Paolo Nutini Takes to the 'Streets' Nutini is a 20-year-old singer and songwriter from Paisley, Scotland. His debut album is titled These Streets and shows off a mature-sounding voice.
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Paolo Nutini Takes to the 'Streets'

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Paolo Nutini Takes to the 'Streets'

Paolo Nutini Takes to the 'Streets'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Back now with DAY TO DAY.

(Soundbite of song, "Last Request")

Mr. PAOLO NUTINI (Singer): (Singing) Slow down, lie down. Remember it's just you and me.

COHEN: This is the voice of Paolo Nutini. His name sounds Italian, but the singer-songwriter hails from Scotland. His voice sounds like it belongs to someone who's been singing the blues for decades.

(Soundbite of song, "Last Request")

Mr. NUTINI: (Singing) Grant my last request and just let me hold you, don't shrug your shoulders. Lay down beside me.

COHEN: But he hasn't. His debut album, "These Streets," came out just this year. Paolo Nutini is currently on tour. Tonight he plays at the Moore Theatre in Seattle. I recently caught up with him at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Texas, where despite severe heat and humidity, thousands of fans came to hear him.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

COHEN: When Paolo Nutini walked on stage, the predominantly female audience screamed - Beatlemania-like screams. No surprise considering Paolo Nutini is pretty dreamy. His dark shaggy hair hangs down over saucer-like eyes. His lips are so full he could make Angelina Jolie jealous. He beamed a huge smile at the crowd as he launched into this song called "Alloway Grove."

(Soundbite of song, "Alloway Grove")

Mr. NUTINI: (Singing) However much you use me baby, come on use me more.

I love performing that song live because, you know, I love just being able to sing I love you more and more and more and over and over and over again. You know, hopefully, people are smiling, and that's it.

(Soundbite of song, "Alloway Grove")

(Singing) I love you more and more. I love you more. Oh, I love you more and more and more and more.

COHEN: When I met up with him backstage, Nutini told me he grew up listening to the Drifters, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke - not exactly the kind of stuff that other kids of his generation were playing on their iPods.

Mr. NUTINI: It was in '87 when I was born so I'm 20.

COHEN: Your voice doesn't sound like it's 20. I think a lot of people when they first hear it think that you're at least twice that age. When you started singing, did - was there anything that you did to try to make that voice sound older?

Mr. NUTINI: No, I mean, the thing was - when I first started, my voice is pretty smooth - very smooth and the tone was a little even. But I hadn't done anything, you know, I hadn't experienced anything (unintelligible)

COHEN: What he's experienced now includes a world tour, playing Carnegie Hall, opening for the Rolling Stones. All of which is pretty remarkable considering how he got started.

When he was 15, Paolo got a pair of tickets to see the winner of a show called "Fame Academy." It's the Scottish equivalent of "American Idol." The main attraction was running late. So the theater decided to hold its own talent competition. Paolo won.

Mr. NUTINI: I got noticed by a guy called Brandon, who asked me if I wrote songs. I said yes. He set me up in a room in a studio with a drummer. And really ever since then I've been writing songs and performing them.

(Soundbite of song, "New Shoes")

Mr. NUTINI: (Singing) Take me wandering through these streets, where bright lights and angels meet. Stone to stone they take me on. I'm walking 'til the break of dawn, hey.

COHEN: Nutini wrote this song, "New Shoes," and the nine other tunes that make up the album "These Streets" when he moved to London. He was just 18 then and most of the songs drew on his experiences of being in a big unfamiliar city - all alone.

(Soundbite of song, "Rewind")

Mr. NUTINI: (Singing) And I'm not sleeping at night. But I'm going from bar to bar. Why can't we just rewind? Why can't we just rewind? Why can't we just rewind? Why can't we just rewind? Oh.

COHEN: With his current tour schedule, Paolo Nutini no longer has weeks at a time to sit and write songs.

Mr. NUTINI: (Unintelligible) there's no consistency to it. I can't finish songs, you know. I start a song and then instead of being able to reflect on it the next day, you know, you've got a whole new thing on your plate.

COHEN: This is not the only thing that worries him. He's seen how fast young stars like him can fall.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Mr. NUTINI: It's easily done, you know. I mean, especially if you're taking drugs and stuff and, you know, drugs.

COHEN: And there he pauses for a moment, twiddles a pair of sunglasses between his fingers. Paolo goes on to talk about the pressure he faces to use drugs and alcohol. He says most of his time on the road is spent with band mates and crewmembers who are young, who want to have fun, but they don't have to do what he does - be the main attraction, perform night after night, show up for interviews like this one.

Mr. NUTINI: And it really doesn't feel great not to go and get drunk and tour; it just doesn't feel great. You know, because there were so many other people that may be doing that, having (unintelligible) for you to be guy that's sort of got the sensible head on and says, you know, I've got to be up at this time to do promotion; it just doesn't feel great. That's the thin line between being able to do that and then being a train wreck.

COHEN: Does it scare you?

Mr. NUTINI: Oh, it scares the hell of me.

COHEN: What keeps him on track is home, the Scottish town of Paisley, where he says life is much calmer, where his dad still runs the local fish and chip shop.

Mr. NUTINI: Something about that simplicity that does, you know, appeal to me, and it really does - I look at my father, I look at the way he's worked since 15; he's now 50. Same place, same amount of service every day, 12 hours a day. And you know, he's just given me so much (unintelligible) part of me says that that's the way that a real man does it.

COHEN: As he says that, the door opens. Paolo's manager shows up and tells him it's time to move on to the next appearance. And so memories of Paisley and his father's chip shop are stashed away, and Paolo Nutini goes back to being a rock star.

Paolo Nutini's debut album is called "These Streets." His tour will wrap up this fall in London, where he'll appear with Led Zeppelin.

(Soundbite of song, "These Streets")

Mr. NUTINI: (Singing) And I'm wondering around with a half pack of cigarettes. Searching for the change that I've lost somehow. These streets have too many names for me. I'm used to Glenfield Road and spending my time down in Orchy. I'll get used to this eventually. I know, I know. These streets have too many names for me. I'm used to Glenfield Road and spending my time down in Orchy. I'll get used to this eventually. I know, I know, I know, I know. I used to keep telling these songs.

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