Q&A: 5 minutes with Matilde Davoli

Italian producer Matilde Davoli has released her cinematic new single, ‘Il Coraggio di Provare.’ Her first and only track written in Italian, the title roughly translates to “the courage to try” and is lifted from her upcoming album, Home, slated for release on the 5th of November via  Loyal To Your Dreams.

Davoli is formally trained both as a producer and as a resident sound engineer. After spending substantial time in London, she returned to her home country of Italy. It was here that she realised the concept of “home” as a mental state, rather than a place, and thus the album came to fruition.

Below she gives us a window into her creative process and walks us through her gear and techniques:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Because we’re just animals without it.

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

There’s no precise order, sometimes they develop simultaneously, sometimes the ideas start from a sound and of course, sometimes the opposite happens. Either or, both are fundamental.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Although I write and produce everything on my own there are a few people involved usually. The music of ‘Il Coraggio di Provare’ was co-written with my friend and keyboard player Gigi Chord, then a few tracks feature a great saxophonist Emanuele Coluccia, plus killer drummers Andrea Rizzo and Fabrizio Semerano in a couple of tracks.

What’s on your current playlist?

So many things, but I can mention just the last few days: surely the last one by Sufjan Stevens; a 70s Italian composer that I recently discovered: Giulio Sorgini; Flying Lotus “Yasuke”; Low’s last record of which I am still trying to understand whether I like how it’s produced.

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

It’s exciting for me to play on both large and small stages. 

It always strikes me how people (even those who don’t know me) remain silent and listen to the music. I noticed that during my shows there is always a high level of attention which of course makes me very happy.

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

I try to use instruments in an unconventional way… perhaps processed with some outboard or particular pedals (I really love effects and enjoy using them, everything becomes funnier). I like to use bass guitar in a different way, using melodic lines that speak to each other, almost as if it were the main instrument. I like drum fills and chiselling beats… in short, expedients to create something I find interesting.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Every day for me is a day in the studio. I am a sound engineer and a producer, so being in the studio is my everyday life. 

I enjoy both working for myself and for others. They are beautiful experiences that make me grow as a professional and human day after day. 

Every moment in the studio can be different, however, in the case of my music, everything happens at the same time: recording, production and mixing. This is true for any instrument or idea that comes to mind, it’s a flow almost impossible to interrupt.

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

Of course, there have been many. Definitely when I learned to play the guitar. I was 14 and had enormous dreams still unexplored.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I look for new inputs all the time. Things to read, events to attend, concerts, meeting new people capable of giving you different ideas and perspectives. I always look for what’s “different” and “diverse” and am open to getting inspired. I find this for me is the way to stay active and evolve.

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

Boring tech alert! I can’t list all that’s in the studio so I’ll try and focus on what I use for my music at home.

I often work with Shure SM7 and the Neumann U87 pair as mics often run them through the Neve 1073 DPX preamplifiers. For monitors, I’m a Dynaudio fan and that’s the sound that makes me feel at home.

I own and have access to quite a lot of gear that I use all the time. For synths, Juno 106 (the love of my life) and Prophet Rev 2 mostly, then I might end up fiddling with modular (effects mostly) a TG33 or old toys like the Omnichord… .

Quite a few guitars and basses, among all my loyal Epiphone Firebird (sounds better than the original), an American Tele, a Martin acoustic (has been with me since my twenties), a Hofner violin bass that sounds great but recently ended in a triangle with my new ’75 Eko SG Indy (incredible for the price).

There are so many plugins I rely on daily, both as effects and virtual instruments from oldies like the Tal Chorus and Tal Uno to modern swiss army knife-like FabFilter. I run everything through Cubase which is my daw of choice and I have this tiny poor Akai MPK mini that I take with me everywhere and on which I wrote so much stuff.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I’m always working on something as a producer, plus I have a long-standing collaboration with a few artists and friends like Lucia Manca, Populous or Indian Wells.

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

I’ve been playing around with friends and singing since the early guitar times. I had quite a few projects which slowly led me to study as a sound engineer years ago. Since then I’ve been producing a lot of music, both mine and from others, playing any instrument from guitar to bass and keys, and even drums. At some point, I had exact and non-negotiable ideas about what music I wanted to make so I started my solo project. I don’t miss being in a band, I always have one when I have to perform my music live, plus I work on a daily basis with many musicians. Working on my music feeds the production I make for others and vice versa, being on both sides of the industry challenges my knowledge and makes me evolve constantly.

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

Many good things, I hope! Working on my new album ‘Home’ has been special and I look forward to putting it out and *playing it live*, I’m talking to you COVID.

Famous last words?

No Biff, you leave her alone!

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Image credit: Charlie Davoli