“I’m better at words than I am with notes.”

Gill Sherry

I’ve waited a long time to interview Jack Savoretti so I’m determined that nothing is going to spoil or interrupt our Zoom meeting. My laptop is fully charged, my miniature dachshund is dispatched on
a very long walk with my husband, and my inner fan-girl is muted before she has the chance to show me up.

With my professional editor’s hat firmly in place, I begin by asking Jack about his new album, Miss Italia. More specifically, does the title refer to an Italian beauty queen, or is it about Jack missing Italy?

“I really miss Italy,” he answers. “There’s a song on the album called ‘Miss Italia’ which kind of explains it more. Fundamentally, my father passed away two and a half years ago. My father was my anchor towards Italy. After he’d passed, I went back to confront a new Italy, an Italy without him, an Italy of my own. Making an Italian album has been something that’s been talked about since I was a kid but I never wanted to do it just for the sake of doing it. I knew there would be a moment when it was right, and that moment came.”

Jack was born in London to an Italian father and a half-Polish, half-German mother. He was educated in the American School in Switzerland. He has this to say of his Italian roots:

“I decided to delve into my Italian heritage. It was maybe a form of therapy, a way of coping. I live in England, my first language is English. Italian is in me but it’s always struggled to break through. I’ve never really allowed that side of my heritage to truly come out to the max, so this was a real opportunity to be able to do that.”

Although most of the album is sung in Italian, he confirms there are some English sentences here and there.

“I’ve got Natalie Imbruglia singing in Italian and English, because she is Italian, as I love to remind her. And ‘Senza Una Donna’ is like the bridge between English and Italian… it’s a palate cleanser for those who aren’t used to hearing me sing in Italian.”

‘Senza Una Donna’ features Italian singer Zucchero but the list of collaborations doesn’t stop there.

“The amazing Delilah Montagu is singing on this album, also Carla Morrison who is an incredibly renowned artist from Mexico. Miles Kane from the Last Shadow Puppets, probably the coolest guy on this island, is playing guitar and singing with me on one of the songs. So it’s a real mix.”

Miss Italia is Jack’s eighth studio album. His last two, Singing for Strangers and Europiana, both reached number one in the UK charts, largely because of his incredible singing voice, but also thanks to his amazing song-writing, which actually stems from his love of poetry.

“I don’t consider myself a musician,” he declares. “I’m very musical but I’m not a musician. I like to use music but I don’t know how it works. But with poetry, I do know how words work. I’m better at words than I am with notes.”

Hard to believe when you hear him play the piano or the guitar, but he’s quite insistent.

“I use the piano and guitar. I wouldn’t say I play it. I like to use music to tell my poetry. Sometimes my poetry isn’t strong enough so music gives it more value, which is the beauty of music. Sometimes your words don’t land as heavily or as purposeful as you’d like, but put it under a certain chord and it suddenly works.”

With that in mind, does he have a favourite track on the new album?
“It changes every time I listen. My wish is that people listen to it in order. I know these days that’s a bit of a farce, but I’m an album artist, I make albums. I don’t really think of songs individually that much. I think of songs as characters within a play and the album is the play.”

What about influences? Who or what has influenced Jack Savoretti’s music?

“I grew up with American music… in an American school. All my friends were from the States. So James Taylor, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Having said that, I was very influenced by sixties music. The first time I heard Simon and Garfunkel was the first time I thought I had just read a book or seen a movie in three and half minutes. I remember thinking, this is different, these are stories.”

And Italian wise?

“Lucio Battisti, Mina, Lucio Dalla, and Luigi Tenco were all huge influences on me.”

And a certain Corinne Bailey Rae also gets a mention.

“I have her to thank for a lot. She was the first one to give me my big shot and it’s something I try to emulate since knowing her… to look for new artists that don’t get the opportunities they deserve. The one thing I can offer is tour support… and Corrine did that with me. Not only did she give me that experience and opportunity but she gave me a lesson on how to do it. I really admired how she worked, her work ethic was amazing, her professionalism, her attitude. It was tough because I was doing it alone with one guitar in front of 3,000 people every night that were not there to see me. I hadn’t played anything bigger than a pub with 20 people in it before that.”

I’ve been lucky enough to see Jack perform live on four separate occasions and find it difficult to imagine him singing to a handful of people in a pub. One such occasion was on a very wet summer evening at Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow.

“We got pretty wet on stage as well,” he recalls. “And honestly, I’m not just saying this, it was one of the most emotional feelings I’ve had on stage, watching that crowd. I got properly choked up because the energy from the crowd was amazing. I was like, what are you guys doing? Go home, go somewhere warm. But no, they weren’t having it.”

Of course they weren’t!

Despite the appalling weather, Kelvingrove Bandstand was a great venue. Talking of venues, Jack tells me about his favourite.

“The Royal Albert Hall is definitely up there. But the most amazing experience I’ve ever had was playing La Fenice in Venice. La Fenice is probably the most beautiful opera house on the planet and I actually played there with Kylie Minogue and Imelda May. It was a very special night, it was my wife’s birthday, she was sat in the royal box of this gold, grand theatre in Venice. It was very cool. That was probably the highlight of my career so far.”

And what a career it’s been. He’s collaborated with some of the biggest stars in music including Kylie Minogue, Catherine Jenkins and Nile Rodgers. His last two albums both debuted at number one in the UK charts, and he’s performed in front of sell-out crowds across Europe. Which begs the question, why have so many people still not heard of Jack Savoretti?

“My lack of success has probably sometimes been my greatest blessing. I’ve had a wonderful amount, and hope to keep having a wonderful amount of success, but I’m not crucified or imprisoned by the expectations of success and the expectations of repeating things. Which is why I get to feel comfortable to go and make an album called Miss Italia. I can guarantee a lot of my compatriots can’t do that because they have to stick to whatever it is that’s working which, don’t get me wrong, gives them other privileges. But I feel very privileged. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

It’s a modest response and nothing less than I’d expect from a man who is known for his humility. Which leads me to ask about his involvement with the charitable organisations, Tusk and War Child.

“I’m an ambassador for both. Tusk is an incredible organisation run by a wonderful man called Charlie Mayhew who has been educating me since the first day I met him. The thing that really got to me with Tusk is that it’s a community-based conservation organisation so it’s about giving responsibility and assisting communities rather than just saying ‘here’s a bunch of cash’. It’s the old expression, if you want to change a village don’t give them fish, give them fishing rods and teach them how to fish. That’s the mentality and they’re really making an amazing impact across Africa.”

Jack actually joined Tusk for a half marathon in Kenya in June 2023 to raise money and awareness for the charity.

“And War Child,” he continues, “I don’t need to say what’s going on. I went out to Ukraine with them last year and saw the amazing work they were doing there. Now is the time that War Child needs help more than ever… with setting up organisations for the psychological damage that has been inflicted on a generation of children. It’s not only rebuilding a nation from the ground up, it’s also the psychological scars that it’s going to carry for the next generation, if not more. War Child is incredibly successful with easing the psychological damage as much as possible and treating it. Any support your readers can give would be very welcome.”

You may recall Jack’s duet with Catherine Jenkins in December last year. All money raised from ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ was used to help protect, educate and advocate for the rights of children living in conflict zones. A beautiful song with a heartfelt message.

Another of Jack’s passions is football. I happen to know he’s a staunch Genoa CFC fan but I’m curious to know where his international allegiances lie. In other words, if England are playing Italy, who is he shouting for?

“You are indoctrinated by whatever nation your father is from, and my father is Italian. At least, that was the case in my household, and my son is the same.”

I suspect most of our readers will be delighted to hear that, as well as the following words of thanks:

“I would like to say, Scotland has been a country that from a professional point of view, has been there for me at the darkest of times. Scotland was the place that kept me afloat. I’m not just saying that… something I say pretty much at every show that I do when I come to Edinburgh or Glasgow or wherever we are in Scotland, is thank you. Because our Scottish crowds have been the most loyal. When a lot of doors were being slammed in our face, the Scots came to the rescue for us, so playing in Scotland is more than just a professional pleasure, it’s a personal one too.”

As reluctant as I am to end our conversation, I think that’s probably a good place to stop.

I thank Jack for his time and wish him the best of luck with his new album, at which point, he blows me a kiss. I’m unable to contain my inner fan-girl any longer and as I say goodbye to Jack, she throws my editor’s hat aside and does a merry little dance around the kitchen table.

You can purchase Miss Italia from www.jacksavoretti.com