Rossana Casale: “There is only one way to do things”

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This article is published in number 46 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until November 15, 2022

It is hard not to abuse the adjectives elegant, sophisticated and refined, in an attempt to describe Rossana Casale’s forty-year-old and schizophrenic career. A debut in pop music with some forays into Sanremo and popular TV, musicals in the theater, then the shift towards jazz, resulting in a series of discographic tributes to great artists of the twentieth century: Billie Holiday, Jacques Brel, Giorgio Gaber. And now, Joni Mitchell. Like her, woman, songwriter, and capable of the fascination of allusion.

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Why Joni Mitchell in particular?
“I discovered that I was a little girl: my older sister threw hippie parties in the living room, closed the door and I listened to that music, spying through the keyhole. She then she returned when I was at the Conservatory. I studied percussion and attended electronic music lessons: I signed, but I smiled at the teacher and ran away from opera singing. When I attempted admission to the course, I brought it right Woodstock“.

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Rossana Casale’s 19th album was released on November 4th and contains fourteen tracks, all covers by the great Canadian singer-songwriter, reinterpreted in a jazz key. In addition, an unpublished, In and Out of Lines. On the cover, a photo of the singer’s father, Giac Casale.

Is there, therefore, a form of nostalgia for those years?
“Not only. I teach at the Conservatory and with my students I staged a live tribute to Joni. Preparing it, he began to “pick up” his music, I don’t know how to put it otherwise. They sang it, but I actually wanted to sing it. I had booked the studio to record an unreleased record: in a moment I changed my mind and the record was born. I felt I had to do it. ‘

How do you deal with a sacred monster?
“Joni was my first guide; the effort was to bring his songs towards me and my voice. At my age you don’t care so much about the sound as about what you say when you sing. Before I was a musician, now an interpreter ».

What did Joni teach you?
“Music, he taught me. Introspection. The way of writing the lyrics: she tells, but she also forces you to make an effort. She is never direct, she is always between the lines, as I sing in the unpublished In and Out of Lines“.

What other guides has your career had?
“Of course Billie Holiday… and then Chet Baker, Carole King. Then, slowly, I tried to go further: Weather Report, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan… ».

It’s not surprising me. But as a girl, didn’t you listen to some healthy Italian pop? I know, a Don Backy …
“I loved him very much. I liked Marisa Sannia. We all loved Mina. But also Cocciante, Battisti… ».

A tip: where and how to listen Joni?
“It’s a disc played, not thought of. He has to keep company. In the car it’s fine; indoors, on Sundays, while you do your thing. Pope John Paul II said that art must accompany man in his work ».

How much of Rossana is in Joni?
«A colleague friend told me that when I sing the low notes“ full ”, you can feel all my life and all my pains. I told myself, after all ».

What were the great pains of your life?
“I lost my partner 20 years ago (Maurizio Fiorini, who died in a car accident, ed): I found myself in the middle of a career, with a three-year-old son and with a pain that I can’t even explain. I was terrified of life. The first sentence that came out of my mouth was: “How can I do it?” ».

And how did he do it?
“I did. With the strength we women are capable of, with the love for my son, sharing with him the crossing of this ford, on this black earth. We always tell ourselves: it was difficult, but we did well ».

Does the pain decrease over time?
“It’s always the same. I have not rebuilt a life, and I have no intention of making it up again now. “

At some point a mother also has to accept the idea of ​​a child going his own way.
«And in fact he’s gone by now. Sebastiano is great, he lives with his girlfriend in Rome. I’m in Viareggio. We are friends and we love each other very much ».

He teaches at the Conservatory, he attends young people. Can you be optimistic about their future?
“Yesterday my son and I went to pick up his girlfriend from the pizzeria where he works. The owner said: “Ah, these young people, they seem to walk with such heavy feet…!”. My son, who weighs a pound, has long hair, a goatee, nerd glasses, replied: “Try to understand us. Every day we ask ourselves what is the use of what we do: study, work, everything. We cannot look beyond our noses when we think about the future. We don’t even know if in a month we will all be dead or not ”. These guys need to be protected. We need to make this moment precious. Maybe by learning to be smarter. And also to live for a short time ».

Rossana Casale in the late 1980s. She is 63 today.

Did she learn it?
“If we don’t have heating, we’ll cover more. If I have to keep the lights out, I’ll stay in the dark. I can give up on a new dress. It does not matter. I got my life, I got my hair on my head, I got my heart… (laughs) “.

And it has its own music.
I got my soul, Yes. Now I’m fine: I wanted to make a good album, because it could be my last work. I’m not saying it is, but it could be. ‘

Do you really think so?
“How long do you have to go on singing before your voice gets tired?” Who knows if people think: “Eh, but they don’t sing as before…” ».

Many of her colleagues over 80 continue successfully.
“But is it necessary? I do not know. Do you know the truth? ‘

Joni Mitchell.

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«The music that I make, at this moment, does not exist. They don’t want it. I don’t feel sorry for myself, but that’s the way it is ».

Don’t the record companies want it?
«The music industry is an industry that is focusing its attention on other things right now. Songwriters are of no interest: I recently made a record, I think wonderful, with Grazia Di Michele and Mariella Nava. We had to produce ourselves. At the doors we knocked on, they replied: “There is no one here!” ».

Don’t you like anything about today’s music?
“Things go so fast that you start getting to know one, and there is already another who has taken his place. I’m hungry, but I can’t find real food: today everything is so pop, like Andy Warhol. Success is sought at all costs, everything is built in the studio with this in mind: 3 people make a base, 5 write the melody, another 5 the text. Come on then!”.

Does it make you angry?
“I am sorry. What happened in the election is not at all what I wanted to happen, but I have come to hope that all of this leads to something good. I want to delude myself: I hope for a reaction, in a cultural revolution too ».

Mitchell said, “The music business sucks, I hope it goes down the toilet.”
“She also had a stroke for it. Believe me, I am very serene. I’ve done a lot in my life. But at 67 she retires; I still have 4 years to decide what to do. To date, there is nothing that, looking back, makes me say: “Madonna, why did I do that stuff there?” ».

Neither Operation Triumphthe first Italian musical talent conducted by Miguel Bosé?
“That was a salvation for me. I had just come out of mourning: I saw myself on TV thin, beautiful, cheerful, surrounded by boys who were hoping for their future. She gave me a lot of energy. I have done nothing to be ashamed of. Also X Factor it was a great experience. They offered me theIsland, Music farm… well, those are not for me ».

We are in 2022: exactly 40 years since Didin, his debut. She didn’t celebrate much.
“I don’t know what there is to celebrate (laughs). But I’m proud of my unpopular choices. Even if I have always paid a very high price ».

With Mariella Nava and Grazia Di Michele, with whom he recently wrote and released the album Trialogue.

«That of taking an uphill road. But the esteem that is towards me repays me. Then, maybe, when you knock in Sanremo they tell you: “Look, I respect you very much eh, but this is not exactly the right year” ».

For the music industry Rossana Casale is the one who …
«The one who has always made difficult choices. The one who wants to do jazz. The one who never really wanted to be successful ».

Didn’t he want to?
«It doesn’t come to me, I can’t. There is not a single thing that is suitable for me, and that can also please the industry ».

Joni Mitchell is also, perhaps above all, a painter. Do you have other talents?
“No. But I’m a good teacher. I drive well, my male friends say so too. And I walk a lot: I did 507 km of the Camino de Santiago in 20 days ».

Why do you like to walk?
“Detachment from everyday life, even from music”.

Jazz has been his favorite musical field for years. For some it is a snobbish genre. Won’t she be too, a little bit?
«I am very. In all. I like simplicity, I hate trappings. I am demanding from this point of view ».

Even with friends?
“I recently learned how to kick people out of my life. Friends, then, this year I have killed a lot. Friendship is very important to me, but if you hurt me, knowing that you are doing it, I won’t give you a second chance. Not at my age. It’s all part of the decision I made. ‘

“I want to be happy, do only the things that make me feel good. The result doesn’t matter. My father always told me: there is only one way to do things ».

That is to say?
“Do them well.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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