Italian born Flavio Sala has been captivating all kinds of audiences around the world with his amazing abilities on the guitar. He has played as a soloist and with orchestras around the world, in important festivals, theatres and concert halls. No matter if he is playing Bach or Santana Flavio Sala moves hot only his fingers, but his audience. After releasing several albums as a soloist and featuring renowned artists from Classical, Flamenco, Jazz, Latin, Pop and Rock, he has just released his new discographical project “Mi Guitarra y Mis Amores” (“My Guitar and My Loves”).
Was it an instant love as soon as you picked up the guitar? What motivated you to keep with it and devote yourself to it? So many people will start an instrument but not continue with it or give it the time it deserves.
Born in a musical family, four generations of professional pianists, my brothers and sister played the guitar just for singing. I was the only one who never tried, believing I couldn’t because I am a left handed. One day my father asked me why I never asked him to teach me, and when he put a guitar into my arms and, after teaching a few easy chords, he said “See? You can!”, I fell in love with the guitar. I was seven years old.
What difficulties did you face while first beginning?
I spent more than a year learning all the chords and the rhythm copying my brothers. Then I told my father: “Dad, I want to really and seriously learn to play the guitar! Bring me to a true teacher!”. The first lesson I attended I was almost 9 but I already knew what I wanted from my life: become a very good guitarist, playing around the world and making people happy! I did not know what that meant but, for some reason, I really dreamt about it. When I was 18 I graduated at the Conservatory in Italy and, after winning some among the most prestigious International Guitar Competition in Italy, Poland, South America and USA I started to give concerts, as a soloist and with orchestras and I never stopped.
Do you name any of your guitars?
I started to name them because it’s funny and easier to remember where and when I use them. Inna, a Russian female name, is the name of my classical “Camillo Perrella”. And the new one will be Jennifer, because it will have a beautiful body shape.
On a weekly basis, about how much time do you spend playing guitar?
I really don’t follow a schedule anymore, but I try to practice and play at least two or three hours a day. It really depends on what I am going to do, which project, if I have a tour, a new album. But let me say this: even when I am simply listening to music I am still “working”…Music is always with me, in my mind, coming and going somewhere.
Who were your main early influences?
Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, Alirio Diaz and John Williams, since I started to study the guitar, till I got to know and meet Paco de Lucia, a hero, an artist who always looked at the future of the music without forgetting the tradition. But also Claudio Baglioni, Pino Mango, Chris Botti, Luis Salinas, all artists I am crazy about.
What was yourfirst guitar? What types do you play now?
In my small town, called Bojano, in the region of Molise, there is a guy named Camillo Perrella, he is 53, who is an ingenious guitar maker. I have been playing his instruments not only because we are great friends, but because I never discovered something better than his guitars. He is making a new instrument for my hands right now. It will be ready in a few months and I can’t wait to play it.
You have recorded seven albums so far. Can you tell me a bit about them and their sound?
Yes, you are right. Seven albums in 6 years. My discography is something very unusual: my first album was a “Live at the Hermitage Theatre” (2005) in Saint Petersburg, because my first experience in a studio was a disaster. Then I understood it was not because of me. So, I came back to the studio and recorded a beautiful album of music from Venezuela (“Mi Alma Llanera”, 2009). Then a wonderful album called “De La Buena Onda” (2010), with flamenco, classical, latin jazz, south American music and a couple of famous soundtracks, featured 22 artists, such as Marcus Miller, Pino Mango, Alex Acuna, Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent, Rubem Dantas, Otmaro Ruiz, Cliff Almond, Alain Perez, Israel El Pirana, etc…Then I turned a new page with “Flavio Sala Plays Pop” (2011), an album with 12 famous songs that came out together with another live CD “Flavio Sala en vivo en Caracas”, my debut in Venezuela. Then I went back to the Classical Guitar repertoire, with a couple of cd released by two of the most important Italian music magazine, “Suonare News” and “Seicorde” which both together spread 16.000 copies throughout Italy; not bad.
Can you tell me about your latest discographical project is called “Mi Guitarra y Mis Amores” (“My Guitar and My Loves”)?
I want to point out that you are right, it is not an album but a discographical project. It’s not a physical album, there is nothing to buy and nothing to order: it’s a special gift to all my true fans around the world and an invitation to join my mailing list to keep in touch and get free music during an entire year, exclusively on my website: every two weeks there is a new tune to enjoy! I am very happy to have great musicians with me in this project: Steve Howe, guitarist for legendary rock band YES and ASIA, but also amazing singer from Venezuela Rafael “El Pollo” Brito, flamenco players Antonio Serrano and Israel “El Pirana” from Paco de Lucia’s latest band, Fabrizio Bosso, who is one of the best jazz trumpeter from Italy, Cuban pianist Cesar Orozco, Venezuelan drummer Euro Zambrano and my beloved teacher, Pasqualino Garzia, who at 80, gave me the honor to play together. “Mi Guitarra y Mis Amores” started last December 21st and it will be on the road for a while. I recorded all my favorite tunes I have been listening since I was a boy.
You recently left your Conservatory in Campobasso, Italy where you were a guitar professor to move to the United States. What sparked this major move?
Since I understood I wanted to play the guitar around the world and enjoy music, teaching in a conservatory has been one of the most depressing experiences of my life. I felt like I was in a prison, with no air, for two years! I couldn’t stand that torture, so I decided to leave my country, my family, my friends, everything to keep fighting for my dreams. And I love dreaming BIG!
What have you been doing since being in the US?
Since I’ve arrived last May, I have been playing around Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, nothing really big but always something very well done and I am building a very good following. I have many projects about to come in this year…
Do you notice any differences between playing in Italy versus the states?
Oh yes, absolutely. In Italy there is no way to be an artist and I didn’t spend 24 years of my life practicing like crazy to waste my time teaching in a conservatory, to somebody who doesn’t want to learn anything! I am not saying it is not good, just that it is not good for me.
Here, in USA, people enjoy any kind of music and since I play all the music I love, from classical to flamenco, from Latin to pop and sometimes I even sing, American people have been very receptive, at least with me. My target is Lovers of Classical Guitar Sound, no matter what I play.
You teach the guitar online, that is very innovative and smart for today’s day and age. How long have you been doing that?
It’s an amazing opportunity that everybody should experience, once at least! II discovered Guitar Lessons Online while still in Italy, but I could never do it because internet speed is not very good…Now that I am here, I have the chance to teach online as I prefer, depending on the student’s level, time for practicing, weakness and skills, making a personal program to study. That is impossible in a Conservatory, where you have to teach the same to different students. I have been teaching online to guitar students from Italy, India, USA, Australia, Portugal, etc…All you need is a good mic and a free account on Skype. That’s it! All the information is in my website.
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