by Oscar Ross, Music Editor
Sounding somewhere between Jack Johnstone, George Ezra and Harry Nilsson, Bristol-based singer-songwriter Ben Cipolla sat down with me in Glitch Studio’s top salon room to speak about the importance of food, family and revisiting his Sicilian roots for his most recent album, Casa Mia.
During his Glitch Studio performance as part of Bristol's bespoke food and music festival, Buskers' Banquet, Cipolla engaged his audience with detailed descriptions of each song’s writing process and meaning maintaining his smiley, awkward charisma. While some artists’ attempts to provide the backstory to every 8 bars of a song often come across as narcissistic and conceded, Cipolla left his audience understanding and enjoying the songs he played as if they had been listening to them for years.
“I wanted that sun-bathed balcony feel” said Cipolla when asked about the feel of his new album Casa Mia. I think it’s safe to say that it is mission accomplished, with Casa Mia going track for the track with sun-kissed ballads and wind-swept driving tunes. “The album is made up of 9 songs, each for a province of Sicily (and a bonus track because I like even numbers!)” Cipolla laughed as he talked me through the rich, interwoven history of his family and his music.
“I’m here all down to ice cream” Cipolla summed up after telling me of his grandparents (Nonno and Nonna) arranged marriage and then relocation to Stoke on Trent, where Nonno gave up his job as a miner to sell ice cream across all of Stoke on Trent. Cipolla’s father, Sebastian, grew up wrapping ice lollies and learning clarinet, for which he went to music school where he met Cipolla’s mother.
Family is central to Cipolla’s music, as is evident in a stand-out song “Trekking with the Stars”. Dedicated to his late uncle, Alfie (Alfonso) Cipolla, the wonderfully light-hearted and jazzy track remembers Cipolla’s fond memories of spending time with his cinema worker, Star Trek fan uncle. The great thing about Cipolla’s writing here is, that some songs dealing with such personal and specific material could isolate an audience or listener, instead, Cipolla invites the listener in, asking them to share in the story and his memories.
“I’ve been letting these ideas simmer away for a long time”, commented Cipolla, describing his album like a Minestrone, taking time and love to create something of himself to benefit others:
“I see it as a labour of love for future generations, to inspire others to retrace their roots”
- Ben Cipolla
From sampling the whistle of a builder working outside his window on ‘Golden Hour’ to softly sung, warm melodies in Italian on ‘Cicero’, Ben Cipolla’s Casa Mia is s small slice of Sicilian sunshine, and everyone loves the sunshine, don’t they?
Listen to Casa Mia here:
Have you listened to Ben Cipolla yet?
Photography by Joshua Halling