A place that breathes. This is the Milanese studio-refuge of Marco Mengoni. Few rooms but lots of history and lots of music. And it is there, in that area between the Porta Genova station and Piazza Napoli that he was born Matter (Earth), the first album of a trilogy that does not yet have a definitive form but has a well-defined line of thought.
Marco, was born here Matter (Earth) and here we pre-listen to it together.
It was not a random choice, here I did all the pre-productions with my historical musicians with whom I have been playing since before X Factor (WATCH THE SPECIAL), a reconquest of music-matter. It is a fully played album and the last part is entrusted to different producers selected with great care.
There is a strong sense of “nostos” in the songs.
We talk about origins and roots, every time I got lost it was enough to go home to find a center, rediscover contact with matter, which is the earth. My mom made me listen to soul, gospel, blues and r’n’b and African-American stuff. Already in Atlantic was there a lot of research and now I feel at home listening to this genre: it is not for nothing that soul means soul and I feel very attached to this combination.
Your sounds are born first and foremost inside.
Music made me reflect and overcome different emotional moments. I filtered it with my court, metabolized it and brought it out with this record where I tell the engine that keeps me going every morning and it is love, feeling. In the lockdown I was very alone and I analyzed all the experiences that came to my mind.
Let’s examine some excerpts, starting with The least possible.
He is with Flavio Gazzelle and is one of the two features of the album together with I will trust you with Madame. I did a search for a more European, British soul. It took us a month to get the guitars to sound right, I consider myself lucky to be in the studio whenever I want. It was mostly recorded live and this is good.
Then, there is Light.
It is energy, it is life. I dedicated it to my mom and the disc in general is dedicated to a mother daughter or son relationship. I was thrilled to record it with 14 musicians plus me and all 15 in one room, as it used to be. Of course it is fortunate to be able to do everything in one room and being an old man being together excites me.
It also excites you to talk about it.
It is wonderful to do this job and to have found the solution to many things in music. Music allows you to take away so much suffering. Making a record is difficult and it lasted two and a half years. It is difficult because it is a journey that you have to make emotionally and initially you are fleeting but then you hearten yourself.
Is there a common thread?
Throughout the record I speak of insecurity which is what then frightens relationships.
What is it today Prohibited?
The fear of indulging. The strongest example I have of a relationship in life is that of my parents who are two very different people yet have built something unique and enviable. Growing up the fears screw up and you don’t cross the first defect you find in the other. I am not exempt from it, we are not looking for perfection but for the right. In Prohibited wish to fall in love and go further; I quote the plastic plant which is beautiful but has no life, the sheet of paper that cuts the finger and Sunday made for formal things but for me formally nothing exists, love must be free and without limitations: ours must be love because it is forbidden.
In I will trust you there is Madame.
He has a very soulful voice and then there is also the Disco Purple Machine touch. It’s a Diana Ross song, a more 80s funky dance, with a 120-piece orchestra. The sentence is: my life surprises me and fills me with questions … I will trust without holding my breath.
Here we are at A flower against the flood.
With my bassist Giovanni Pallotti, with whom we have been playing together for 15 years, we call this piece the sensitive daughter and in the story of a relationship it touches a little loneliness. It happens to be in difficult situations to deal with where one person does not have the tools to support the other. But in a moment of difficulty you don’t necessarily have to have the tools to support another because if you don’t have them, it makes it even worse because of the moment and the emotionality and therefore I have forgiven. I imagine a meadow full of flowers that sustain themselves during a downpour, here I tell about being left alone in a difficult moment which is what I did not want.
The more we listen to the songs, the stronger the feeling of inner work.
They all have a little bit of elaboration of something. Let’s take A Flower Against the Flood which is the story of a clash with something I recently experienced. In the lockdown I made a journey in solitude that when I went out made me find a different contact. I analyze myself a lot and at 33 I realized that I have to learn to forgive myself and forgive others not formally but in substance. But that can’t happen if you don’t get over your mistakes first.
What led to this awareness?
Opening up more comes from the fact that I have suffered a lot and have taken on heavy weights, then you grow up and you have to get to throw them out. Music is the most instinctive way to suffer less. There is also anger here that you don’t wish there was. I am finding optimism growing up, the more things happen to me and the more I hope for something beautiful that feeds on itself, even through negative experiences.
Have you also identified a weak link?
I think too much, I should act more, I am following a path that society should take: we have forgotten that we are rational animals but still animals.
Family is the least objective thing. Feeling Light my mom cried. The most objective person is my grandmother, the others are genuine and complicated in their simplicity. My mom doesn’t know yet that the record is dedicated to her, but she sensed that Light it’s for her. I try to be bigger than I am and it doesn’t always happen despite sensitivity and experiences and therefore I get angry with myself.
But you’ve come a long way.
I left home at 17 and when I announced it at the table my mother reacted with tears, my father told me that he did not share the choice but accepted it and that he would not have supported me financially. I am proud and stubborn and even more I understand the value of money and work. Thanks to mom I’m becoming more patient but not knowing if after this there will be another life what I want to do is live every minute.
And can you do it?
My mother believes she can learn to trust through instinct. I would add that I have to refine my understanding techniques, including physical ones, to learn how to defend myself.