THERE'S A BLOKE WORKS DOWN THE CHIP SHOP THINKS HE'S PAOLO NUTINI...
"I've never written a song that was hypothetical. They're all real and about my life," says Paolo Nutini. It's an approach that has served most of the great singer-songwriters down the years, whether they've escaped from a dull mining town in Minnesota or been brought up - as in Paolo's case - in a chip shop in Paisley, near Glasgow.
At 19, his songs suggest he knows an awful lot about the vicissitudes of life and love. Let's not heap patronising platitudes upon him by calling him 'an old head on young shoulders' or 'mature beyond his years'.
Paolo Nutini isn't really any of those things. Nor is he the latest Bob Dylan or the new Damien Rice. He's simply a sharp, open-hearted, hugely talented young man with a unique gift for expressing in song the typical attitudes and experiences of someone his age. He describes his debut album as nothing more or less than a record of the last two or three years of his life. Songs about leaving home, about missing friends and family, about the highs of being in love and the lows of falling out of love.
Anyone who thinks that a 19 year old doesn't have profound things to say about such universal subjects clearly doesn't remember being that age. In fact, it's arguably the time when you experience such emotions most strongly. "You can feel deeply at any age," Paolo reasons. "You can experience love and pain and hurt and loss and anger - and joy,too." Singing about them came naturally. "I didn't really know what else to write about," he admits.
Despite the Italian name, the Nutini family have lived in Paisley for at least four generations. Paolo's greatgrandfather opened the fish and chip shop in Paisley, which his parents now run, in 1914. He grew up hanging out and later working in the chip shop. But away from the deep-frier there was always plenty of music. His grandfather- commemorated in the elegiac ‘Autumn’ on his debut album - played him Scottish folk songs by the Corries and sang him operatic arias by Verdi and Puccini. Exposure to '50s rock'n'roll came via his father's love of the Drifters and hidden among an aunt's Wet Wet Wet records he found a Ray Charles album which began his love of classic soul. A local priest used to come and play boogie-woogie on the family piano and he remembers hearing Elton John's ‘Your Song’ when he was nine or ten and thinking
it would be great one day to be able to write a song for somebody like that.
More recent influences include the work of such classic troubadours as John Martyn and Van Morrison and you might hear in his gritty voice a debt to many singers. Although his influences are diverse and mostly classic, he's also entirely of his time. He learnt to perform not - as a previous generation did – infront of the bedroom mirror miming with a tennis racket for a guitar, but singing along to a karaoke machine.
"It's true," he laughs. "My aunt had a karaoke machine at her house and I remember one day singing ‘Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ at a family session. Everybody said 'what was that? Up until then nobody had any idea that I could sing.''
He persuaded his parents to buy a karaoke machine and developed his vocal skills singing along to everything from Nat King Cole to Sam Cooke. An older cousin was so impressed by his voice (she was actually baby-sitting him at the time, he reluctantly admits) that she persuaded him to enter a local talent contest. Although he didn't win, all the girls loved it. "After that I used to enter regularly, just to get the girls. That's the only reason I did it because at the time I was really more interested in playing football.
Singing was just for a laugh."
It got a little more serious after he made his recorded debut at the age of 15 on a CD produced by his school. When the school staged a live performance at Paisley Town Hall, he was spotted by Brendan Moon, who promptly offered him management and put him in the Glasgow studio used by Texas to work with Jim Duguid (now Paolo's full-time drummer).