INTERVIEW: Italian Guitar Sensation Giacomo Turra
Giacomo Turra

INTERVIEW: Italian Guitar Sensation Giacomo Turra

About a year and a half ago, I stumbled upon Italian guitar player Giacomo Turra on Instagram. His funk guitar playing is skillful, intricate and mesmerizing. And that’s amazing considering he has no formal musical education or training what so ever. Turra originally rose to prominence during the pandemic, posting cool little jams (listen above) and cover videos to his social media channels which have garnered millions of views.

Last May, Giacomo signed with ADA Music / Warner Music and announced his upcoming self-titled EP. He just released the first single “The Way She Wants” (listen below) on May 15th featuring Philadelphia native, singer Nic Hanson.

If you’re a guitar player or just love good music Turra will be playing the Basement East on July 23 and you don’t want to miss it. We just got the opportunity to interview Turra and here’s what he had to say:

(NOTE: His English is very good but it is his second language so this interview was transcribed just as he said it)

NASHVILLE.COM: Hey, Giacomo how’s it going?

TURRA: Great. Great.

NASHVILLE.COM: Thanks for taking the time to do this.

TURRA: Of course. Thank you for the opportunity.

NASHVILLE.COM: Is this going to be your first American tour?

TURRA: Actually, this is the second. We did the first one from September to November, 2023. So this is going to be the first with a proper production, let’s say.

NASHVILLE.COM: So what did you think of the United States from your first tour?

TURRA: To me, it was really incredible for many reasons, but basically the thing that really impressed me the most was how the audience really interact with the artist and take into consideration music on a whole different level compared to Europe. Because basically the first show we did was in Syracuse at Funk Waffles, a little club that literally let’s funk artists play.  And even in a small club like that, I think there were from 80 to 100 people from the very first moment that we started playing, the people were already completely hooked to the music. They were responding to every little thing because the show that I structured is really like you have some originals, some rearranged covers, but it’s basically a big medley. So it’s 40 minutes and many things happen. And we tried to play this medley in Europe before people were responding and clapping and cheering on the end of the songs. But from the very first moment when I jumped on the stage in Syracuse, I realized that it was a completely different experience with an American crowd. They were reacting to every little section we were doing. Maybe I was quoting weather report, and they immediately started seeing in that part. It was really incredible. Really.

NASHVILLE.COM: That’s awesome. Well, I’m glad it was a good experience. It should be a good experience in Nashville too. This town is just full of musicians and a lot of really great guitar players, so I imagine you’re going to have a lot of those guys showing up to your show at the Basement East.

TURRA: Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping for. Last year we did Analog Hotel in Nashville. Really, we had some free days, and it took the opportunity to go around the main avenue, the main street full of music bars. It was incredible. I never seen such a high skill level of musicianship in all these bars and pubs we were going through.

NASHVILLE.COM:  Do you sing at all or are you strictly a guitar player?

TURRA: I do sing. It’s a new thing for me in the sense that, of course, I’m mainly known for my guitar playing, but the way that I compose music, even guitar parts, is always through singing. So my approach when it comes to improvising on guitar is always singing in the melody in my head and sometime at home, even singing the lines with my voice.

NASHVILLE.COM: On your new single “The Way She Wants” You feature Nick Hansen, is that something that you’re going to do on a regular basis, having guest singers and that kind of thing?

TURRA: In my upcoming appearance, I’ll sing some tunes and I will have also some amazing singers singing with me. One of them is going to be Emmaline. She’s based in Nashville, amazing Jazz singer. But it is mainly because when I come up with a song, I already have the voice in my head. And so that is the cool thing about social media is that you can collab with many different artists from all around the world and you can say, okay, for this vibe, for this song, I want this guest singer. But for the shows, it’s going to be really interesting. I will sing some tunes. I will also playing guitar at the same time. There’s going to be the bass player who’s going to sing some tunes. There’s going to be female artist, which was opening for us that will come as a guest for some tunes also in our set. So it’s a really dynamic show that I try to build for the crowd.

NASHVILLE.COM: So who is the female artist in Nashville when you play at the basement East?

TURRA: Yes. So Phoebe Katis, who’s opening the shows for us during the tour, and she also collaborated with me for some songs that I released previously on stream platforms. And we also did some video togethers. She will open for us, and then she will also come as a guest singer for some tunes. During our set, I will sing some parts. The bass player was seeing some parts, and the cool thing about the United States is that I collaborated with so many artists during the previous years that basically almost every city that we’re including Nashville is going to have special surprise guests coming up on the stage. Both singers and musicians is going to jump on some tunes to play for the audience.

NASHVILLE.COM: Do you have a core band that you tour with? Because I noticed a lot of your videos, you play with so many different people, but do you have a main band that you travel with and they’re always your band?

TURRA: Yeah, now I’ve been playing with these guys for the last year European tour and the previous American tour. So it’s going to be the drummer, bass player was also singing and the saxophone. I was also playing keys for some songs and also percussions. So in total, we are actually just the four of us on stage. But yeah, this is the band that I’ve been playing with for the last basically year and a half.

NASHVILLE.COM: Okay. Well, let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me when did things really start to take off for you?

TURRA: Really, my journey as a musician was a little weird. I never did music professionally. I never built through a proper musical education. I just started playing guitar by myself when my parents got me an electric guitar when I was 13 years old. And that is mainly because I was really inspired by all these records that I used to hear in my house because my grandfather gave my dad a big collection of vinyl records. So growing up, I started getting curious about those at the point that I wanted to start playing guitar. inspired by Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin and all these artists. And I just kept it like that for basically many years, just as a hobby, just playing music for myself. But during the lockdown, as many people at my age, I was studying design and art at university, and as everyone, I was doing online lessons. So I finally had so much more time to spend at home playing guitar, and I was like, okay, let’s try to really focus on this and put all my efforts into it. And I started posting this video on social media mainly for my friends. But after a while, I realized that my audience was actually growing, and it took just a couple of viral videos. I remember in particular the I Want You Back by Jackson Five Loops Station Cover. They really blew my account.

So that’s how it started.

NASHVILLE.COM: Wow. So you don’t have any formal training, you just play by ear?

TURRA: Yeah. Yeah. I cannot read a musical sheet, and if someone tell me, okay, let’s play a 2 5 1, I have no idea. It takes me a while to figure that out, but that’s definitely a limitation. But at the same time, it helps me getting a different approach, I think, on guitar, because I really go by ear. So the cool thing that I will say about this is that, of course, maybe you don’t have that quick approach when it comes to, okay, let’s play this blues in A, but at the same time, my playing, I hope you cannot, cannot hear the boxes and the shapes the scales. Many times when you hear a guitar player improvising, you hear the pentatonic scale, you hear a specific scale. Not having that base really helps to just go in with following the song and just adapt like you’re singing. That’s how I try to improvise.

NASHVILLE.COM: Yeah, that’s amazing. You have such a unique style, and, I mean, you do things that I just don’t hear. If you had to say who were your main one or two inspirations, who do you think they were? In the beginning?

TURRA: Definitely Prince and George Benson. To me, Stevie Wonder when it comes to more like songwriting, but for guitar playing, definitely George Benson and Prince are my main two references when it comes to makeup of guitar.

NASHVILLE.COM: I can definitely hear the George Benson influence in there.

TURRA: Yeah.

NASHVILLE.COM: So we had an Italian exchange student, and got to spend a couple weeks going all over Italy. I loved it, great time. And I had to ask her if she had heard of you, and she hadn’t, but she was going to look you up. We still keep in touch.

TURRA: Yeah, I’m not really known in my, I have some following in Italy, but definitely when I came to the United States, I realized that many more people were recognizing me when just going around some clubs in New York City, Hey, you’re the funk Italian guitar player. So definitely in a more recognized the United States than in Italy.

NASHVILLE.COM: Yeah, that’s crazy. That’s the world we live in now, because going viral, you can be more popular in another country than you are in your own country. That’s kind of amazing.

TURRA: Exactly. Yeah.

NASHVILLE.COM: Looking forward to seeing you guys. Thanks for everything.

TURRA: Thank you, Jerry. Really appreciate it.

–Jerry Holthouse

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About Jerry Holthouse

Music editor for Nashville.com. Jerry Holthouse is a content writer, songwriter and a graphic designer. He owns and runs Holthouse Creative, a full service creative agency. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of everything music. You can contact him at JerryHolthouse@Nashville.com

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