Growing up in Fortei dei Marmi, an idyllic seaside town in Tuscany, Italian vocalist and pianist Matteo Bocelli remembers that it was “unusual for the house to ever be quiet”. “The house was always full of music – not just opera and classical music, but also Sinatra, Queen, The Beatles. So, I was brought up with a very eclectic taste and even now I feel like I’m a bit of an old soul when it comes to music,” adds Matteo, who has released three singles from his soon-to-be-released pop debut album.
The 25-year-old son of opera superstar Andrea Matteo is in India to team up with Hindi film playback singers Amaal Mallik and siblings Prakriti and Sukriti Kakar for a track. “This is a collaboration that I’ve always dreamt of – I feel honoured to have done this with amazing talents such as Amaal Mallik, Sukriti and Prakriti. I started with the best,” says Matteo.
In 2021, Mallik and the Kakar sisters worked on the Indian remix of Grammy award-winning British pop vocalist Dua Lipa’s track Levitating, earning praise from the singer, who called the mix a “gift to her Indian fans”. Matteo, who has already released a Spanish version ( Dime) of his new Italian single Dimmi adds that he loves the challenge of making a song work in another language. So, it isn’t surprising that he turned to India for a new collaboration. “I think collaborations are important when they come in an authentic and natural way. I felt authenticity with these people (Mallik and the Kakar sisters) and they’re not only amazing talents, but beautiful people, so I’m enjoying the moment and I can’t wait for everyone to listen to the song,” he adds.
No stranger to musical partnerships, Matteo first collaborated with his father for Fall On Me, the bilingual track in English and Italian for his father’s album, ‘Si’. The track, which Matteo sang and co-wrote, was included in the soundtrack of the Disney blockbuster film The Nutcracker and The Four Realms. “I’m extremely grateful to my father for giving me so many incredible opportunities to develop myself musically before setting out on my own. Fall On Me brought us much closer together, not just as father and son but as musicians working together. We really trust each other,” says Matteo of his musical bond with his father.
His debut, however, does not feature the opera legend even though he turned to his father when he wanted to choose the final list of tracks for the album from a set of 80 tracks that Matteo has composed until date. “The record explores the themes of love and life with a light-hearted, fun touch,” says the singer, who also draws from his childhood for the album. His classical training at home under his father’s tutelage and at the Conservatory of Lucca is an integral part of the music he makes. “My classical training is such an inherent part of me – there’s no escaping it in my music. I can’t say how my songs would sound without that training. I always approach each track from a technical perspective. I’m obsessed with how each element of the music is built and layered together. At the same time, I love working with composers and collaborators from the pop world to bring in other ideas and styles.”
Besides his father, Matteo also credits influential music producer David Foster for his musical career. Matteo made his US stage debut in 2017, performing as part of ‘David Foster and Friends’ in Washington DC alongside artistes such as Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Blake Shelton. “Quite simply, without David Foster there would definitely be no Matteo Bocelli! David was the first person to tell me I belonged on stage. Before David, I wasn’t even thinking about a singing career possibility – I just knew I loved music and wanted to be in that world. David was the person who said to me, ‘you have the technical capabilities to do this, you have the skills, go and do it.’ My biggest take-away from David was, ‘There’s never going to be a second first impression.’ It’s always important to give every performance everything you have because everyone is watching and you will be judged on it,” says Matteo.
Lalitha Suhasini teaches journalism at Flame University