Claudia Buzzetti & The Hootenanny Band // Interview

Claudia is a young woman from Bergamo with a deep attraction to art and all its forms. She grew up in an artistic family where each member gave her lots of different creative stimuli, from theater to ballet or music, doing performances all the time. Claudia began to sing in choir when she was a child and even in high school later on. She took piano lessons and then she created the jazz band “Close Quartet” with her piano teacher; she was the singer.

Theater was another big part of her life, but her first biggest love has always been Jazz music. In 2015 she got interested in country music and its background so she started to play guitar, writing some songs in her rooms (between Bergamo and New York).

After a short stay in The City she decided to make her room-songs live with a band so she called her friends Thomas Pagani, jazz guitarist from Bergamo already involved with her in a country duo, Luca Ferrari on drums and Valentino Novelli on bass.

Just a group of friends hanging around once a week with an appointment with creativity working on giving rise to songs. The members come from different genres, from rock to jazz music, but they join into 1 harmonic sound in the underground rehearsal room situated in a valley right outside the city. 

When did you decide that you wanted to focus on folk and country music?

When I discovered what country music really is (its story and its stories) I understood that I’ve always known about it, I didn’t know that was country! I’ve always been attracted to Jazz music since I was in school thanks to my mum who used to listen to Billie Holiday, Dionne Warwik, Bee Gees, Beach Boys, Charlie Parker or Frank Sinatra, classical music or The Beatles at home all the time. Next to Jazz music there’s always been all the rest, most of all pop music, rock ‘n’ roll, swing and blues.

When I was seventeen I started to play in a jazz band called Close Quartet. In 2015 I enjoyed the country/old time/folk band Hillbilly Heroin (from Bergamo) and I learned a lot, details and various aspects about country music from them. Moreover in 2017 I met Paolo Ercoli (dobro and mandolin player from Milan) who is a great musician very into bluegrass and country music and we started to play together. We still play together and he teaches me a lot about American folk music traditions. 

So I fell in love with country music, something I would surely meet sooner or later. Country music is not that far from jazz, swing, blues or ragtime, they are all linked together. The lyrics are very important, they are stories, daily life stories, most of all about broken hearts or underlining a particular loss that happened in the narrator story. 

Is the name “Hootenanny” a tribute to something or someone?

The first time I heard the word “Hootenanny” I was in Scotland on a trip by myself around the region in fall 2018. That time I was in Inverness in a hostel and I heard people talking about this pub in the city called “The Hootenanny” that seemed to be a very good place to be (with live music too of course), according to their stories. I’ve always wanted to go but I never made it! So I left the town without being at The Hootenanny which turned into a dream or a fantasy in my mind, taking a part in the literature of my trip.

I’ve always liked the sound of the word “Hootenanny” and then I discovered it literally means “folk party”and at the same time something like “stuff”, a generic term and very ancient. I liked its welcoming spirit and its weird and not very common sound. 

Let’s talk about your New York days…

I spent 3 months in New York teaching italian classes in a school super close to the Empire State Building. It was a stage in the City, a wonderful occasion to get to know New York closer and deeper. During the day I was in school, the rest of the time I was at concerts. I wanted to look and live in person my dream, New York City, that I’ve always dreamed about since I was a child.

I took a lot of courage from this experience because I had the opportunity to see and to listen what’s the sound of NewYork in 2019, a great way to measure myself. In New York I found my home, can’t wait to be back there! After New York I went to Michigan where I spent 2 weeks playing around the State with my best friend Chris Buhalis, great songwriter and great voice from Ann Arbor (MI).

In Michigan I found a family and they helped me a lot in finding the courage to work on my songs, discussing about my work and analysing it. In Michigan I found a community of people who take the subject “making song” seriously, as a poetry or literature argument, or generally speaking humanistic subject. I agree with this vision, music and art it’s a part of our identity and history. I had the opportunity to play in a festival called Hootenanny (ahah) where there were teachers from Colleges that teach how to write a song in class. Very interesting!

In New York one of my favourite things was concerts in Central Park everyday for free! The first band starts at 5 pm and the last band ends at 10 pm. With all kinds of music and every generes always with a high quality. The first time I went there Parquet Courts were playing, a wonderful concert! I found New York very welcoming and at the same time, a place where there’s a space for everything, there’s already a business on everything, and there’s every kind of club or festival. Lots of forms in one city.

Now you’re based in Bergamo, IT, How did you pass your time during the first horrible season of pandemic?

For the first 3 months I was living with 2 roommates and so it was kind of easier. I did a bunch of streaming shows by myself and I tried to be focused on music, such as writing new tunes or arranging the old ones.. also I have university courses that helped (and still helping) me, at least I had something to do! I even started to jog around my building ajajajaj.

After that period I moved into an apartment by myself. I always continued the writing song process, taking notes or playing something new, but I’ve never thought about writing a song on lockdown or the pandemic. I wrote some songs in this period but not about it. Maybe in the future I will write about these crazy years, why not.

Now it’s a little bit better, we can do our rehearsals and even some live concerts! After more than one year of isolation and social restrictions the feeling of loneliness was stronger, so I’m glad we are able to see each other again in person. Our rehearsal weekly appointment is what I’ve missed more. 

7 years crying”, your new Ep, is it something biographic?

I chose “7 Years Crying” at first because I liked how it sounds but for sure I like the atmosphere that it takes with itself, nostalgic and with a pinch of sorrow, something that is linked to the country music world. The title isn’t biographic but it can be attached to my last few years, a little bit troubled. And it works with each song, they all have something sad.

At first I wanted to record 7 songs, but I like the 7 and 5 cohabitation, it’s a little bit more ambiguous and misleading. “Crying” and tears are traditional country images, Crying time” by Buck Houens it’s a good example.

When I write a song I take inspiration from my own life (mine or someone else’s), or also from stories, books, a sentence, a scene in a movie, a word. For example, about the songs that we present in our Ep, Harlem talks about a real fact, actually. It’s a real story surrounded by a country-taste frame. Or at least that’s what I was trying to do! When I was in New York my mum called saying that a young super good singer from Bergamo, a friend of mine, died in a car accident. That was very intense so I decided to write the story down.

Mr.Hyde has something biographic too but not for what concerns the entire song story and its whole meaning. New York Walk is the last song in the ep. That was a good chance to talk about something more psychological and mental and psychedelic in a way. It talks about the interconnection between past present and future, which is a subject I’m very interested in. So the past knocks on your door like a force still able to manage your present and your future. You can also read another aspect, the feeling of being followed by someone in the night. It’s a song with a dark atmosphere, I was thinking about Hitckock movies while I was writing it. 

What song you ever recorded means the most to you and why?

I think Mr. Hyde is the most personal song of mine. It’s a good crossroad between my different music projects and origins. It’s very special to me and I think to my band too. The story talks about a barmaid meeting a guy who walks into the bar where she works.

This part is a little bit close to the story about the first time I met Luca. Romantic time! Then the song goes on and the meaning opens in the promise I’d never change myself for love, but this is not necessarily biographic.

I like the atmosphere the lyrics have, something I feel close to the country music dimension, it’s a very nostalgic song, talking about the past in the present and making promises for the future. This song it’s very sincere, so maybe that’s why it’s my favourite. It’s very direct and authentic, but sweet. I don’t remember when I wrote Mr. Hyde, the first time. But one day I found the record between the others and we loved it! The chords and the changes work. It rolls well.

Give us your top 3 country songs ever.

Daniel RomanoI won’t let it

Deeply love Daniel Romano’s voice and writings, he is a great guitarist with very classy ideas in different genres and styles. His country music period is great. This song is one of my favourites by him, it starts with the verse “alone again on a weekend in the city” which is something you really experienced, it gives immediately the argument, in the right frame, and that gives a specific feeling from the beginning. Very country.

The Byrds – Hickory wind
If I have to choose only 3 songs, The Byrds must be there. This is one of the first songs I used to play on guitar and it always makes me think about trees in southern Italy, Salento, where my mum comes from and where I spent a lot of time.

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – The way it goes
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are essential and a model in the country music contemporary panorama. Both are great musicians and songwriters, they can really recreate the old traditional sound nowadays. Their whole discography is great. Harmonies are another important point in country music (and bluegrass music) and they can make their voices work perfectly together, like the rest of their sound harmonic mechanism. 

Claudia Buzzetti & THE HOOTERNANNY
IG: @_the_hooternanny
FB: @claudiabuzzettiandthehooternanny

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