Emerging Italian folk-pop troubadour WrongOnYou doesn’t simply evoke the ‘folk’ tag because his “pop” music also features an acoustic guitar. From his base on the suburbs of Rome, he draws from the rich history of folk tradition, and some of the genres standout songwriters to create something that fits the current pop climate but is infused up with tradition.
As a rising star from the Italian music scene, the man behind WrongOnYou, Marco Zitelli, is on the line at a time he is starting to gain recognition outside of his native land.
The conversation starts with a delve into his connection to classic folk, “After discovering John Frusciante’s solo discography, I started listening to a lot of folk artists like Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Richie Havens and more, that inspired me very much. Anyway, I grew up with my parent’s music collection that composed of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Ben Harper. So, I was listening to folk music even as a child,” he explains.
He also explains that his folk-led light bulb moment came in the car with his mother and hearing ‘Ventura Highway’ by US/UK folk-rock stalwarts America. Something about that music turned on a switch that would eventually lead to him crafting his own take on what he had heard.
Even with the surface production-polish of WrongOnYou’s music, which would, at times, put his music firmly in the modern pop mainstream, you can hear the inspiration drawn from the classic American songbook. The ability to weave personal narratives through pop songs is something that becomes apparent, as the Italian musician draws on folk, classic rock and pop to add depth to his work.
WrongOnYou’s almost academic love of folk music denotes a music career based on formal learning, and modernity, from its birth. The story almost tells itself. After publishing some songs on SoundCloud caught the ear of a professor of Sound Technology at the University of Oxford, he was invited to record his first demo, Hands, in the university studios. These are the same studio’s frequented by Shindig, who later became Radiohead.
In today’s cultural climate it is performing live that can change an artist’s fortunes from another voice in the internet white noise to known entity, and this was a stumbling block that needed to be overcome to bring WrongOnYou to the world.
As Zitelli explains, “[I started singing], under the shower, but I was really scared about sing in public. During a festival in Rome, someone said, “we have a free spot become the band can’t play! “, and I said, “I can sing some songs if you want”! Seeing all the people that were there, happy to listen to my voice gave to me the bravery to defeat my fears.”
In defeating those fears he has started to turn heads at a range of festivals and showcase events including Eurosonic, Primavera Sound and South By West. With the release of a debut album, Rebirth, back in March, there is a real sense of momentum to his current career trajectory.
Rebirth, is a calming, modern take on folk, acting as a kind of aural homage to Bon Iver’s later-career meshing of RnB and electronic elements into the forlorn indie-folk of earlier work. Fans of Justin Vernon’s (aka Bon Iver) 22, A Million can find the Italian equivalent in the tunes enclosed on Rebirth, with less of the experimentalism but all the soul.
Zitelli is not backwards in expressing his love for Vernon’s career to date, “[I love] the pureness of how he makes music without rules, just with heart. That is what attracts me to his music.”
WrongOnYou’s songs speak personally about universal themes that are directly linked to the ‘nature, hills and woods’ of Zitelli’s residence on the outer suburbs of Rome. This music is not ‘Italian’ or from anywhere, it can evoke the feeling of wherever you happen to be. This is obviously built from his geographical location as well as his fascination with classic music. I ask Zitelli about the themes of his songs.
“Nature, love, relationships and family. My new video for “Family of the Year” speaks about a utopic, perfect family, but, in the video, I show the suffering and problems experienced by all types of family! I’m really proud about this project and the images are really touching,” he explains.
WrongOnYou’s ability to weave narratives through sound saw him lend his skills to sound-tracking Alexandro Gassman’s 2017 movie Il Premio (translated as The Prize) working with composer Maurizio Filardo. The summery indie-folk-pop supplied for this film is the perfect accompaniment to the piece and displays how well WrongOnYou can create scenes with his music. On this soundtrack, the elements of traditional acoustic folk are more prominent which makes the infiltrating pop and electronic aspects also standout when they shine through.
Still relatively unknown to audiences in the UK, and the US, WrongOnYou is now poised with the material and live show to make an impact for fans of pop in the classic sense that deals with modern pop tropes. WrongOnYou is folk music for a time when Drake and Kanye are chart-kings but there is a need for the classic songwriting of the past.
Rebirth is out now on Carosello Records
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