When you close your eyes and listen to Paolo Nutini's new album, Sunny Side Up, you can hear echoes of Bob Marley, Otis Redding or a young Dean Martin. Nutini grew up in Scotland, and as Daniel Zwerdling found out, he is very, very Scottish.
Paolo Nutini. Kevin Westenberg
First, Zwerdling couldn't figure out if Nutini was saying "bunt" or "burnt" after talking about the multigenerational fish-and-chips shop his family owns.
"It's been there for about over 100 years. I worked there for a little while. My father would probably argue otherwise that I didn't," Nutini says. "It's harder than writing any song. You can get burnt."
Then Zwerdling mistakenly heard "clown" for "count."
"My father — he always wanted me to try to do something else," Nutini says. "He never really wanted me to come into the shop. But it was in the family, so he said, 'Let's not count our chickens.' I could be in there for years."
Nutini calls his singing voice more a "croak" than anything, yet it produces an unusual and beautiful sound. In an interview, he performs "The Rich Folks" and talks vocal exercises.