Born in a family where music was and will always be the driving force, Roman artist Lili N started composing at the age of eight. With such a rich musical connection, she always felt the need to express herself with sound. Performing and songwriting have always been Lili’s form of relaxing, and her songs bring peaceful, passionate and emotive expressions.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s kick this off by telling me a little bit about your hometown of Rome. What are a few things you would suggest to a first-time visitor to do and see?
Lili N: I was born in the center of Rome, it’s called Trastevere. I consider that to be the heart of Rome. [It’s] the most eclectic, artistic part of Rome. That’s where I go out with my friends. There are a lot of amazing spots to visit if you’re a tourist. You’ve got so many churches right there in Trastevere. I think, for someone who visits for the first time, the most important thing is to definitely go to Trastevere.
I actually just had a friend coming to visit me from Berklee. I showed her everything that I do, because I wanted to give her the less touristy tour. I wanted to show her all the spots that everyone else sees, but at the same time I think it’s so much more real and raw if you experience it with someone who’s from there, who’s lived there and who actually has their own bar that everyone knows. I have my own night at, you would call it, a pub. It’s owned by [my friend], I’ve known him for years. All of my high school goes there for drinks and to reunite there all together.
© Maria Eklind
SR: That’s great that you have a community that can come out and see you perform. Now, tell me a little bit about your start in music. Where was your first, initial inspiration from? Was it your parents by chance?
LN: Basically, my upbringing was naturally very artistic. I’ve been involved in the movie industry from the age of five, because my whole family owned a voice-over company. All of my family was involved and everyone was doing dubbing. Whether it was directing or acting, everyone was included into it. I did the Grinch and it was my first movie. That kind of led me to have a relationship with my voice. [I had my] own room where we’d record sentences and lines. When you’re working off an actor, the voice shapes itself, and you learn your work ethic. I think that really, really got me interested in just working with people that were creative, open minded and a little bit different from the usual.
With music, I became [introduced] at a very, very, early age. My mom used to be an opera singer. She dropped out of high school at 14 and started studying opera. Her voice allowed her to do that. We were always blessed with the possibility of doing what we loved. She did that, followed her path and became a sensation at a very young age. At 19, she was on stage with Carreras, Pavarotti, everyone. I had her example and all I knew was music.
At 16, 14 or earlier, maybe, I started making my own beats on GarageBand. I started making my own songs, because I felt this need to. I love music. I love entertainment. I love musicals. My sister and I would reenact scenes of Grease and Cats all the time after school. That was our favorite activity. We would reenact Marilyn Monroe or Rita Hayworth. It was our obsession. So, I just started making my own songs, and recording them in a very, very, do-it-yourself type of way. I didn’t have a microphone. I had those Apple headphones.
It was very natural. It wasn’t average for us. It wasn’t ever something I’d show to people. It was always very pirate. Then my mom heard it, and she was like, “I really think you should do this.” My mom really pushed me to do it. She said, “In your free time, you need to make music.” [Going to] Berklee [College of Music] was really not my first choice. I was supposed to go to one of these universities and last-minute, I applied to Berklee. My mom said, “You should really, really try it”.
SR: That’s really cool to have that support from home. It’s also great that you found that passion at an early age. So, tying it into travel, how does music fit together for you with travel?
LN: It’s definitely, definitely, [tied] together. I was raised to travel. My mom always wanted me and my sister to be very independent, we were always trained to travel. We would go everywhere alone. She was like, “Okay guys, just go.” I’ve always loved to find myself, and in every different place I would go I would learn something about me. I absorb everything from the culture of wherever I [am]. I think that listening to music, hip-hop when I first went to the [United States], that actually inspired me to be myself, open-minded and not be afraid of being different. I’m not hating on Italy in any way, but it was impossible for me to really experience [music] without moving somewhere or going somewhere. Definitely the longer I’m in the States, the more it has changed my perspective on music.
© Tommie Hansen
Now that I’m older, and after having my managing contract, I’ve had to go [travel] and have sessions with producers. [It’s] been incredible, because I’ve realized, depending on where I am, I like different stuff. The mood, my feeling and how I could see things is different. I think it definitely fits in, because I do a different type of art depending on where I am. The people, their culture, their tradition and the way they talk to you all impacts it. Being in Italy is completely different than with friends in England and then in Stockholm, for example. It’s a completely different experience. It’s all learning experiences at the same time.
SR: I couldn’t agree more. You have a really cool perspectives to tie into for our readers. What’s the main cultural difference between Italy and America? What’s uniquely distinctive about the cultures?
LN: I think the thing that everyone notices about the difference between Italy and America is definitely in size. Italy is kind of small and involved in a lot of things. America is just a huge place. I remember the first time I went to the movie theater in the States, I just was blown away by its size. In Rome, our movie theaters have two movies showing on two floors or maybe one. The size of everything is definitely disorienting at first. And malls, there’s no such thing as malls. Especially as usually as you see them in the States. Culturally-wise, there’s definitely a huge difference in the States. People in Italy are either talking about their life or friends that are around. They are extremely warm and extremely real. This is not to say that everyone in America is crazy, but all I’m saying it’s a raw, nonconfrontational thing in Italy.
© Dennis Jarvis
Families are very honest with each other. They have a huge sense of morals, what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes there is an old-school perspective on issues that should be faced differently right now. That’s really what I love about it. We both have something that complements each other’s talents, art or creativity. Americans are very, “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s get it done. Let’s find out the solution and then solve it.” Italians will more just talk about it, talk about it, talk about it and then maybe come to a conclusion.
SR: That’s really interesting. Everyone has a list of destinations that they haven’t been to, but still want to see. What are three that are on your list? Why?
LN: I have so many. I really, really, really want to go to Brazil, mostly because I’ve just heard incredible things about Brazil, although it’s a very dangerous place. I’m looking forward to being in a whole different environment. I also have a connection with Brazilian rhythm and percussion, based on the Carnival that they have in Rio. It’s inspired me so much. I’m so fascinated with Brazilians and their culture. I definitely want to go to Japan [too], based on a promise my older sister and I made. The fashion there is very different. I’m always on the lookout for what’s new. Lastly, I definitely want to see more of the States. I haven’t been to Washington. I haven’t been to Hawaii. I haven’t been to New Orleans. I love every city that I’ve been to so much in the States. I have an infinite amount.
© Traveling Otter
SR: All great choices! Lastly, what’s the future look like in the next couple months for you and your music? Anything you’d like to highlight with your sound?
LN: Yeah, I just came out with my new single “Paper Heart”. In the meantime, we’ve found an incredible producer that I had the chance to work with in London. He released his EP, named “Furnace” and one of my songs is on there, called “Midas”. In the upcoming months we’re going to complete one more thing, and then we’re going to come out with an EP. I have written a lot of different songs, from traveling between London, Stockholm, LA and NY, just touching on a mixture of those worlds all together.
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