Guitarist, composer, arranger, producer and session player, Marco Rinalduzzi is, for many in the industry, the person to turn to. He is also the founding member and professor of the ‘Accademia Spettacolo Italia’. For quite some time he has been providing young talent with his immense wealth of experience acquired over half a century of collaborations and productions. He has worked with some of the most famous and influential names on the Italian and international music scene, such as; Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli, Nicola Piovani, Michele Torpedine, Beppe Vessicchio, Riccardo Cocciante, Patty Pravo, Mina, Lucio Dalla, Gianni Morandi, Antonello Venditti , Claudio Baglioni, Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, Giorgia, Alex Baroni, Sting, Keith Emerson, Tony Esposito, Brian Auger and Mike Francis. We reached him by phone for an interview in which he told us a little about his life and beginnings in music, about a Rome that once was, as well as the future that he expects.

Music doesn't pay today.

Marco Rinalduzzi

How did your musical journey begin?

I’ve always breathed music ever since I was a child. I still remember my mother playing music, but my strongest memory is from the age of nine; when hearing my neighbour’s guitar for the very first time – it was love at first sight. I fell in love with that instrument. So my parents gave me one and I started taking private lessons from a good teacher while at the same time I was studying the piano (which I still prefer to use in the composition phase). Those were also the years in which rock’n’roll was dominated the airwaves and you could listen to it everywhere. I remember Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the great Elvis. Despite my classic approach to the guitar, I felt I had rock within my soul.

Is there something you are looking for in an artist that you haven’t found yet? Will you continue to produce?

This, for me, is a delicate topic. I find myself in controversy with the current musical universe that encompasses all areas. This concerns authors, performers, record companies, impresarios, critics, journalists and industry magazines. Everyone is guilty in some way, without exception. The mentality of “success at all costs” continues to be fed without considering what’s being sacrificed. Music has become a haven for losers. What am I looking for in an artist? Intellectual honesty; a very rare and mostly absent virtue. The young people who came to me all asked the same question: “How do I become successful?”. My answer each time was this: “I don’t know”. As a producer, however, I can say with great humility that I never chase after the summer trend or the lucky beak because it’s something ephemeral, typically only lasting a year or a few months. I have a strict approach when I work with an artist: it takes dedication, seriousness, and hard work. Otherwise there is no foundation for building a musical identity and a solid career. I say, with regret, that it is often not worth it. The rules of the game have changed and therefore also the costs and benefits. Supporting a project involves objective costs and, in short, you have to survive financially. I am referring in particular to the internet: the cd has practically disappeared and on the web you can find billions of mp3s for free which cut into the necessary earnings to cover those initial expenses. It was the evidence that guided me on the path of becoming artistic director and arranger for important names such as Gianni Morandi, Claudio Baglioni, Il Volo and Andrea Bocelli. I feel quite restrained by the idea of ​​following and producing a single artist, but my greatest passion remains to help young people who wish to face this profession with determination and sacrifice, which is why I am one of the founding partners of the Italian Entertainment Academy, together with Massimo Calabrese and Marco Lecci.

Our country has finally won the Eurovision Song Contest. Do you think there is an air of change?

To be honest I don’t think so. I feel happiness for Måneskin, whom I consider as a friends. These are guys who have been working hard for years, excellent musicians who offer real rock and sweat blood. But their results show how causal everything is. I’ll try to explain myself better: Måneskin’s music is not particularly revolutionary like that of the bands of the 70’s was. They did very well to find a trademark and ride on global success (with the victories in Sanremo and Eurovision), but I believe that favourable conditions have come to create an increase in the desire for rock sounds and to listen to real instruments, and they are serving that need well.

Marco Rinalduzzi with Tullio De Piscopo, Gigi De Rienzo, Danilo Rea, Andrea Bocelli and Aidan Zammit
T. De Piscopo, A. Zammit, D. Rea, A. Bocelli

Is it possible to make a living on music in Italy? Or is something in the industry broken?

I have been living on music for forty-five years. As a professional musician, producer, arranger, teacher, I can do quite well. However, let’s think for a moment how difficult it is nowadays to take this path. Music doesn’t pay today. When I was twenty-one, in addition to working in the studio, I used to do ten or twelve evenings a month in various clubs in the city, and I’m talking about places that still offer live performances, places that “reek of music”. But the venues have drastically reduced (only Big Mama comes to mind) and with them also the possibility of making a living. It takes 10 euros per month (Spotify) or even nothing (YouTube) and you can listen and download everything. Given this, why should a label invest? I know several musicians of the highest level who, having found nothing better, play around for 50 euros a night.

Culturally, we are considered one of the most important countries in the world. Considering your work alongside illustrious artists such as Ennio Morricone and Andrea Bocelli, do you think we do enough to protect ‘Made in Italy’ in the music industry?

I consider myself a great scholar of blues, jazz, rock, funk and other genres, and it is through studying that I have seriously re-evaluated Italian music. I am also the author of songs that, for thirty years now, have been listened to on the radio and on TV. I’m sorry to say it but we are constantly flooded with foreign products. The radio obviously has its faults in this regard. I love to use the expression “colonizers on behalf of third parties” (which is already funny) but, returning to your question, the answer is no: in Italy absolutely nothing is done to support the domestic market. For a long time we have been used to listening to American and English music, and a little more curiosity would be enough to discover the great Asian, African and Latin American music. And you can be sure that there are crazy artists… I  had several doors slammed in my face when I proposed my artists to the big networks (two above all: Giorgia and Alex Baroni). The big hits were foreign; the Italian song always came later. If, on the other hand, we refer to countries like France, it is different: historically nationalist, the French have adopted percentage quotas to balance French and foreign music. I leave the conclusions to you.

You have played with countless artists, musicians and orchestra conductors, tackling the most disparate genres. What’s your secret? What approach do you need to have to maneuver so well among orchestras, live ensembles and studio sessions?

Well, I love playing the guitar (in power trio, jazz quartets, orchestras, etc.), exploring its potential and nuances… To be honest, I consider my versatility both a virtue and a flaw. It is limiting, in the sense that you do not have enough time to investigate, but it is still a feature appreciated by many artists and conductors. I remember when I was called by the owner of the Forum (a large studio in Rome): I was twenty-five and they needed a guitarist for Maestro Morricone’s orchestra. At first I was terrified and refused. Then I thought better of it and the next day I went to the studio for the recordings. I thanked the maestro for the opportunity he offered me and confessed that, unlike my colleagues, I was not very quick at first sight reading. Quietly he told me not to worry, that they had spoken very highly of me and that, if I could not read everything, I would have the freedom to improvise. It went like this: I played very little of what was in the score; finally the maestro came to me and said, “You were good, even though you missed some things. Anyway, I will use your recording because there are a lot of interesting parts ”. Since then I have often been called to play in his orchestra.

What’s your best flaw?

That of being authentic, often too explicit and direct. I get attached in a deep, visceral way, and if there is a misunderstanding, or I am disappointed in someone, it manifests as seemingly brazen. Some consider it a positive, others a negative. In short, I’m a bit pissed off most of the time.

Marco Rinalduzzi in campus tour with Antonello Venditti, 2004
Campus Tour with Antonello Venditti, 2004
Marco Rinalduzzi in the backstage of Capitani Coraggiosi Tour, with Gianni Morandi and Claudio Baglioni
Capitani Coraggiosi Tour, G. Morandi, 2015

For Charles Bukowski “writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all”. Do you agree? How can someone overcome the block?

Writing always involves a lot of work. I also tell my students this when I tackle the topic of songwriting. I share Bukowski’s point of view, but I believe in the authenticity of things: you have to make it flow; only in this way can the blockade be overcome. Sometimes we have to take time and let the ideas come spontaneously… But putting in the work is essential. In my opinion, the block is won with work. Consider inverting the concepts, dismember them, reconstruct them or, at the very least, abandon them to look for new ones. For most people, sitting around and waiting for a ‘Yesterday’ to materialize in their heads is never going to work. However, these very fortunate people do exist, but that’s another story.

After having seen so much in your life, who is Marco Rinalduzzi today?

Certainly a man with over fifty years of music experiences, a past, two marriages, two divorces… But you know, I have no regrets and I don’t complain about anything. Of course I would have liked to see a little more spirituality in the new generations with less attachment to materialism. The last thirty years in music has been disappointing, unfortunately.

The quarantine period has put us to the test. Several artists have tried to counter the anxieties and disturbances through creative activity. How did you live that phase?

At first it scared me. I don’t think anyone likes a three-month cloister. However, after a year and a half, I look at it with kindness. I lived it serenely, trying to take advantage of it to sort out some pieces and deal with some personal gaps. In some ways it did me good. If we think of the economic side, however, it was a disaster. The world of music has clearly suffered… During the lockdown I also had the opportunity to better analyze and partake in the phenomenon of social networks (which I use very little, and only for promotional purposes). In retrospect, I could have done without getting caught up in futile discussions with so-called “keyboard warriors” (who can be really aggressive). My tolerance has dropped. I also got to enjoy Facebook and Instagram users, Gigi Proietti or Raffaella Carrà, becoming my friends. For me Proietti was a true friend; I worked a lot with him, but I never allowed myself to flaunt it.

At the end of our interviews, we always keep a space dedicated to an anecdote or an important memory. What do you want to tell?

I could talk about an episode that took place at the first Pavarotti & Friends. I was on tour with Zucchero but, on that occasion, I also accompanied Sting and Brian May on stage. On the day of the concert I was alone in the dressing room finishing some things when, all of a sudden, I heard a round of chords and a beautiful and powerful voice. Intrigued, I went to find out who it was. I opened the curtain and saw Sting sitting on the ground playing to three blond children sitting around him. A beautiful image. He asked me what I thought of that jam session and I told him it sounded great. Well, a few years later I discovered it again on one of his records.

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