Being a young musician has its challenges. One thing 22-year-old Paolo Nutini is trying to come to grips with is how irrelevant some of his first album, which he wrote when he was a teenager, seems today.
“I was singing songs I’d never sing about in that way now,” says the Scottish-born musician, whose debut, Three Streets, was a huge hit in 2006. “There are instances where I won’t play a song, because I don’t really feel it anymore.”
These days the husky-voiced troubadour is feeling the reggae vibes. His sophomore disc, Sunny Side Up, kicks off with a heavy dose of 2 Tone-style reggae (unofficial Specials trombonist Rico Rodriguez plays on the song), and there are upstroke sounds elsewhere on the record.
“Jamaican music is my favourite,” says the guitarist. “It’s not like I wanted to make a reggae record, it’s just how the song came out.”
Nutini is not the next Bob Marley, though. Most of his record dabbles in folk, laidback Jack Johnson-like melodies and some light Simon and Garfunkel-ish sounds. While the music is definitely eclectic, the one thing most of the tunes have in common is that they’re upbeat and happy, as the album’s moniker suggests.
“I’m pretty happy,” says Nutini. “If you’re happy and comfortable then write about it. Obviously there are things going on in the world, but I figured I better make songs that I’m going to like playing.”
It’s a good thing that the songwriter is in a good, emotional place, because many young stars his age have trouble dealing with fame. Nutini, however, hasn’t fallen into the trap of rock ’n’ roll excess like so many of his peers.
“That stuff is always there — everyone says to go out with the band and get drunk every night, but that’s so cliché. And I want to avoid being a cliché,” he says. “I’m not made to consume so much alcohol. I don’t really get the challenge.”
With Sunny Side Up topping the charts in the U.K. and Ireland, it may get increasingly more difficult for Nutini not to get caught up in the fast life, but it helps that the pressure of being a young star isn’t getting to him too much.
“I don’t really think about age,” he says. “The pressure is that you’re just another guy in the queue. But I’m lucky to be in the queue in the first place.”