The stories behind No.1 album ‘Singing to Strangers’

I heard an interview with Jack Savoretti on the radio this week and it was so full of stories I couldn’t wait to listen to it again (the power of digital radio and the BBC Sounds App).

Jack was talking about how he came to make his No.1 album Singing to Strangers. I’m always interested to hear the stories which led to the creation of a product or service. In Jack’s case, it was the creation of a sound and how he innovated in the current music marketplace. 

He drew on stories about his identity and the identity he wanted his children to have, stories from the silver screen, stories about what it means to be romantic, stories about who he wanted to be, and stories about what it means to be professional, and the performance he wanted to give. He weaved stories other people told into his stories to create something original. 

People often ask me for examples of how others tell origin stories. This is how Jack told his story to Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2.

A radio

Taking inspiration from Italian cinema

Jack said: “I moved to the English countryside and sort of really fell back into my Italian roots. Since being there I really noticed how Italian I might be and I started talking about this with my kids and playing them a lot of Italian music and showing them Italian movies so they would sort of know their roots and their heritage.

“And it was my daughter who said, you know, why does nobody make music like this anymore? And I thought that’s a very valid question. Why does nobody make romantic music?

“And when I say romantic, I don’t mean love songs, because there’s a lot of love songs on the radio, but they’re not necessarily romantic. The atmosphere is kind of missing that a lot of these old Italian movies used to have in their soundtracks.”

Taking inspiration from Ennio Morricone

Jack recorded the album in Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s studio in Rome. He explained to Zoe that he was inspired by Morricone’s ability to conjure emotion and was sure that by recording in that studio, he would create great music too.

He said: “When I heard that Ennio Morricone’s studio was still around with all of his gadgets and toys – he to me is an example. He can make two men with guns in their hands and cigarettes in their mouth staring at each other romantic. He’ll make that seem intense because of the sort of spaghetti western music he puts on it. 

“So I thought if he can do with that, I’m sure if we got there we’re going to get inspired. And we did.”

Dressing the part

I’ve written before about the power of creating a character who stars in the story you want to be yours. Jack used this technique too. 

He said: “I said to all the guys, do not show up in shorts and T shirt. I want you guys to show up for work.

“Also because the way we play when we walk on stage dressed a certain way is very different to how we play backstage and we’re just hanging out. 

“So I wanted us to perform. I wanted us, I wanted the band to be theatrical, to be dramatic, to be romantic, to be performance.

“And it suddenly created this album where while we were making it we were all just looking at each other and sort of fulfilling this dream we didn’t really know we event had so it was great. 

“We kind of played dress up and it paid off.” 

Stories other people tell about us

The title of the album is a story Jack’s then 5-year-old daughter told about him to a friend. 

He had come home from America while she had a friend over and given her a present.

He said: “I decided to leave her to play with her friend and as I was leaving her friend said: ‘what does your Papa do that he comes and goes and brings you all these cool presents?’ And I thought she was gonna say something like he’s a superhero or he works for the CIA because she has the imagination of a wizard. Instead she just said: ‘I don’t know, he goes around the world singing to strangers.'”

Our stories build to create new ones

Jack drew on lots of stories, stories he told himself, stories others told to him, and stories he and his band told together, to create a new story about what his music should sound like. 

What stories are influencing you? How could you unpack them and tell them to others?

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Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch.

Picture of Rachel Extance

Rachel Extance

Award-winning journalist and blogger. I help service-based business owners communicate who they are, what they do, and why. If you struggle to talk about yourself on your website or your content marketing, get in touch with me.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Rachel. I enjoyed reading these stories. I’ve got the album playing on Spotify, as I’m typing this. In your introduction, you talk about it as a ‘product’ in a ‘marketplace’, which of course it is. And you talk about Jack drawing on his ‘identity’, which he kinda does. But does he use these words? Does something go missing when we do? Could he have made the album if he’d started by framing it in terms of product rather than story? Isn’t being Italian a matter of doing certain things in a certain way.
    I’ve become a bit wary of ‘identity’, in particular, in recent years — which tends to reduce complexity and practice down to something simple and static.

  2. What I enjoy about this piece is that you give us a ton of meat to chew on. This section stood out to me- “I’ve written before about the power of creating a character who stars in the story you want to be yours. Jack used this technique too”- I will need to reflect on this for a bit. The end of the work has a great call to action for the reader. Would you consider doing a follow up article to see the answers to the questions you raised? Thanks again for a thoughtful article.

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