It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Paolo Nutini, who released his sophomore album, Sunny Side Up, in 2009. However, this week marks the return of the Scottish singer-songwriter and Atlantic Records recording artist, as he releases his third album, Caustic Love, in the U.S. The album, which was released in the U.K. this past April, debuted at the top of the U.K. album charts and has since made itself at home in the Top 10.
Caustic Love is an absolute standout, as it calls back to the music Nutini grew up listening to, crossing soul, R&B and funk genres with modern production elements. Songs like “One Day,” “Looking for Something,” “Scream (Funk My Life Up),” and the newest single, “Let Me Down Easy” bring names like Otis Redding and Bill Withers to mind. The crooner evokes much emotion in his voice, as he sings about relationships, life and even social matters on the album’s lead single, “Iron Sky.” Nutini also teamed up with his talented label mate, Janelle Monáe, on the groovy pop funk track, “Fashion.”
Prior to recording Caustic Love, Nutini decided to step away from the stage, as he explained during a recent phone interview, “to do his own thing.”
“[Taking a break] gave me better things to write about, it gave me experiences to write about,” the 27-year-old explained. “It [didn’t] even seem like a conscious decision to take a break, it was just spending my time doing something else. I never felt like it was impossible to do that with my career. I’ve never felt like I’ve been trapped or anything like that. It’s been pretty nice. I’ve been lucky, in that sense.”
While talking about his new album, Nutini is thoughtful with his answers, as he politely shrugged off media comparisons to great singers from the past.
“I’ve never seen what I’ve been doing as like a conscious homage to anything, really. It’s just what I grew up listening to,” Nutini explained. “And when it comes to what we’re singing about, that’s what creates the performance, really. There’s certain things, that when I sing about them, it’s almost conversational, and others, I’m just projecting some kind of emotion, and it takes you somewhere else completely. Some songs, they’re about me and my personal life, about different things that were going on.
“I genuinely felt that the way we’ve [made the album], the concern with the techniques that we took, there was a lot more modern techniques, as far as synthesizers and keyboards and guitar pairings and drum loops, et cetera. Just trying to progress, rather than regress.”
He later added, “The people that everybody references … they were so unique, which means they can’t really be emulated.”
Caustic Love’s powerful lead single, “Iron Sky,” is, lyrically, a new direction for the singer, who didn’t set out to write a song with any kind of political view. It was during the recording of the song where Nutini found himself surprised at his own vocal performance.
“If I’m talking to somebody and everything copacetic, like it is now, this is the tone of my voice,” he explained. “If I’m on vacation or there’s something going on [where things] are more manic or you’re shouting to get somebody’s attention, I sound different. Anytime you sing, especially if it’s like 10 in the morning … you’re just kind of trying something. I think it was quite the surprise when [the song] came out the way it did. It gave me confidence or something to just start and not fear what I really didn’t know or had to see yet with my music.”
Adding to the overall impact of “Iron Sky” was the sample of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the film, The Great Dictator.
Nutini shared, “We had to really edit down the speech, I remember that, because it was a long speech in the movie – it’s longer than the song itself! So we had to cut it down and be careful not to butcher it. We played it for the Chaplin Family Foundation, and they liked it and they got behind it. They liked how it was used.”
And they weren’t the only ones. After seeing a video performance of Nutini performing “Iron Sky” during his Abbey Road Live Session, Adele praised the singer via Twitter, stating, “This is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life hands down.”
When asked about what he hopes the listening audience takes away from his new album, Nutini truly hopes that people will take in the experience of listening to Caustic Love as a whole.
“More often than not, with inclusion of the new ways of listening to music, people tend to take a few tracks and add it to their playlist,” he said. “I think it’s best … I think what [Caustic Love] has to offer is special as an album, as a collective. I’ve never been really known for having singles on these kind of things. I’m only just trying to make an album, and I’m hoping people give it a shot. I’m hoping that it kind of sparks the imagination, you know? In these days, that’s the best thing I could hope for.”
Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini is available now. For more information, visit PaoloNutini.com.
Photo credit: Shamil Tanna/Atlantic Records