On the way to Nashville

Interview with Luca Chiappara, on the road to Nashville. Born in 1992, he grew up in Sudtirol, where, aged 9, he started playing the electric bass. Once he finished his studies, he moves to Sicily, where, in 2014, he is summoned by Don Diego Geraci (frontman of the famed Sicilian neo-rockabilly band Adels) to be part of his new solo project, the Don Diego Trio. The band is an explosive mix of American country rock, 50s-style rock and roll and swing. Diego’s incredible talent and a steady rhythmic section give the band an average of 120 tour dates per year in 12 nations between Europe and the US, more than 15 international festivals, 7 albums and 3 nominations as best rockabilly group at the Ameripolitan Music Awards in Austin, TX (2016, 2017, 2018)

In parallel of his commitment to the Trio, he always cultivated the passion for other genres, playing with other bands and specializing in what is defined as American Roots music: traditional jazz, blues, folk and country. This specific and laser-focused background allowed him to be one of the most in-demand Roots upright bass players in Europe, and to be called to work with American artist of international calibre. Among those is Slim Jim Phantom (drummer of Stray Cats), Bill Kirchen, Dale Watson, Chris Casello, Deke Dickerson, James Intveld just to name a few. And, as a consequence of a dazzling European tour with Intveld, a versatile Californian artist, Luca decided to move to Nashville, where he’ll try to deepen his knowledge of country music.

A musician growing up with the sound of the Deep South of the United States (mostly country, but also Rockabilly, Blues and folk) who decides to move to Nashville, the ultimate city of music, is, I think, some sort of dream come true. How are you living this period?

I have mixed feelings: on one hand, the departure-related stress, including the bureaucratic paperwork, and the melancholy of people I am leaving behind. But, on the other hand, the curiosity and enthusiasm weighs much more on the pro-con list. Let’s be clear, I am not leaving with very high expectations, I don’t want to be disappointed. That said, I really feel like sitting on that airplane and see how it will end. And I really look forward to immersing myself in that context, whether that entails going to concerts or playing. I need new stimuli. Meanwhile, I am educating myself as much as I can on country classics, in order to keep my fretting at bay. My goal is to show myself as prepared as I can, even though Murphy’s law always strikes. You can be the most prepared, but you will always be asked what you did not study or recall. But I put that into account too, some high-educational-value humiliation. I am ready for everything.

An Italian musician, albeit very talented, headed to Nashville looking for professional fulfillment seems like a huge challenge. In fact,  Music City has the fiercest competition. What scares you and what excites you the most?

Yes, that’s exactly the point. A friend, Mario Monterosso, had proposed I joined him in Memphis, and thanks to him getting a foot in the door would have been much easier. Yet, after seriously considering his offer, I convinced myself I had picked the easy way in an endeavor that would have been difficult regardless. At this point, one had better hedge their highest bet. I am always quite extreme in my choices and this time will be no different. That’s why I chose Nashville, despite my lacking of contacts, despite the fierce competition, and despite my being a small fish in a big pond. Yet, I make virtue out of necessity, and I want what scares me to prod me into improving as fast as possible.

You played with international artists of the highest caliber. But if you were told “you can choose who to play with starting tomorrow,” who would you go on tour with and why?

I’d like to have another experience with James Intveld, and hopefully that will happen in the future. You just need ten minutes performing live with him to learn skills that it would take you years to learn at the conservatory. He is very demanding, but he has an ability to read your limits and, contextually, show you the road for you to overcome them. That’s a great school.

I also dream of the Mavericks and Dave Alvin. The Mavericks because of their compact sounds, their manifold influences and the way they manage the show. Their attention to detail is monstrous, and, at the end, that’s what I want to learn by staying in the United States. I worship Dave Alvin as a singer-songwriter and he has a touching baritonal voice. I would love to play with him mostly so i could stand on the same stage as him and listen to him at every concert.

Your technique creates an incredible sound. Who were the musicians that influenced you the most and contributed to your stile?

Among contemporaries, I’d surely say Kevin Smith and Beau Sample. The former was the bass player for High Noon, one of my favorite rockabilly bands. He is currently playing with Willie Nelson, but he also performed with Dwight Yoakam and Heybale, just to name a few. The latter is currently playing with Joel Paterson’s Modern Sounds and the Fat Babies, a classic jazz formation, but his roots are in rockabilly and honky tonk. So, in all, I like both for their extreme elegance, for their sound and for their deep knowledge of the language of whatever musical genre they perform. If you see Kevin or Beau play honky tonk, it looks like that’s all they’ve been doing all their life, and same thing for rockabilly, ragtime and classic jazz.

What’s more, I am really grateful to Beau because during a class with him in Chicago he introduced me, artistically, to Bob Moore, whom I wasn’t aware of back then. I then discovered that whatever country song I liked had him as a bass player. Bob Moore, just so we’re clear, was in the Nashville A-team and he recorded more than 17,000 tracks in the 50s and 60s. so, if you like Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Elvis, or George Jones, you surely listened to his music without, maybe, realising it was him.

Originally published in italian on PlanetCountry.it on January 27, 2019