Scouting the Tuscan soundscape

Tuscany Acoustic pairs musicians with magnificent settings

Michelle Davis
July 6, 2017 - 10:30

Imagine the rolling hills of Tuscany straightening into note-packed staves, melodies echoing through the medieval hamlets, the sky rippling with the twang of raw guitar strings and pure voices. Tuscany Acoustic promotes our land’s natural propensity to music by using some of its top locations as film settings for live acoustic showcases.

We interviewed the project’s founder and professional photographer Nicolò Grassi, who grew up in Carrara, studied in Pisa and Florence and then rooted himself in Emilia. He keeps his relationship with his birth region alive through music and ongoing visual research.

Jowee Omicil. | Ph. Nicolò Grassi

Michelle Davis: Tell me a bit more about your project, Tuscany Acoustic.
Nicolò Grassi: Tuscany Acoustic first saw the light about five years ago, inspired by similar experiences that were taking place abroad—The Berlin Sessions or The Mahogany Sessions. The idea was to frame musicians in their most acoustic outfit in order to reveal the bare, intimate beauty of their songs. It’s quite challenging, but the result is something you’ll never find in an album or at a live concert. At first it was a group effort, but after about a year and a half life took its toll and we decided to go on hiatus. One of us got married, I moved to Emilia...we sort of lost touch. Then I was contacted by Roberto and Lorenzo of Blanket Studio, a Tuscan videomaking duo specialized in indie music videos, and last summer we decided to revive the project. Their contribution was essential and up to now we have produced three videos of the six we plan to release each year. Tuscany Acoustic is completely self-financed but we are looking to implement some form of collaboration with sponsors, venues or events open to the public. We embrace slowness as the key to keeping our passion alive.

MD: You conduct a full-service scouting business, where for each video you pair location and musicians. What kind of processes does this require?
NG: It’s an endeavor of love. With our videos we want to create a balanced mix between up-and-coming bands and well-known musicians, intercepting professionals and prominent instrumentalists such as Marcus Eaton, hailed by David Crosby as “one of the best young singer-songwriters in America.” We filmed him in the small medieval village of Monteggiori overlooking the magical coastline of Versilia. These more renowned figures act as a sort of driving force for the niche acts in need of more visibility.

As for scouting the locations, most of the settings we choose nod in the direction of international tourism and are already quite iconic, but we also keep our eyes peeled for lesser-known situations. In order to establish a deeper dialogue between artist and surroundings, we always make sure there are certain connections between the landscape and the music in question. We always base our decision on the musician’s or band’s style, or physiognomy, as in the case of Florentine band Manitoba, whose classic, almost archetypal features inspired us to place them within the beautiful Anfiteatro Romano in Fiesole.

MD: Has it been difficult to gain access to film these amazing locations?
NG: Tuscany is a real treasure trove when it comes to special settings. If we choose to film in a private, institutional or municipal location we send out a formal request—otherwise we just wing it and everything has to be a bit faster. We actually have never been turned down. People are compelled by the peculiarity and integrity of the project, which goes to show that beauty really does bring people together.

MD: If you could choose any musician or location in Tuscany, which one(s) would be your first pick?
NG: The list is never-ending and we receive requests on a daily basis, but I have had my heart set on South African singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou for quite some time. She lives in Berlin now, so perhaps it will feasible. We would like Tuscany to become an international platform. The flexible and creative nature of our project was conceived to welcome music from all over the world! My dream location would be the Sammezzano Castle, but now that it’s been sold, we’ll have to wait and see whether it’s possible.

MD: Tell me about your next video.
NG: We’re organizing our next clip with Florence-based band  ⁄handlogic. The frontman Lorenzo studies at the Siena Jazz Foundation—National Jazz Academy so he has pulled in some of his fellow students to accompany the band in experimental, acoustic renditions of their songs, which usually involve a lot of electronics. We will be filming inside Siena’s Fortezza Medicea! The video will probably be out by the end of July, while two more will be released by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

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