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Demian Dorelli - Interview

  by Eoghan Lyng

published: 30 / 8 / 2023

Demian Dorelli - Interview

"I've always felt there was something similar between the Italians and the Irish," chuckles Demian Dorelli. "There's a similar warmth and passion between the people there." Dorelli, a pianist of mixed English-Italian heritage, is phoning to discuss his new album 'My Window', but takes the time to ask me what venues he might consider performing in the future. "Trevor Dann, who is a Nick Drake biographer, went to a venue there [Ireland], and he couldn't praise it enough. I have to perform in Dublin." Dorelli cuts an unassuming figure, and is articulate, although he considers the piano as his true voice, offering him an opening that words prohibit. "Definitely," he agrees. "Definitely an extension. If I didn't have the piano..." He pauses, the silence demonstrating his unease in a world where the piano had not entered his life. But happily it did, and it serves to illustrate his thoughts as completely as a puppet does its owner's. "I like that," Dorelli laughs. He sees the metaphor as one he can get behind, although he's a little bit more curious when I ask him if Nina Simone influenced his work. "That's a new one," he says, although he doesn't rubbish it outright. "That's one I haven't heard before. When I was growing up, we had this wonderful old piano at home, which wasn't even properly tuned. But it had a tremendous sound to it.." Buoyed by the piano, Dorelli found an instrument that acted as his creative voice. "I do some singing by myself, and I've been asked if I would do some singing with my songs. But for now, I do my singing in private." Was the pandemic conducive to his writing? "Yes, yes it was. In some ways I miss it.." He stops himself: "Obviously, I don't miss the pandemic, but it was good to sit down and focus." "Good save," I tell him, and we both cackle, the remnants of the plague thankfully behind us. Born into an artistic family ("Mum was a ballet dancer, so she would have danced to Tchaikovsky,"), Dorelli enhanced his sound, before committing it to record."The first record I made was a Nick Drake album," he says. "It was an album full of Nick Drake songs. It was a chance to play the whole album, track by track." The finished work, 'Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, A Journey on Piano', paid due diligence to the songwriter, a precocious English artist whose art continues to hold emotional resonance. How old was Drake when he died? "I don't know," Dorelli replies. "Something like twenty six, I think. He was very young." He's not wrong; I'm twenty nine, and still feel like a boy. "There you go," Dorelli ruefully responds. "You have three years on him." More happily, Dorelli's new work is replete with bravura, feeling and life. "It's all original tracks this time," he says with justifiably well earned pride. "The last one was full of covers. It was recorded in Italy. Literally, it was recorded among olive groves." We exchange pleasantries in Italian ("Ho vissuto a Milano per tre mesi.."; "Bene.."), but then it's back to the essence of the project. Like the songwriter himself, it's a hybrid of textures, a melange of cultures. "The album ['My Window'] was recorded near Lecce, which is in the South. I guess it's near Sicily; off the foot of Italy. The artwork is very much [reminiscent] of Italian work. I worked with an Italian artist called Franco Matticchio. He designed the cover, and amongst many other things he did a front cover for the New Yorker in December 1999; the last of the millennium!" Some of the tracks ('Clouds in Bloom”) are suffused with Italian theatrics, while some of the more intimate tracks, a la 'My Window', are wonderfully English in ambition and resolve. "There's a lot of music here in Cambridge," he admits. "I think a lot of it has to do with the university: the Cambridge Footlights. There are pianos all over the university, some of them out of bounds. Syd Barrett grew up in a house near to where I live." I ask him if he ever played in The Flying Pig, a Cambridge hot-spot. "I heard that closed down," he replies. "I didn't play there, but I tell where I have played is The Tall Trees." Through a shared interest in Nick Drake, Dorelli has struck up a close friendship with Trevor Dann, as great an authority on the singer as any is likely to find. "He wrote 'Darker Than The Deepest Sea', and we've worked together onstage. He reads passages, and I perform alongside him." Anyone who thinks that Dorelli and Dann are emulating a literary battiness that once was popularised by Pink Floyd isn't too far off the mark. "I used to listen to Pink Floyd on the large speakers in our family home," he giggles. "And then it was onto bands like Madness." 'My Window' channels all these influences, tying them together to make something grand sounding and progressive in its resolve. But behind the piano stylings comes the work of a man who can compose independently of these influences, and the finished result is a pleasant experience by any definition of the word. What next? "I'm actually working on my next album, but I'm not sure what I should give away." He reminds me of a puppeteer, unwilling to showcase his technique should it spoil the allusion for the audience. "That's it," Dorelli giggles. "That's it."

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Demian Dorelli - Interview

Demian Dorelli - Interview

Demian Dorelli - Interview

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