At the end of October at Zermatt Unplugged Kaufleuten, in Zürich, I had the great pleasure to encounter Andrea Bignasca, a very talented folk-rock musician from Ticino with an incredible and powerful voice. Andrea Bignasca released is debut album Gone in 2015, during the interview he told me more about it and about where it got him.
Thank you to Andrea Bignasca for taking the time to answer my questions and thanks to his manager Kristina Hofstetter and Romaine Müller of the Zermatt Unplugged communication team for making this interview possible! 🙂
The Liberation: First of all congrats, this was the first time I saw you live and it was really amazing, well done!
- Andrea Bignasca: Thank you Simona. Well it’s a bit different, whether with the band or the band in acoustic. Because usually when I play with the band it’s really electric whereas when I am alone I have the bass drum and I’m kind of a one man band which is also different. Today was unique it went well.
The Liberation: Yes, definitely. Also the public was really into it!
- Andrea Bignasca: Yes the public stayed, which is not obvious when you’ve got headliners such as today (Aloe Blacc and Asaf Avidan ed.)
The Liberation: Yes for sure. You have a scathing and powerful voice and a compelling folk-rock music, which makes the listener travel. How did you find the inspiration for the album Gone which was released in 2015?
- Andrea Bignasca: Well it wasn’t a moment, these are songs that I have collected in a relatively short time but it wasn’t a conceptual idea. Because in reality, the tracks among which I chose the ten which ended up on the album were the double and I chose among those who had the same matrix let’s say. “Gone” is the song dedicated to my mother who passed away in 2011 and it’s the song which has a bit of all the others put together, it was the one which gave the initial spark to all the others. So, yes, in general the album is about pain, and how you metabolise pain but also about the redemptive value of pain, in the painful moments of life you grow up more and you understand who you are, this is the idea.
The Liberation: So does the album represent a sort of grieving process for you?
- Andrea Bignasca: Yes, but also the redemptory value of pain so joy, hope when facing pain.
The Liberation: Very interesting. Where does the love for this type of music originate?
- Andrea Bignasca: Well it’s the music that I feel mine, it’s the music I grew up with. At home I didn’t have any Italian music, there was only Anglo-Saxon music prevalently American, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Stephen Stills, and the great classics of the British Invasion thanks to my dad. I grew up with this music, and it was the first type of music that told me about something greater than myself. It gives me the possibility to reach that thing greater than myself.
The Liberation: Ok. How do you come up with your music? Do you write the melody or the lyrics first?
- Andrea Bignasca: Prevalently the music, the 98% of times it’s the music but almost every time with the voice’s melody, without words, only vocalises and such. Words come after, sometimes I scribble down some phrases that I like, that strike me or that in my opinion have a certain sense and then I try to put it in a song. But I never sit down and write like “Now I want to write a song that talks about…”, never. I don’t write poems, it is always something strictly related to a melody or a rhythm that exists already.
The Liberation: It’s interesting because every artist does it in a different way.
- Andrea Bignasca: Yeah true but I’ve heard this thing from many. That with these vocalises and melodies of the voice a phrase that fits appears. For example Tom Petty works in this way and around that phrase he writes the song.
The Liberation: Little more than a year has gone by since your debut album was released. Given that you played in a band (Vermillion Rouge ed.) before and not alone, are you satisfied of your solo career?
- Andrea Bignasca: Absolutely! Because in reality Vermillion Rouge, which was my previous band, for how much we reached things we were proud of it, had an amateur type because there wasn’t really the idea of making a living from music. While Gone was and is what should have placed me in Switzerland whereas the EP, the demo I did was to come out in Ticino, in order to go strong at home. While Gone was what should have introduced me to Switzerland and that’s what happened so I’m very satisfied. It’s on the Swiss German radios which for an artist from Ticino is not obvious, it’s something that pleases me. The past Summer was a dream, twenty concerts in two months was…
The Liberation: Intense.
- Andrea Bignasca: Yes! When I chose to make a living from music, which was a precise moment in time, a terrifying one because it scares to decide that. I couldn’t have imagined better in reality after a year isn’t it?
The Liberation: So was it a difficult choice?
- Andrea Bignasca: Yes for me personally yes, but for the people around me who love me, my girlfriend, my parents, my dad, my sister, well in reality they knew it before me that it would end this way. This is another chance I have because they support me.
The Liberation: Yes. How did you experience the release of your album, the success, if you look back a year after?
- Andrea Bignasca: If I look at what I reached in a year is one thing, but when the album comes out you always have the impression you have to push every day, to keep up. So there wasn’t a step, it was all gradual. I felt I didn’t take any shortcuts and I’m very happy about that. I gained experience on the field, concert after concert, from pubs to Zermatt Unplugged.
The Liberation: Yes, so you’re obviously satisfied. What do you think about the music scene in Ticino and more generally in Switzerland?
- Andrea Bignasca: In reality, I’m rather ignorant of the Swiss musical scene, I know the big names. I know that there’s a crazy fervour in Ticino and Switzerland, and this makes me happy because it means on the one hand that I’m not alone and on the other hand that there’s already someone who did this before me. I don’t know, if I think about what an indie artist like Sophie Hunger reached, it’s crazy! And in a way some paths have already been taken by these persons, I am not a first born. I need to find my own path but somewhere someone has already taken a similar road. Make a living from music in Switzerland is possible. It’s what I’m trying to do with all my strengths and I’m succeeding.
The Liberation: And do you take inspiration from someone in particular?
- Andrea Bignasca: In Switzerland I don’t have an artist I draw inspiration from. I draw inspiration from the artists I like, but who have been around for thirty or forty years. Other than musical influences, I draw inspiration from the decisions that these artists took in the crossroads in their career and those are the decisions which allowed them to have a durable career. I’m not interested in having success. I’m interested in having a long and durable career and I hope I am settling the basis in order to have such a career.
The Liberation: You are promoting your music all over Switzerland. Which are your future projects?
- Andrea Bignasca: Well, of course a second album as soon as possible, I have many new songs which have a much more band sound, much greater, which I can’t wait to tour with. Otherwise keep on gaining people’s hearts, try to reach out to people with something that makes me feel good, my music.
The Liberation: If you continue like this you will certainly succeed.
- Andrea Bignasca: Hopefully! (Laughs)
The Liberation: Do you have in mind any particular collaborations you would like to do with Swiss or international artists?
- Andrea Bignasca: Well on my album there is already Joe Colombo, an exceptional slide-guitarist with who I’ll keep on working because I love the way he plays and him as a person. There are people with whom I sympathise in Ticino and with whom I don’t exclude something could happen. In reality I’m very concentrated on my music and on what I can reach with my own powers.
The Liberation: Ok. Did you already think about writing a song in a language other than English?
- Andrea Bignasca: In reality no, exactly because, and I go back to the discourse about music which I feel as mine. Other than the fact that I studied English at University and I feel it’s like a second mother tongue I feel it’s my mother tongue in the singing.
The Liberation: And it’s an international language…
- Andrea Bignasca: That’s an added value of course, it winks also outside the national borders, which is for sure where my ambitions would take me.
The Liberation: Did you already have the occasion to play a gig abroad?
- Andrea Bignasca: Some gigs in Northern Italy but nothing planned. 2017 may be the good year for a release maybe in Germany, to take Gone outside the borders. I don’t know whether Gone is the right album to make this step, I’ll let myself be surprised, I still have some time to decide. Maybe it’s better to wait for the second album, or maybe to settle the basis with this one already.
The Liberation: Do you already have some ideas for your second album?
- Andrea Bignasca: Yes, yes, I already have some songs. It’s will be more towards a band, a big rock band sound.
The Liberation: Like tonight?
- Andrea Bignasca: In reality these are the songs from Gone, which where rearranged partly for the acoustic and partly in order to make me take a breath during the concert.
The Liberation: All right. Thanks a lot!
- Andrea Bignasca: Thank you Simona!