Back in 2012, Andy Howells interviewed Italian singer/songwriter Mari following the release of her album Gentle Beauty which was produced by former Zero 7 singer Mozez.
Do you come from a musical background?
I've always been immersed in music since I was very young. I started to study piano but most of all vocals in a music school of Rome. After a few years I continued to study with an opera teacher, fully discovering the potential of my voice.
How did you get into the music business?
I started to sing for fun in a soul band and in that time I met some important artists who introduced me to the music business. In about 20 years I did a lot of concerts with different bands and musicians, so working with them and meeting people has been very important for me. This gave me the chance to have more exposure and opportunities.
How did you come to work with Mozez?
I have always been a huge fan of his and Zero 7, since their very first album Simple Things. I met Mozez during one of his gigs in Italy. On that occasion we started to talk and later I sent him some of my demos. Being a songwriter has been easier for me to have a chance in getting an album co -written with him, as he his also my producer.
What are your musical inspirations?
I listen to all types of music, but artists such as Zero 7, Goldfrapp, Air, Thievery Corporations and all the Bristol bands like Massive Attack and Portishead are my favourite ones, and Mozez of course!
How did the album Gentle Beauty come about?
Gentle Beauty is my manifesto. I couldn't live my life without searching for the beauty in all the things that surround me and everyone as well as kindness and respect between people. Even if sometimes it is hard to see those things among all life's difficulties. This album speaks profoundly about my vision of life which I tried to deliver with my music. I felt the need to covert my emotions and my feeling in my songs. Meeting Mozez has been decisive for me because he understood exactly how to transform my emotions in music.
The songs Gentle Beauty and Secret have a summery 1960s feel to them. What inspired you to write them?
As I said to you, my songs get their inspirations from my emotions. Those two songs were born like all my songs. A melody and the timing come first into my mind slowly until I feel the need to write it down. I like 60's in general but it has not been planned to recall that type of sound. By the way I don't mind at all, of course!
I enjoy the video for Gentle Beauty featuring the circus characters, was it good fun to make?
Yes, I enjoyed myself a lot. The only problem was the weather during the night shooting. It was terribly cold and all of us we were freezing!
Some of the tracks have lots of wonderful instrumentation supplemented with your wonderful vocals – how long did free for instance take to put together?
Well, Free and the rest of the songs in general took a lot of time to put together. It has been a hard and long job, about 2 years.
What is your favourite track from Gentle Beauty the album?
I love all my songs of course, it is hard to choose. I would say Silence.
It sounds like it’s quite a personal album too – did it take long to write?
Yes, it is a very personal album. I wrote the songs long time ago. They where initially demos when I brought them to Mozez, but with all the melodies and part of the lyrics done, except for two songs.
Blue is my Favourite Colour with Mozez is a strong collaboration, was that great fun to make?
Blue is my Favourite Colour has been written by me, Mozez and Vincenzo Incenzo who is a well known Italian author and friend of mine. I would say it has been interesting seeing Mozez during the construction of the song. I love so much how he described the story of the character of this song, who could be any person.
The album finishes with an instrumental Silence II and almost has echoes of a film soundtrack theme – it’s a wonderful piece of music – how did that come about?
Silence II is the instrumental version of Silence contained in the album. For this song I have asked the collaboration of my friend and wonderful musician Alessandro Tomei who played the flute; in the instrumental version is more evident its sound which has given a dreamy touch to the whole composition.
What are you working on now and what plans have you got for the future?
I'm working to get remixes of some of my songs. One song, Free, has already been remixed by the DJ and producer Ray Mang. At the moment, I am starting to write down some ideas for my next album. I’m also rehearsing with my wonderful band to be ready soon and spread my music all around.
- A version of this Q&A with Mari was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in October 2012.
- For more information on Mari and her music, visit her official website.