The Hootenanny is a band based in Bergamo, Italy and was founded by Claudia Buzzetti at the end of 2019. The project was born on her return to Italy, after a period spent in New York. Claudia, thanks to her background in Jazz and American folk music, chose Thomas Pagani (guitar and voice) with whom she aready shared a duo project, Luca Ferrari (drums, synth), drummer of Verdena and Valentino Novelli (bass), active with the bands Spread and The Howling Orchestra.
Claudia came upon her to Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Wynton Marsalis and Whitney Houset, thanks to her parents’ discography, and she immediately fell in love with jazz music. Her studies in piano, classical music and singing, have contributed in making her an artist with an incredible technique. Later, Claudia was introduced to country and American folk, singing and performing with different bands – she performed at the Townes Van Zandt Festival in 2018 – and moved to the United States in 2019, where she started performing in bars, clubs and country festivals across the country.
“Harlem”, the debut single, is a dark ballad, sometimes dreamy and uptempo, about a tragic car accident. Death, one of the topos of country music. The EP, “7 Years Crying”, recorded at the TUP Studio in Brescia by Brown Barcella, was released on vinyl and digital by Edoné Dischi, and is available on the label’s Bandcamp: https://edonedischi.bandcamp.com/album/7-years-crying
INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDIA BUZZETTI | THE HOOTENANNY
How did you find music? Did you grow up in a musical household, or are you first generation?
I was born in a family very into music and art generally speaking. My parents have always been in love with music, they used to sing a lot whenever they could and music has always been in my house all the time. My older sisters always involved me arranging shows, playing theatre or musical all the time in a home full of dresses and instruments that we used for our shows. We’ve always used our parents house like a big theatre backstage in a way. So yes, I just continued this beautiful and magical world made by art, dreams and emotions that my family built around us.
Which decades of music influenced you the most and why?
My first and biggest love is Jazz music. My mum used to play jazz vinyl at home so I suddenly felt in love with Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Liza Minelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Backer, Wynton Marsalis and more. But she also listened to Beatles, Dionne Warwick, Beach Boys, David Bowe, U2. I felt in love with Jazz music since I was a child, dreaming about New York and spending my Saturday afternoons imaging I was living in the iconic attic in The City drinking some precious liquor (that at that time was apple juice ajajaja) and listening to Billie Holiday. She stole my heart.I love 20’s and 30’s because of New Orleans stories, movies, with those smiley swing band playing on the street, playing their heart out. Working class people with nothing but passion and the need of comunicate something pure and sincere. This is what drew me to it, I guess.
Tell us a little bit about your background in music.
I started to sing in a church choir with my sisters when I was 5 years old. Then I started piano lessons at 10 until around 15 years old, when I got into theatre. Theatre has been another big important part in my education and I think it’s a very precious, valid and effective way to learn about being with other people and about yourself. It improves your consciousness about our control on our body and mind and emotions, how much you want to transmit to others and how you transmit it.
In the meantime I joined the choir at school and I created the jazz band Close Quartet with very professional musicians, Peppe D’Avino (my piano teacher), Alessandro Vaccaro (bass player) and Matteo Milesi (drums). I still sing with them and they are still teaching me a lot about music.Around 20 years old I joined the country/swing/old time music band “Hillbilly Heroin” from Bergamo, and I started to get to know Country music world closer. It turned out I’ve always known about it but I didn’t know that was Country!So Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and all the other great country musicians came into my life.
In 2017 I met Paolo Ercoli, great dobro and mandolin and steel guitar player from Milan, and we started to play together (we still play together with Rino Garcia on bass and Gino Carravieri on drum) in a country music project. Thanks to him and Andrea Parodi, we play with musicians from the USA and Canada that are touring in Italy, that’s a big occasion for me to get to know closer Americana folk music dimension. Then, during summer 2019, I went to New York working as a Italian teacher in a school and spending the rest of the time going to concerts. Then I went to Michigan to my dearest friend Chris Buhalis, a great songwriter from Ann Arbor. There I learnt a lot about the USA and of course not enough! I have to come back.When I got back from the USA I created my band, The Hootenanny, with whom we released in June 2021 our first record (and my original songs first release) 7 Years Crying for Edonè Dischi.
What makes The Hootenanny so unique and why did you choose folk music?
The Hootenanny is a group of friends and each member comes from a different music scene and genere. Valentino Novelli (bass), Thomas Pagani (guitar and voice) and Luca Ferrari (drums and synth) are the friends I had around me when I decided to work on 7 Years Crying. I needed a band and I wanted to create a group of friends who want to spend some time and some pieces of soul for a couple of hours per week into music. I think The Hootenanny are special because we mixed different music genres together in 1 harmonic sound, following the Americana folk music red line. I choose Country music because first I’ve always listened to american music; second, because of country music stories and personalities: country songs talk about every day’s life, it’s very very sincere and close to people, talking about situations that we all had experienced once in a life. Plus country musicians are often very funny people, very welcoming, with the head in the clouds but for sure grounded people. Working class people.
How do you think we should bring back the real folk culture and what nowadays youth can learn from it?
I think simplicity it’s one of the keys. Folk music can make us understand that we can develop (as individuals and as society) in removing what is superfluous and unnecessary. With artlessness and with few elements we can understand each other better and deeper, aiming to the heart of things. Folk music is sincere and direct, it doesn’t need a lot, its powerful is in its simplicity and honesty, folk music it’s transparent in a way. It’s made by people to people and it’s not arrogant, it doesn’t ask anything from the audience, only to relax and cry and laugh together about life troubles. We are all here together on the same boat and folk music is a big hug that embraces all of us. We are already very happy to see that younger generations are already appreciating our project, this is a big achievement.
What do you expect from your listeners with The Hootenanny and what is the message behind your music that you want us to understand?
I think the message I’m trying to convey it’s that we can make more with less, the importance is your honesty. If you work with your heart you are on the right path and people will get this.
When you’re not recording and performing, what other hobbies make you tick?
I love walking everywhere, also in town but in particular in green spaces outside the city. Our rehearsal room is in a valley close to Bergamo so we often have the opportunity to run away from city life, lucky us! I love cycling and hanging around in mountain hills as much as I can.
What particular song you have written resonates with you the most?
I’m pretty sure Mr. Hyde is my most personal song. It’s very intimate and sincere, easy and without any particular embroidery. Mr. Hyde, like the other songs, it’s not entirely biographic but it is very dear to me because in the beginning it’s very similar to the day I met Luca for the first time, in a bar. Romantic time! Mr. Hyde is a nostalgic love song with a pinch of sorrow and in the chorus the protagonist promises that she will never change for love anymore. So it’s a song remembering the past and making promises in the present for the future. It talks about me maybe in a more intimate way then the other songs, even if it’s not entirely biographic.
How do you approach making music? What’s your creative process?
I don’t have a specific rule on making songs. In a way I let them come out naturally, sometimes a melody keeps on rolling in my mind so the song is already there. I take inspiration from everything I can, other people’s stories or mines, movies or books, or even a scene on the road or a picture. I always take notes on different supports that I have around me, pieces of paper or on my own phone. So I often lose my notes very easily. I’m not a very organized person and my house is often upside down because I love experimenting all the time in all the ways I can. Everything is a lab for me, myself too. So every time it’s like a working progress. In this prefigured chaos (of course I always know where my keys are ajajaja) sometimes I pick one idea or one sentence and I work on that detail to make it grow into something bigger. My friends help me a lot in our rehearsal time, they like this lab making songs.
How the pandemic situation affected your career and how did you overcome this challenge?
Actually the pandemic affected my music work a little bit. Before the pandemic I was starting to be independent only with music but then I had to be back at school (I work as a support teacher with disable students) which is a job that I really love but it requires time of course. Plus I’m attending University so the pandemic makes things more complicated. Even for my pals in the band, but we are trying to support each other as much as we can. When covid came out I was in Barcelona with Bocephus King, a very talented songwriter from Vancouver (Canada) with whom I play sometimes in Europe with other musicians, and our gigs got canceled of course. We all lost a lot of money and happiness in this thing. As everybody says, I think it changed us a lot. I hope we learnt something from this experience.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for independent artists nowadays? What would you change in a toxic system in order to help them more?
That’s not an easy question to answer but I think that in this chaotic world, with soo many and soo fast stimuli, where everything runs fast and always on the surface, we can find a spot for ourselves that we can dig deep. We need to be back in vertical dimension and not only horizontal. We need to dig deeper beneath the surface, in order to better understand what is around us, who we are and what we are doing here. It’s easier now getting lost in this forest made by images that run wild, we need to stop to a point and go deeper. I don’t have a particular suggestion for independent artists, but I trust in human being and I think that a sincere heart is always recognizable.
A letter to your FUTURE self. What would you write?
I promise I will do my best to work on music and art in the most ironic and serious way I can do. As Chris Buhalis says, “Cheer up Buzzetti!”