Last updated: 12/11/2011 11:00:00 AM
Elisa has entranced her native country over the course of three domestic
multi-platinum selling albums and now with the release of her first British album, 'Elisa' (a greatest hits compiled from her three albums), Italy is finally allowing their protégé to leave the nest. They send her out with great pride, but also a twinge of sadness. For once Elisa's beautiful, bittersweet, life-affirming songs bury their fangs into the rest of the world Italy knows it won't be seeing nearly enough of her.
What special magic does Elisa weave? It's very simple. Her songs are sung in English, but they speak the international language of soul. Not soul as in a brand of music, but soul as in songs that come from that human region. Songs that map every contour of the heart, songs that communicate love, pain, desire and feeling with a passionate insight rare in one so young.
"My songs are all about not trying to escape emotion," Elisa explains. "I want to use my songs to express something true about myself, about all of us. They're about the reactions to emotions and not about trying to escape those feelings. And the sound is eclectic because while my heart is always true it changes like the seasons. I write songs to evolve."
Her output compares favourably with fellow sirens Tori Amos and Kate Bush, but the lineage stretches back much further, back to the day the eleven-year old Elisa went to see the movie 'The Doors'. Entranced by the lyrical, mystical majesty of the band's music, Elisa bought a book of poems by Jim Morrison and taught herself to speak English by reading aloud from it. And because all her favourite artists sing in English she figured she would too.
"In Italy, they thought I was English," she laughs. "They've come to realise I'm not now, but that's another thing I like. To surprise and shock people. I don't want to be easy to predict. That's what I love about artists like Bjork or Radiohead, that element of surprise."
That element of surprise stretches throughout her personal biography too. The product of parents who never married, nor even lived-together but who were nonetheless together, Elisa has always been independently minded. She left school (and home for a year) at 14 and became a hairdresser. She then spent several years singing with a swing band in local bars, playing bass with a punk outfit and also locking down classical piano lessons along the way. Throughout these teenage years she honed her own songs, too, practising every day. She was trying to define her personal style, though, rather than searching for musical perfection. That's never been her goal.
"For me, the ability to change and grow is far more vital than slickness. I want to recognise my own limits because that allows the music to be even more human. And I prefer an error to be heard because that makes it more soulful and it means you can trust the message of the music, too."
Eventually, at 17, her songs found their way into the hands of Milan-based indie label Sugar and they agreed to sign her. Her trajectory towards the stars was subsequently very swift, although not entirely comfortable.
"I'm famous in Italy," she agrees, "but that's not something I search for. I see being famous as only method for people to hear my songs, a necessary one but sometimes it's uncomfortable. But for me the most important thing is to communicate with people and so people need to know who I am. I like to therefore play with my image, to provoke a reaction even in my videos. I want to project the message of emotion through my music and I want everybody to get a sense of me."
Soon that message will be transparent for all to see.
Thanks to A.J.H. Beernink for submitting the biography.