I'm used to Glenfield Road
And spending my time down in Orchy
Paolo Nutini. The name itself conjures images of Sicilian sunsets, scenic drives down the Amalfi Coast, and vibrantly colored frescoes adorning walls of marble cathedrals in Rome. However, Paolo – despite his name – was born and raised in Scotland, thanks to four generations of fish-and-chips shop owners who relocated from Tuscany.
The Glasgow suburb of Paisley is hardly a comparison to the cultural centers of the Italian Renaissance like Florence and Milan. However, the picturesque town that straddles the banks of the White Cart Water was an important medieval hub and to this day remains a major landmark chronicling hundreds of years of the region’s history.
With religious and monastic origins (including Paisley Abbey – a Norman-style cathedral resting near the city center), the town was established in the 6th century by Irish monks and, over the course of the next few centuries, developed into a center of industry, utilizing the landscape of waterfalls to power dozens of mills. Many trades appeared, from weavers - the town’s principle means of commerce - to shipbuilding and food manufacturing. Interestingly enough, the popular textile pattern that carries the town’s name was first created in the Scottish hamlet in early 19th century and is still used in contemporary fashion.
Paisley is the type of small town where everybody knows your name. It’s the kind of environment suitable for a safe and secure childhood, much like the one Paolo probably experienced. He began singing and writing songs at an early age and was discovered at a earlier age than most (19). Forced to relocate where the gigs were, Paolo moved to London for his career and began pouring his heart and soul into his music. “I’ve never written a song that was hypothetical. They’re all real and about my life,” Paolo said, according to his first Atlantic Records press release in 2006.
To further his career, he had to relocate to where the gigs were, and that meant leaving the comfort of home and moving to the big, bad city: London, “Cross the border.” The title track of his debut album, These Streets
, illustrates the artist struggling to acclimate himself to his new surroundings. The proverbial country mouse living in a city, he observed many aspects of the lives of Londoners that he didn’t particularly care for. “Where it takes you ‘bout an hour just to cross the road, just to stumble across another poor old soul from the dreary old lanes to the high-street madness,” and, “I look at the people as they sit there alone… trying to pretend that they’ve got some space.”
Paolo gigged across the city, building a following and a fan base, but felt isolated and alone, in much the same way Paul Simon felt in New York City ("The Boxer
"), and every listener can relate to these feelings, whether you’re a first semester college student or you’ve relocated for a job or significant other. He longed to be home, living a simple life. “Where’d the days go? When all we did was play, and the stress that we were under wasn’t stress at all.”
Glenfield Road is in Paisley proper while "Orchy" is a reference to Glen Orchy, a valley southwest of Glasgow where Paolo spent time as a youth. Regardless of where you grew up, each of us has fond memories of our childhood. Those feelings of nostalgia are very present in the Nutini’s title track as well as the rest of the album. For instance, "Autumn," the most poignant of songs (especially considering he was only 19 when he recorded it), depicts he and his father taking a stroll through a cemetery to visit his grandfather’s grave. “Because you still live on in my father’s eyes.”
He’s neither an Italian pop singer, nor an American soul artist. Paolo Nutini is, however, wise beyond his years, harnessing a similarly mature profundity to his predecessors Bob Dylan and Damien Rice. All his albums, not only his debut, are full of emotions common to the human condition. “You can experience love and pain and hurt and loss and anger – and joy, too. I really didn’t know what else to write about,” Nutini said. As talented as the now-26-year-old is, for our sake, let’s hope he continues composing music about anything he damn well pleases.
~ Justin Novelli