Paolo Nutini: A Vulnerable Voice, Singing From Another Era As a kid, Scottish soul singer Paolo Nutini fell in love with male harmony groups like The Drifters. He says the fragility on those old recordings inspired the sound of his new album, Caustic Love.
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A Vulnerable Voice, Singing From Another Era

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A Vulnerable Voice, Singing From Another Era

A Vulnerable Voice, Singing From Another Era

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Paolo Nutini follows in a musical tradition - maybe not the one you might expect from his name. It's a tradition that includes Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart. Sometimes, it's called blue-eyed soul.


PAOLO NUTINI: (Singing) You asked me to remember a kiss is but a kiss. Well, I'd be a fool to want more from you. And I'm gone in a while.

SIMON: This is "One Day" from Paolo Nutini's third and latest album which is called "Caustic Love." Paolo Nutini joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

NUTINI: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Let me ask about that title because "Caustic Love" does not exactly sound like "Love Me Tender."

NUTINI: That's because I was referring to when you get that notion, and you fall into that feeling with somebody - a romantic love. I think I was interested in how it can wash over the safety blankets, the things that we put up to stop ourselves from maybe being so exposed. And I think that when that comes along, it can dissolve those shields and leave you vulnerable but then leaving you vulnerable to perhaps the biggest torture as heartbreak. And that's what the album - I suppose it's about myself trying to open up and encourage and to be open and to be receptive.


NUTINI: (Singing) How was I know you'd just come along.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) And funk my life up.

NUTINI: (Singing) Lips like they've been singing sexed up strawberry songs.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) And just funk my life up.

NUTINI: (Singing) Never heard it coming, thought it's just another woman with a shotgun in her hand.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Funk my life up.

NUTINI: (Singing) She's the bass. She's the beat. She's the rhythm. She's the band. And the girl, so fine, makes you wanna scream Hallelujah. Yeah...

SIMON: When did you first know you could sing?

NUTINI: It's a matter of taste. I think some people don't think I can.


NUTINI: But I remember being in, you know, New Year's Eve, we would always go around to my uncle's house. He would be a mad karaoke buff. Everybody would be encouraged to go up and sing something. I remember just going up and I said - I think, you know, it was an Elton John track. And everybody was about, like, I never seen coming. I started to sing some more. And I used to go and borrow the machine. I'd sing Sinatra songs, you know, just set on singing "Strangers In The Night" or something.

SIMON: And your parents owned - still own, I gather - a fish and chips shop?

NUTINI: Actually, this month it's a century - a hundred years old.

SIMON: Well, your parents aren't that old?

NUTINI: It was my great-grandparents that started the fish and chip shop - so three generations.

SIMON: Did you ever work there?

NUTINI: Well, my dad would argue otherwise but yeah.


NUTINI: I maintained that I put in a shift. Yeah, I was about 15.

SIMON: You know, I gather working in your father's fish and chip shop would either make you want to succeed him or make you do anything other than work in a fish and chip shop?

NUTINI: When he came into that business, it was - it was more of a circumstance then my grandfather started to take ill. And I think he had aspirations to be, you know, an architect. And he was always keen for me, I think, to maybe try and go down a route where I could be more creative than I could be in the chip shop. And I think he always encouraged me to do something different.

SIMON: Let's listen to another song from this album for a minute. And this one is called "Someone Like You."


NUTINI: (Singing) Someone like you wasn't meant to be defined or confined or even meet eye-to-eye.

SIMON: What do you like about singing?

NUTINI: For me, it's an outlet. I don't have a lot of skills, you know. (Laughter) I've always loved to sing since I was a child. And I think it was definitely a love for the 4 or 5-part vocal male harmony groups that really took me away. You know, I'd always try and be like the fifth Drifter. I'd always try and find another harmony that wasn't there. You know, with guys like the young sports that I hear now, and just to be so emotional and fragile but also very much sing like a man singing a song and not a boy, I think that was what amazed me, you know, to see these guys with their hearts on their sleeves and, you know, and wearing all their vulnerabilities.


NUTINI: (Singing) Just there to be explored and then all the while adored someone like you, someone like you.

SIMON: A song that'll surprise a lot of people - "Iron Sky." What's behind it?

NUTINI: The world seems to throw up problems goings on that the song could be about. A lot of people have drawn is it specifically about Scottish independence? Is it about Gaza? It really isn't about anything specific as that.


NUTINI: (Singing) We are proud individuals living for the city. But the flames couldn't go much higher.

NUTINI: I was inspired by a lot of German impressionist film for that first line, and it was the movie "Metropolis." And that whole man versus machine and really where we're heading and where a lot of advancement seem to be taking us. You know, obviously, then it has its connotations with war, as well. You know, the concept of war has never really - so it baffled me such because it never seems to end. There never seems to be a winner. It seems to breed more war unless it, like, ends in obliteration.


CHARLIE CHAPLIN: (As a Jewish barber) To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die...

SIMON: A lot of people might have guessed it already. That was Charlie Chaplin from "The Great Dictator."

NUTINI: It was. Obviously, the speech in the movie is a lot longer than that. You know, it really echoed and amplified what I was getting at with a lot more definition than I was able to put on it.


CHAPLIN: (As a Jewish barber) You are not machines. You are not metal. You are man. You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us use that power. Let us all unite.

NUTINI: (Singing) And we'll rise over love...

SIMON: Paolo Nutini, his latest album "Caustic Love." Thanks so much for being with us.

NUTINI: Thank you for having me.


NUTINI: (Singing) That's fast becoming our minds over fear, into freedom, into freedom from which we'll rise...

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