No Longer Just a Famous Son, Matteo Bocelli Sets Out on His Own

By the time I meet Matteo Bocelli, the 25-year-old son of legendary Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, for coffee he’s already had a full day, starting with a performance of his first single, “Chasing Stars,” off of his debut album, Matteo, on Live With Kelly and Mark. He’s been on the show with his father a few times before, but this was his first time there alone. “It was definitely a different feeling,” says Bocelli. “More satisfying.”

It’s one of the first crisp fall days in New York, but there will be no pumpkin spice anything for this Tuscan son. He orders an espresso—the small white cup looks even smaller against his tall frame—though he notes that he can make them better back home. “Every Italian loves coffee and espresso, but [I’m] particularly obsessed with it.” He’s in town to promote the release of his debut album, which was released last Friday, and to reintroduce himself to the world as a solo act.

Though he has shared the spotlight for some time, his debut has been a long time in the making. A year after the 2018 release of “Fall on Me,” a moving father-son duet, Bocelli signed to Capitol Records and was eager to get in the studio on his own. Eventually, the pandemic stalled the project. Last year, he postponed production yet again, to put out a holiday album, A Family Christmas, alongside Andrea and his younger sister, Virginia. Family comes first for Bocelli, but he admits that waiting this long, after the “hype” of “Fall on Me,” definitely made things more complicated. “Instead I chose the worst moment,” he says, joking. “But still, I don’t care. I’m more happy to be releasing my album now that I truly feel that I know better what I want.”

What Bocelli wanted was to make a true pop album—even if his last name accentuates his opera roots. He grew up with his father’s voice and hearing him play the greats, like Frank Sinatra, at home. Bocelli started piano lessons at seven years old and after high school he trained classically at a music conservatory in Italy. But growing up, one of his biggest influences was his older brother, Amos, who listened to bands like Slipknot, Metallica, and Muse at home. “I learned to appreciate almost every genre of music,” says Bocelli. He kept coming back to pop music though, obsessing over Lionel Richie, Elton John, and Queen. “These are obvious names,” says Bocelli. “But I think that if you have to listen to something, you have to listen [to] the best, the ones that made history.”

After piano lessons, Bocelli remembers searching the internet for the chords of his favorite pop songs. Ed Sheeran quickly became his favorite artist. “He’s my idol,” says Bocelli. “The best.” He saw Sheeran perform for the first time at the beginning of his career, when he opened for Taylor Swift on tour. He knew he wanted to work with the singer-songwriter someday. Then, in 2017, Sheeran came to his family home in Italy to record the song, “The Perfect Symphony” with Andrea. “Sometimes when you say things out loud they stay in the air and then they happen,” says Bocelli of manifesting their collaboration.

After connecting in Italy, Sheeran sent Bocelli the song “Chasing Stars,” a heartfelt ballad about the bond he and his father share over music, that he and his brother, Matthew, cowrote about their own family. “I fell in love with the song,” says Bocelli. “The lyrics were so authentic to myself.” The song eventually became the first single off Matteo, his 12-track, bilingual debut, three years in the making, that blends Bocelli’s technical skill with his love for emotive pop in both Italian and English. “It’s been three years of researching,” says Bocelli of this long-awaited accomplishment. “Through these three years, I had the chance to write a lot. And now, today I feel very satisfied and happy about the album I got.”

Throughout our conversation, Bocelli doesn’t shy away from mentioning his famous father or the

world stage he has grown up on. He has met the Pope, various American presidents, attended Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding, and most recently performed with his father at Kourtney and Travis Barker’s wedding in Portofino. (Which actually felt quite “intimate” and “simple” to him; “I don’t want to say normal because it’s not normal.”) He carries himself with awareness of the immense privilege he has grown up with and understands when I bring up the obvious, which is that people will chalk up his success to nepotism. “It’s true that I easily had a contract with Capitol, my label, easily a contract with the management team,” says Bocelli with the diplomacy of a Disney prince. “But then if you don’t work, you don’t work. And now I’m in the moment which I have to demonstrate. And we’ll see, I think music is fair…That’s the toughest now, to prove that you are something as well. You have something to tell.”

Now Bocelli is out on his own and will kick off his world tour in Germany this weekend. He smiles talking about how excited he is but admits he’s also nervous to step out alone. “People know that you’re the son of a great star and they expect big things from you,” says Bocelli. “Performing with my father onstage, I could really tell that they love me so much. And that’s a big thing for me because it really gave me a lot of confidence,” he says. “They probably expect something more classical. But at the same time, I cannot be not authentic to myself. I must do what I love.” He contemplates disappointing his father’s fans, some of whom he knows he has inherited. “I think that at the end it’s my responsibility, no? It’s my duty to demonstrate that music is what I love,” says Bocelli. “It’s the thing that I always chased, and it’s the thing that makes me happy.”

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