Carly Paoli, mezzo-soprano

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing. My Mum always says that as a 4 year old I would entertain family – and anybody else- with my performances and there are certainly a fair number of embarrassing family videos to prove it. I can remember two things that were perhaps the motivators. Disney videos and then later MGM musicals. I played them endlessly and knew all the words to all the characters. Then, my junior school where every week all the school would come together in the assembly hall to sing. It was just so…so joyous and I can remember thinking, “This is fantastic”. My family always say, and in particular my mother, that there was never a question that this is what I would do for the rest of my life and I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I would follow a different path.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I know I have already mentioned her, but the biggest influence on my career would be first my mum and then equally my late grandmother who had total belief in my abilities and me. The rest of my family, in particular my father and brother, have always supported me. Musically, my first singing teacher who is still with me now, and then many wonderful artists who I admired so much like Judy Garland, Frederica Von Stade, José Carreras.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

When I went to my music college, The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, I struggled a little. I came from a musical theatre background and the classical world at first was very new. However, I now look back on my time there with a lot of gratitude as it opened my eyes to new sounds and artists and I met lots of people from very different backgrounds to me. I think my parents may have struggled financially because music lessons and everything connected with this career can be very expensive. I was lucky to get scholarships to Tring Park and The Royal Northern but it was still difficult. That’s why I am so passionate about music provision in state schools as I know first-hand what a difference it makes. I believe so strongly in the difference music makes to people. Not every child will go on to make music their career, but it is important that we nurture and promote talent and even if they follow a different path in life music will have given them so much and enriched them.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I have two albums now and of course I am very proud of both of them but for different reasons. ‘Singing My Dreams,’ was the first and so there is an immense sense of achievement in that alone and the fact that, fortunately, it was so successful. My second one is a live album in the true sense that the audience I hope will feel that they are in Cadogan Hall with me. We didn’t re-record anything. I also love ‘Liberty’ which is the bonus track on this album. To sing such a beautiful song in 2018, the 100-year anniversary of the end of the 1st World War and then to record it with the Invictus Games Choir in aid of Help for Heroes …what an enriching, humbling and glorious occasion that was. I have had the opportunity to perform in some wonderful venues but I suppose the one that stands out is my concert, ‘Music for Mercy’ at the Roman Forum. That was magical.

You sing many different styles, from classical and opera to musical theatre. Which particular style do you think you sing best?

I don’t know that it’s for me to say which I sing best. What motivates me, as a singer, is the story I can tell to an audience. So, if that narrative is there I don’t mind which style it is in. There are lots of way to tell a story and I think you choose the style that fits. I do love a good ballad though!

How do you make your repertoire choices?

Obviously there are technical issues – range, key, tessitura etc. – that have to be considered. The first question for me though is, do I like it, does it ‘speak’ to me, do the lyrics match the melody – and vice versa? Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to say why a song grabs you; there is just something about it that you can’t ignore. I remember for example the song, ‘Still Dream,’ on my first album. I heard that years ago when I watched the film, ‘The Rise of the Guardians,’ and thinking then I want to sing it. This was long when the thought of ever recording an album was only a fantasy. When we came to choose the songs for my debut album, I was definite that ‘Still Dream’ would be one of the choices.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I have already mentioned the Roman Forum although I don’t know that you can call that a concert venue as it was the first and probably the only time that a concert was ever allowed there. I loved the O2 where I performed with Andrea Bocelli because it was both vast but also intimate. Caracalla in Rome was also very special…I think it’s very difficult to choose.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There is an American singer called David Phelps who I could happily listen to from morning till night because his voice makes such a glorious sound. My iTunes playlists are quite eclectic. I enjoy running to music like Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’ album, a little bit of Latin American music from Marc Anthony and I’m also a great fan of Barbra Streisand. The way she uses her voice to colour her lyrics is magical.

What is your most memorable performance experience?

I think performances are memorable for different reasons. The setting – in which case probably the Roman Forum. Singing for HRH The Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle was something I will never forget for the magnificence of the occasion. I also have many memories of singing in the local piazzas of my Italian family region in Puglia. They weren’t maybe the most glittering of venues but they were very important for me as I think that is where I gained a lot of performance experience. Also I have a lot of funny memories of Mum and I careering round the minor roads of Puglia looking for the place where I was engaged to sing!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I suppose it’s easy to talk about the material trappings, and I would never deny that I love that as my career has progressed I get to sing in wonderful places wearing beautiful dresses and working with amazing musicians. I am answering these questions for example whilst preparing to sing in the final concert of ‘Suoni dal Golfo’ in beautiful Lerici, Italy with my great friend and wonderful conductor, Gianluca Marciano and the Orchestra Excellence.

However, I feel ‘successful’ when an audience shows me that I have transported them to a different world, that I have moved them, that they have enjoyed my performances and that I have paid tribute to the composer and lyricists intentions. That is ‘success’ to me.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring singers?

As I said at the beginning, I don’t remember when I didn’t sing. I dreamt about singing on stage to an audience and it has happened. But I have worked incredibly hard and still continue to do so as the voice is never ‘finished.’ I think perseverance and a belief in yourself is very important but you have to be willing to listen to and take on feedback. You need to work on and continue working on your technique so that when you are on stage that technique is your foundation that allows you to do your job, which is to communicate the story to the audience.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I love the recording process, but most of all I love to be on a stage sharing my music with a live audience. There’s a wonderful spontaneity in live music, especially when it is accompanied by the richness of a symphonic orchestra. It’s one of the reasons I’m so thrilled to release a live album because it’s a few steps closer to capturing the emotion and magic as it actually happened. If the listeners hear it through headphones, I hope they will feel that are really in the hall with me.

So, in 10 years’ time I would love to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, but more of it. I’d love to be sharing my music in live performance in as many corners of our world as possible, collaborate with other artists I’ve admired and hopefully inspire the next generation to pursue their dreams in music in the same way, as a very young child, that I was inspired.

Carly Paoli (born 28 January 1989) is a BRIT nominated classically trained singer/lyricist born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK. Her debut album, ‘Singing My Dreams’ went to no. 1 in the classical charts. A live album of her sold out performance at Cadogan Hall is available now.

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