Interview: 5 minutes with KIOL

Alessandro Bossi, better known as KIOL is a 20-year old soul-rock singer/songwriter based in Italy. The prolific artist has written a string of tracks and released his first single ‘Broken Up Again’ in 2016 and his first EP I Come As I Am with Warner Music Benelux earlier this year.

KIOL has already shared stages with a number of prominent acts: The Prodigy and Editors at Home Festival in Italy; Suarez in Belgium and Luxembourg; and opened for Manu Chao, Agnes Obel, and Archive at Europavox Festival, where he was the highlighted artist for 2017.

KIOL’s sound is packed with pop melodies, alternative folk, and bluesy rhythms. Influenced by songwriters like Paolo Nutini, Jake Bugg, and James Bay, he also cites influences such as Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, The Beatles and James Brown. Despite its title, latest single ‘Hard Things’ is a tender, passionate voyage across windswept landscapes; familiar, lionhearted voice work, lively strummed guitar patterns and an aura of cinematic proportions. ‘Hard Things’ is circumstantial evidence that KIOL has expanded upon an already polished, enlightened sound.

We spoke with KIOL on early influence and musical memories:

(Be sure to stream KIOL’s latest single ‘Hard Things’ below)

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

I’ve always been involved in the arts. When I was five I started playing drums, and I’ve played it since I was 16. I took part in different bands with different genres, from Punk-Rock to Nu-Metal. I used to write songs for myself. I sang and I played the guitar just for the sake of it.. When I was 17, I found myself playing my own songs for a bunch of Irish guys in Mallow, Ireland. They liked my songs, my voice… “We have a nickname for you” they said. From that moment on they started to call me Ceol ( pronounced Kiol ), that means music in ancient Gaelic.
I came back in Italy, I realized that if they liked my songs, maybe someone else would like my music too. I started doing it more seriously, I improved my vocal technique, I wrote many songs and now I think I found the way to reach people’s emotions by being myself!

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

It depends on the song. I always start with the rhythm. Sometimes I have the idea of the entire song, the melody and the structure. Sometimes I get the riff on the guitar, I record the instrumental and I work on it adapting the words to the song. Sometimes I start from the lyrics and I work with my guitar on the melody.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

I recorded one song with the Long Run Team (Dani Castelar, Gavin Fitzjohn and Dave Nelson). I spent great times with them in Ireland, we were at Grouse Lodge Recording Studio, we produced “Hard Things” and I wrote a song with Dave and Gavin… We’ll work together again I’m sure. I haven’t had other collaboration so far, I’m just getting started!

What’s on your current playlist?

Like any teenager of this world I’m an open book. I’m influenced by many different artists. When I fall in love with a band or a genre, I’m used to listen everything about that band without listening anything else for like one or two month. When I discover something new, I get curious and I start listening to that only. On my current playlist there are Alabama Shakes, The National, Alice in Chains, Gorillaz… but my monthly addiction is Sam Cooke.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

My aim is to have fun on stage. When I’m totally enjoying the moment, I feel like I can connect anybody present to me and all the rest of the people. I feel like we’re one. I play with them, I sing with them and I think that this is one of the best emotion you can feel. Sometimes I get scared before the show, but when I’m on stage and I start using my voice, I look the people in their face, their energy comes to me and the magic happens.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I think that my voice is the most unique thing I have… and I practice a lot. I love to sing with a soul-touch, but I also love the power of Rock’n’Roll so I’m used to mix them up. Another peculiar thing is that I always have the clear idea of the tempo when I’m writing. It helps me building the song from the ground, knowing the drums’ part since the beginning. I love listening to music and paying attention to the production… this process gives me many ideas. I try different sounds, I spend all my time trying pedals for the guitar, reverbs for the voice, different snare tuning, even if I know that the essential things are my guitar and my voice. That’s all I need.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Since I’m a beginner, I’ve had relatively little experience in studio. But I can talk about the Grouse Lodge. We were in Moate, in Ireland, not so far from Dublin. It was one of the best weeks of my life! The place was like a big cottage in the middle of nature, there were little houses for musicians, a common house where to eat and finally the studio. The biggest studio I’ve ever seen!

We had great times. We woke up at 10 and after a satisfying breakfast we started to work. We recorded the song in four days. Day one: we went through the song, defining the structure and the mood with which should be played. Day two: drum and bass. We called Paul Kenny and Mike Shortall, a drum teacher and a bass student from the same school in Ireland, to play the part that I had in mind. They were extremely connected! Day three: Gavin, Dave and I worked on the melody of the song. I recorded the acoustic guitar first. Then Dave tried different pedals on his electric guitar. I remember he asked everybody to leave the room… He wanted to stay alone to find the good vibe of the guitars. He did a marvelous job!! Gavin played the piano part and he had great ideas for the breakdown of the song that he played using the organ. Day Four: trumpets and vocals! Gavin burnt the house with his trumpet with a final solo and I did the vocals. I remember that Dani placed little Christmas lights all around the place where I was standing.. it was magic!! It was an incredible and enriching experience that I’ll keep in my heart forever.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I’ve always played an instrument since I can remember. I’ve always wanted to play music, after school, on the weekends, and now it has become a daily need, like eating or sleeping! I’m lucky that someone liked my music, one thing led to another and now I can spend all my time doing music and trying to build something in which I believe.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Water! I need it for the voice but also to take some time to listen to the whispering of people in between the songs… those are great moments!

Any emerging artists on your radar?

I do listen to young artists like myself, like Tom Mish and I support some local bands in Turin.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I need experiences, I need to be curious about life, I can get inspired everyday by everything but I need to stay awake! Sometimes late at night I smoke weed while I’m listening to music… I think these two things are definitely connected.  

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I’m used to create my songs in my home studio, using what I have…
I have a keyboard, a microphone, a beat machine and 3 different guitars.
I’ve been using Logic since I was a kid. I’ve spent four hours a day minimum doing something on logic for all the high school period, instead of studying.. but now I have 40 songs so I think it was worth it!  

Any side projects you’re working on?

I keep on playing the drums with my friends, just for fun… let’s see in the future!

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I took some vocal lessons to understand better how to use my voice, I improved a lot in one year and I want to keep on practicing! I also play a lot the guitar, in many different situations, like during some jam sessions in my city, playing with my friends, using both the acoustic and the electric guitar. I study guitar with a teacher so that I can work on music theory using the guitar, I’ve always been a self-taught person but when I discovered the power of music theory I realized that I need all that stuff to stimulate deep emotions with my songs.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

I’ll be totally focused on this project. I know I’ll do my best to reach my goals, which are performing in front of many people, composing many songs, co-write with artists I like and live my life one hundred percent.

For more information follow KIOL on Facebook

KIOL Upcoming Live Dates:
Monday, 13th November – The Old Blue Last, London (With August Child) – “Hard Things” Release Party
Friday, 17th November  – The Louisiana, Bristol (With Tom Speight)
Sunday, 19th November  – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham  (With Tom Speight)
Thursday, 23rd November  – St Pancras Church, London  (With Tom Speight)
Saturday, 25th November  – Castle Hotel, Manchester (With Tom Speight)

(Image credit: Davide Gallizio)