was my neighbor who was studying at the University of Bologna at the time. He gave me my first 45 album – the single, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. As soon as I listened, I was in love. I fell in love with this rhythm, and this sound, and the way that he was singing. That’s why I started following the rhythm and blues – and that was very important.”
After a brilliant sold-out show at the MFCC in Ta ‘Qali Saturday night, fans can only imagine what the rest of the world has in store for them as Zucchero continues his journey. After 13 months of touring, Zucchero and his band will finish up in October, after making stops in South America and Mexico.