It’s 31st January. The air is crisp but not freezing. After all, we are in the heart of Valle d’Itria, a land between heaven and earth, covered in olive-trees in the middle of Puglia.
We meet Renzo Rubino, in his recording studios. He is a young singer and songwriter from Martina Franca and some years ago, he took the great step up to the world of music from piano bars. The studio is in a villa in the countryside surrounded by a vegetable garden that, as we would know later, is tended everyday by Nonno Lino, his beloved grandfather. A man full of energy. A man, colourful and playful, we have known thanks to the cover of Renzo’s latest album, “Il gelato dopo il mare”.
Welcome to the Jungle!
Renzo’s dearest place of all. And we easily understand why. We are surrounded by an upright piano, an old organ, a Fender Stratocaster and a lot of awards, received through all those years. And the recording studio. Sitting on an old looking Chesterfield, we start a long conversation, stopped for a few moments by Totò, Renzo’s little spitz, and his crushing sparkle. We ask Renzo how his career has started.
I don’t really know how I’ve arrived at this point of my career. My wish was to be an actor. When I finished school, I’ve decided to take time to make some money playing music and then my project was to join the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Italian National film school). I’ve played music during weddings, events and every night I performed at Showgirls, a night club in Fasano. Music was not my purpose. It was just a funny way to make my wish come true.
Then, time after time, I have realized that music has always been by greatest love. Maybe I have never understood that because playing music was a hobby for me. Writing songs without the anxiety about touching the audience has made me more free and sincere. So I’ve discovered that I could combine music and theatre playing with words.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from music?
Music has taught me to enjoy the silence and to look deeply inside me. It is a kind of therapy. Especially, music has helped me in communication, the toughest thing of all for me to do.
How are your songs born?
First of all, I write melody. I think that the reason of this choice has his roots in my childhood. Do you remember Jurassic Park? The thing that I remember the best of that movie is the soundtrack and, thanks to that movie, I have understood the deep effects of scores on me. They could touch me inside opening unknown rooms in my soul. So, I’ve started listening Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Henry Mancini and also classic composers like Puccini and Verdi. This is the reason of my love for melody. I think it is like a marble block with words closed inside. It needs only to polish, to sculpt, to chisel for words to come out.
It’s a kind of aristocratic music taste for your age…
It’s not about my age or my sensibility, it’s just about my love for Italian music, that deserves respect according to me. Puccini, Verdi and many others invented a way of songwriting and playing music which is famous all over the world and that is recognized as Italian. In the latest years, pop music has become something different, something that is not in our DNA. Lately, the audience seems to consider Italian music like something old fashioned. I mean, if you look to a seventies’ picture of an elegant person, you will think that is elegant yet but if you look a picture of a person who wears a trendy seventies’ outfit, you will think that he is ridiculous. I think that this is also true for music and artists like Battisti and Tenco are the clear proof of it.
Let’s change the subject…People say you are classy and a bit naïf. Based on the assumption that it is not only about clothes but also about way of living, what is your relationship with fashion?
I think fashion is a real art form good at emphasizing the artists’ personality. Just look at Lady Gaga…
You have said that for you, coming back to Puglia has been like being a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. Evolution, change, growth and a back to basics. What does this land mean to you?
It’s home. I’ve always felt out of place, I’ve never been really at home anywhere. After all these years, discovering that I’ve always had a home, it has been a key moment. Home is where you find certainties. Vito, the owner of Bar Tripoli [NB: the oldest cafè in Martina Franca] is still in his cafè and Valle d’Itria remains the same with all its trulli. These are just little things, but they help me keep my feet on the ground. When I’ve realized this, I’ve come back. I’ve recovered energy, I’ve had lost along the way wasting them for nothing. From this home, I can start to grow up and I can demonstrate that is possible to do this job even if I stay in a little town in the south of Italy.
What would you say to one of your contemporaries from here who can’t find his road and goes after the place where he lives?
There are many beautiful and important things to do even remaining here. I would say, “Travel, lose yourself and come back. Build something here. Then go away, take what you need and come back again because even if it is tough this is the only way to give a chance to this land.”
In Il gelato dopo il mare you talk about finding happiness in the little things. What does being happy mean for you?
The nearest thing to happiness is serenity. I found serenity again when I’ve come back in Puglia, reconnecting to my roots and staying with my grandparents who are growing up. I want to live and dedicate myself to people I love, to concrete things, like my relationship with music.
What would you like to seek and, we hope so, find in your future?
Just one simple thing: going on with my pursuit of serenity through music. I would like to going on in releasing albums, giving concerts, staying with my audience and I would like to realise my secret wish: composing music for the cinema.
Renzo Rubino wears Pantaloni Berwich.