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Born in Milan, Italy, the singer and songwriter Gala met fame and success when she was 22 years old. Her first album was released in 1997 and some time later she entered the world charts with the hits “Come Into My Life”, “Freed From Desire” e “Let a Boy Cry”.
Smart, talented and determined, the singer moved to the United States when she was 16 in search of new cultural experiences. While she studied arts, the Italian singer shifted her attention to music, composing the songs that we know so well. In the 2000’s, Gala Rizzatto shifted her attention to authorial projects of her independent recorder company called Matriarch and, of course, to her concerts, mainly in Europe.
In an exclusive interview to the GAY BLOG BR, Gala recalled tenderly her Brazilian audience in her twice visits to the country and addressed other matters concerning the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s a pleasure for us of GAY BLOG BR to talk to you. Your song “Come into My life” was released 23 years ago and it was a great hit around the world, mainly in Brazil. It’s amazing that people still remember and enjoy the song, don’t you think?
This means a lot to me. While I was reading this question, I was shocked to hear it’s been 23 years. I know rationally that it is so, but I absolutely do not perceive time the way most people do. For me it was yesterday. Not only because times goes by fast, just like everyone feels, but I particularly feel that I live in a timeless world. I don’t see time as an arrow shooting forward, I perceive time as circular. When I was 16 I understood problems of old people, and I felt close to the deep questions of life and death, and as I grow older I become lighter and younger in spirit. I was a wise soul in a young body and now I feel I have a child’s soul but I am a grown woman.
Other songs like “Freed From Desire” and “Let a Boy Cry”, especially that last song, had a video clip with an LGBT atmosphere, right?
I can’t say it myself, but a lot of journalists have spoken about “LET A BOY CRY” as the video PIONEERING the concept of QUEER. In the song I talked about how I didn’t personally identify with neither the girls or the boys and how I felt like a unique being that cannot be put into either the blue or the pink box, “I was a pirate, I sailed free”.
In the early 90’s I was studying Photography in NY and, as a minor, I studied gender studies. I was very informed on subject matters that people my age back in Europe weren’t really aware of. I read books on feminism, men’s psychology, gender roles, etc. From “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolves to Books such as “Men’s lives”, which were requirements at my gender studies course. I was also raised by a very feminist mother in a very male chauvinist country that made me doubt the validity of gender roles since I was young. Why couldn’t a woman play football and a guy love ballet, without being gay? Now, this seems like a silly example these days, but you’d be surprised of how strong these preconceptions are still.
I asked the record label that owns the videos to please post this video at high quality online, as in the 90’s I shot this video on purpose in 35 millimeters, thinking ahead, that one day this level of image quality would be important. The label hasn’t yet posted a version in high quality which really breaks my heart. I shot this video with my friend Philippe Antonello and amazing DOP Oscar winner Luca Bigazzi (LA GRANDE BELLEZZA) and I chose every boy and girl that you see in the video. I found the kids in the streets in Italy and one of them became an actor and lives in LA now.
You were born in Italy, why did you decide to move to New York?
At 16 I felt very limited in my country. Italy in the 80’s was a male chauvinist country and I also had a somehow difficult time at home. I felt the need to go somewhere and search for something more than the world I knew.
I thought about what city would be best. Madrid had Flamenco that was a kind of music and dance that fascinated me, London was closer and they spoke English which is a language I adore and know well, Paris had a great film school and I was interested in film., but New York had everything. It’s my favorite city in the world. It’s not America, it’s NY.
You started your career pretty young, have you always wanted to be a singer? Because I know you attended Art School.
I wanted to be a dancer. At 13 years old I was told that I could not dance because I had a problem in my back. It was as traumatic as somebody’s death. It was my vocation, my passion, my raison d’être, my destiny and I felt like it was taken away from one day to another. My life is a dance around my search for dance. Singing was also part of me since I was a kid, but not like it happens for American kids, where once they have a passion they have a system that supports their passion since middle school and college where they often have the possibility to attend dance and music classes. When I was a kid in Italy we had nothing like that. In the USA there is also a culture of entertainment, so if a child is talented at something, there is a way to pursue one’s dreams.
Besides being a singer, you are also a great songwriter, what inspires you?
I love to write songs and poetry. Songs actually feel limiting these days, because I feel that the perfect way to express myself would be a one-page short essay on a concept. For example, I was walking the other day and thinking that the only way for me to see the sun is thanks to the clouds. I could never look at the sun directly, I would be blind, so the way I can enjoy the sun in the sky is by looking at its golden reflection on the clouds. I wrote a page about this and then if I need to fit a concept in a song, it can either become more powerful thanks to the music or less clear because there is not enough space to explain all the thoughts that I had about it, and all the ramifications that that one simple thought took in my mind… Pop songs, compared to let’s say, folk ballads, can be very limiting to express all that I want to express. But I try my best to take a more complex thigh and then put it into the pop form which has usually 2 verses, a pre and a chorus.
You have been to Brazil in 2010 and 2011, what kind of memories do you have from here?
THE BEST ONES. In every conversation I have about performing live I explain how the best public I had was in Brazil. People don’t joke there about having fun. They sweat, they scream, they dance, they LIVE. They LOVE. I remember in Rio in a small club, and in San Paulo at the Sambódromo, people knew all the lyrics of my songs and screamed them without trying to be cool or reserved. I hate those publics that don’t have fun and think about how they look to the other people around them. I like when people lose control in a good way. Life is short, music is a celebration and BRAZIL KNOWS THIS.
Do you know Brazilian music?
Yes some. It’s beautiful, relaxing and passionate at the same time, happy and melancholic just like the people.
Do you consider your genre as Eurodance?
I do not identify with this genre. And I actually don’t know this genre. Some people put me in this box, but my closest fans don’t. I have always been an exception so, because of that, I might be put into those complications, but I don’t identify with it. Maybe the DJs that remixed my songs do, but I wrote the songs and I wrote them inspired by blues, pop, rock, new wave, etc.
You recorded a video in 2013 about gay bashing/homophobia. I remember at that time there were many cases of bullying.
I just received a message yesterday in my inbox that was posted under that video. It said: DORTY GAY. I cannot believe how horrible people can be. But that showed me HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS FOR ME TO SPEAK UP, even if I risk to be insulted. I don’t give a damn and I will always defend the LGBTQ community.
Throughout your career you have participated in some LGBT Prides in Europe, mainly in Spain, can you tell me about that experience?
IT WAS AMAZING. MAINLY the World Gay Pride in Madrid, and Gay Pride in Barcelona in PLAZA DE ESPANA. I would LOVE TO BE INVITED FOR GAY PRIDE IN BRAZIL. A dream. Just the best public ever, LGBTQ AND in Brazil. TOP. I was proud not only to sing, but also to represent
Can you tell me about your next projects when this pandemic ends?
I have been writing so much in the past years. I have so many amazing songs. On my computer there is poetry, music, beats, ideas, and full finished singles; The problem is finding a team and budget. To be able to finish a record there is the production, mixing, mastering, music videos, promotion, cover CDs…A record requires serious work and some budget. I know everyone out there understands. Not the people who are privileged and have the luck to have found that team in a natural way in their young years, or those who have the budget to invest in their own art, but those who are poets, musicians, painters, dancers, artists who have dreams of expressing themselves but are limited by life’s conditions. Everyone thinks that I wrote a hit and made millions and can produce a record every few years like Beyoncé, but that is NOT the case. My ex label has that kind of power but I don’t, because as a young and naive artist I signed a deal that didn’t give me the control over my own creations, which I should be entitled to. I will explain better in the next question.
In the past five years, I analyzed all major pop music releases of both male and female singers, and most major pop acts had about 85% male contributors. Usually the singer is female, but when it comes to production, co-writers, musicians, recording engineers, mixing engineers, mastering engineer, video directors, tour crew, managers, video directors, choreographers, photographers, etc… they are mainly male. So even if the poster child of the band is female, the music industry is giving work and money to provide for a family, to a ridiculously bigger amount of men compared to women. So, imagine a woman after 30,40…unless you have the big budgets or a tight team of manager/label with you, it’s hard to get signed and get the support of a label. A REAL pity because I am a much better writer, singer, performer, poet TODAY than then and I have so much to share and teach and I am so passionate about it. Labels these days are not investing, and all they look at are the number of followers. I perform at huge venues sometimes, even last year at a football game, but you’d be surprised to know that that doesn’t translate into social media…so labels have a false idea of how people are touched by an artist. Followers online don’t always represent the real affection or connection that an artist might have with its public. I have a strong connection with my public through my songs that are still played today after 20 years. That is my connection: MY MUSIC. By the way, I wrote a song called HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE. It talks about COMING OUT as gay, coming out of depression, coming out from a life you hate into a life you love. This song is featured on a movie called FAVOLA by SEBASTIANO MAURI with actor FILIPPO TIMI and LUCIA MASCINO. The movie talks about a TRANSGENDER IN THE 50’S. You can find it on iTunes and watch it, it’s a unique indie film. If you can’t find it in Brazil look for the song HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE under my account on SPOTIFY – it’s there!
Unfortunately I didn’t have the budget to shoot a video yet, but it is a very nice song. It was meant to be on a film, so don’t expect a radio dance track, but a great universal song that will make you happy when you are sad. The best line on it is one of my favorites, since I have also known depression myself… “IF THERE’S NO SUN, I WILL JUST PAINT ONE IN A BRIGHT BLUE SKY”. Meaning that when everything is dark, it’s you who have to stand up and paint your own SUN. Do it now! Change your thoughts. If they are negative thoughts about yourself, turn them into good thoughts…it is terribly hard…and yet that simple.
About awards, in 1996, you were voted Best Female Singer of the Year in Italy by the magazine Musica e Dischi. In 1997 you were awarded the Italian Dance Award as the best pop-dance artist of the year. The same year you were nominated for the Best Dance Act at the Mobo Awards in the UK and, also, in 1997 you won Best Foreign Artist of the Year at the Midem in Cannes, France. You achieved in your first album what many artists take years to get it. How did you handle it?
This was a very difficult time. As a young woman I realized the power of ENVISIONING something, believing in yourself and making things happen with will power, passion and drive of communicating something valuable. On the other side, I also came to meet “evil” people who lied to me, people who were greedy, and used me. I was a very pure soul…I did not grow up in a family who was familiar with the music business and at the time there was no way to inform myself online…with google, and emails, and all that information available now…so I was alone in my room, and alone with people who told me what they wanted to tell me and I believed them. I didn’t have a family who followed my career, or a manager, or an attorney that I could really trust. Everyone was minding their own interests, and I was very young and inexperienced. So it was a very tough time. The reason why my voice was so low in LET A BOY CRY is because I had lost my voice out of fear and stress. I had to work on getting back my voice in School, with little kids who had psychological and physiological problems and lost their voices too. So sweet…
Do you want to leave any message for our readers?
BE HAPPY, BE PROUD, YOU ARE PERFECT AS YOU ARE. I LOVE YOU. ASK YOUR RADIOS, CLUBS AND FESTIVALS TO INVITE US THERE, SO THAT I CAN SEE YOU SOON.
This article is also available in: Português