Described as “slightly jazzy, folksy, bluesy, quirky, and gritty”, the duo Roberta & Ricardo continuously engage audiences with their unique performance style. They have performed at a number of European festivals including the legendary Cheltenham Jazz Festival. The pair has released one album together since forming in 2013, receiving plaudits for their eclectic work that has ranged from indie/pop to jazz/world. Driven by curiosity and by the desire of experimenting, Roberta and Ricardo like to face new musical challenges. Their latest album, “Kaleidoscope Stars,” features 10 original tunes that demonstrate how they are using their mix of different styles to create new approach to the contemporary music. In an exclusive interview the duo shared their thoughts and experiences with Jamsphere.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Roberta De Francia: Hello! I started studying music as a child but got really into the business about 10 years ago. I began singing and playing in bands in south of Italy first, north of Italy afterwards and finally in London. I got many different musical influences from all these 3 different places so I feel very lucky 🙂
Ricardo Ruiz: All my life as I remember. I was 7 years old when I started in the music school in my town and since then I’ve been always performing and doing music
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Roberta De Francia: The very first was Joni Mitchell. But also Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Tracy Chapman, George Benson, Led Zeppelin and many others more. Also different styles, from classical to blues
Ricardo Ruiz: Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. The first music I bought was classical collections. But in my family travels, my father used to listen to Ennio Morricone, Elvis, Julio Iglesias and some folklorist music
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Roberta De Francia: Ohhh yes, there are many musicians I currently like too. In general, I try to listen to (almost) all type of music. I like John Mayer, Esperanza Spalding, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, but also Jason Mraz, John Butler, Sia, Of Monsters and Men, Laura Mvula, Katie Melua . I would probably collaborate with Norah Jones or the french singer Zaz.
Ricardo Ruiz: the same for me. I try to listen all kind of music, but mainly jazz and rock music. I would like to collaborate with Jamie Cullum, Michael Buble, Imelda May or Harry Connick Jr
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ from within the industry, and if so how have you handled that, and how do you handle criticism and naysayers in general?
Roberta De Francia: Well, I always wrote kinda of “strange” songs so I’m pretty much used to resistance or criticism. I’m ok with those. Constructive criticism is always good in order to improve, and if they are not constructive I don’t pay much attention and of course don’t take them too seriously. It’s all like a game anyway. I focus more in trying to reinventing myself and keep improving and creating no matter what. We are very lucky to have great fans all around the world, but that doesn’t stop us to trying to do better every day.
Ricardo Ruiz: To be honest as a freelance musician I’ve never care too much about criticism. I am definitely my own biggest critic. If I am happy with the music I play and the way I play, any other resistance is not that important.
- What are your thoughts on visual media and Youtube? Do think that video is an appropriate marketing tool for your music, and do you have any videos published for fans to see?
Roberta De Francia: Ohh, I really love Youtube. I would upload one video per day, but Ricardo is such a perfectionist that makes me always wait ages before recording new ones. Yes of course we have videos, people can watch our playlist, containing all our best songs, official videos and some covers too, here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiO_veehYJQ&list=PLQrciDozrwHPI9O3__-Mid-bjn6K3olfA … I do believe videos and/ online platforms are good tools for us and for many indie artists, though they should be used very well. I love Reverbnation or Music Blog such as this one, JamSphere. They offer great opportunities
Ricardo Ruiz: I agree with Roberta…and by the way, I am not such a perfectionist, come on…
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio setting?
Roberta De Francia: Ricardo and me are very funny together, I can say we are very good entertainers. We are never too serious and people usually like our spontaneity. We are currently playing in Thailand and we just love it. I couldn’t live without performing but at the same time I’m a songwriter so I feel the necessity of creating new things all the time, hoping to transmit special emotions to people
Ricardo Ruiz: Both jobs are amazing, but I think I prefer entertaining a live audience…you can interact with the crowd and experience every gig in a different way
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music production on your releases. Which part of these processes do you handle, and which do you outsource generally?
Roberta De Francia: I generally write all the lyrics and basic music. I try to be empowering and inspire positive thinking through my songs, though some of them could sound provocative, thoughtful and reflective, such as “Broken Sphere” or “You are not Alone”, dedicate to all women. Ricardo is the one who arrange all the songs, he creates melodies and sings in a excellent way as well. In the latest 2014 album Kaleidoscope stars, we had great musicians behind and the help of our favourite London recording studio, Bonafide. In general, however, we try to do everything by ourselves.
Ricardo Ruiz: Yes, I handle arrangements, musical compositions, vocal ..I also always try to add my previous experience to all the works.. and sometimes I go for coffee as well…………. :p
8. What is the title of your latest music release and where can fans find it?
Roberta De Francia: The latest album is called “Kaleidoscope Stars” and can be found on the main online stores like itunes http://smarturl.it/kaleidoscopestars or bandcamp https://robertadefrancia.bandcamp.com/
Ricardo Ruiz: exactly.
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a business thriving with young newcomers?
Roberta De Francia: I really believe there is place for everyone in this world, as all of us are different and unique. Everybody should bring something personal and/or special, and the problem comes only when that this doesn’t happen and there is an “overproduction” of music without heart or passion. In my case I think I can offer something distinct in my folk fingerstyle and acoustic/classical guitar arrangements combined with the delicate tone of my voice. And regarding the duo, I think we are quite unique because of the combination acoustic guitar – saxophone, an intrigate and elegant mix. We are also very versatile and choose to cross boundaries between different music styles.
Ricardo Ruiz: As I worked in various projects, musical theathers, jazz ensemble, rock bands, classical concerts, I feel very fortunate to have different musical backgrounds to add to each compositions or arrangements. I also play flute, clarinet and percussion, and as a duo we try to add new things all the time. We can also use loops and/or some effects we like.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to be a part of this tough business?
Roberta De Francia: I wouldn’t know what to choose between joy, gratitude and passion .. but if really had to pick only one that unites and describes everything , then I would simply choose LOVE.
Ricardo Ruiz: I would choose FREEDOM … Because the music makes me feel free.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Roberta De Francia: I’m free to make music anytime I want and the way I like most. This is the best part of being independent. I can also live in any place of the world I like too. I can work anywhere. But the sad part is that now days music business is a jungle. Everybody can make music with a laptop and a microphone, and many make music in a very easy way, as a result that every song sound the same. It’s similar to what is happening in the food market. There is a lot of type of food out there but it’s up to you, you can choose to eat healthy. If you really have a great passion about music diversity, you can find great talents out there, just search , try to expand your knowledge
Ricardo Ruiz: Yes, exactly. The best part is that we can do music in any place in the world, as Roberta said. But unfortunately not all the people has knowdledge to enjoy some kind of music. We are a little bit conditioned about the majors that keep selling the same songs all over the world… Anywhere you go, Asia, Europe or America you can only listen to the same kind of music… Unless you decide to search well and for different artists.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team or do you control everything by yourself?
Roberta De Francia: I have to admit that I control everything by myself. Sometimes it is VERY HARD, as I have to be busy in doing everything. Promoting, writing and performing almost every night. But I just love it. I would love to have a very good super professional manager in the future, but I’m very demanding, so this person will have to work hard and well.
Ricardo Ruiz: True! … but we would like to meet the right management team, with the right connections and the right knodledge to help us in our work. I never lose hope
- How do you achieve your sound? Do you work from a private recording environment or do you use a commercial sound studio?
Roberta De Francia: So far we have been always recording in professional studios. We love to work with other musicians, swapping ideas, meeting different people and different producers. Working in different countries it will also help to get different musical influences of local places. Which is great! Maybe in the future we will start recording privately in our home but that will take learning new skills such as mixing, mastering … Which Ricardo could definitely learn…
Ricardo Ruiz: me??? ohhh, ok, so I just know what I will have to do…
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Roberta De Francia: Well, I’m currently following the common advice to think as entrepreneur, so to focus and to invest time in building a fan base, mailing list, update social media with great contents, searching more potential fans. I try to learn about the new music business on my own. We also just launched a new blog: www.travelerslifemusic.com … It’s brand new, work in progress, but we will update it very soon. Regarding tips I didn’t follow before, generally I’m very happy about my choices but probably from now on, I should follow the advice to invest less time and money on recording full albums every couple of years and focus on releasing mp3s quite often. Also, I’m following the tip to give songs for free, it is a pleasure if I see my fan base grow.
Ricardo Ruiz: Regarding music, I’m still trying to follow an advice that my teacher said: “Play every note as you are sculpting” … So I always try to do my best when I play. And try to learn from your experiences as well.
- How well does being a sentimental couple blend with being creative artists and a working business partnership?
Roberta De Francia: I have to say, I couldn’t imagine it would have been such a joy being a sentimental couple and a business couple. The trick is trying to be respectful of one another and trying to maintain our own individuality. We complement each other and contribute to each other’s career. This doesn’t mean we don’t have dispute, it can happen, but we try always to find solutions and/or compromises. Many people who listen to us mention the fact that our sound meshes perfectly together and can catch people easily, creating profound effects. This is magical!
Ricardo Ruiz: I really think it’s wonderful. When we play together it’s a very special moment … We can understand each other very easily …I think people can notice our connection when we perform.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Roberta De Francia: Yes, there is a lot of music out there and the risk is that many songs sound the same or that young aspiring artists think only about short lived fame. But at the same time, there are also real talents and there are even more opportunities for them. The problem is that they don’t know how to do it efficiently. Many musicians don’t spend too much time in music marketing and/or still wait for a record deal. This is also our case, because we still have to learn a lot about music business.
Ricardo Ruiz: Oh yeah, I agree! Internet is the present and the future. The problem is that it’s becoming easier to produce more quantity than quality and that’s make a difficult choice for the audience as well.
- If someone has never heard your music, which 3 keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Roberta De Francia: Only 3? ok … Uplifting Acoustic Jazz
Ricardo Ruiz: … Warm, Enjoyable, Surprising.
- Of all the countries visited. In which one would you gladly stay permanently if you had the choice and why?
Roberta De Francia: So far we didn’t decide to stop anywhere; we would like keep changing every year or so. Definitely we would love to spend sometimes in the States . Why? Because of the music traditions and all the experiences we could get touring there.
Ricardo Ruiz: ohh noo…why only one country? …ok let’s think in this way, let’s choose only five continents: America, Europa, Asia, Africa and Australia J
- As you work your way through your career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or any other tangible milestone?
Roberta De Francia: I wouldn’t say no to a Grammy Award or Platinum music sales, of course ahah… But as I understand the general music taste, I would more thinking about touring professionally the world, in big festivals and great theatres.
Ricardo Ruiz: yes, definitely. I would like to enter in the circle of festivals and performing in the most important theaters of the world.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Roberta De Francia: Showing off my boobs probably, unless it’s for a good cause or a feminist protest. Just kidding! Right now I wouldn’t accept to produce music i don’t really like but maybe in the future I will change my idea, who knows
Ricardo Ruiz: I think I did already a lot…:))