Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Talking Shop: Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini
The star's hits include Candy, New Shoes and Last Request

Scottish songsmith Paolo Nutini has had a great year.

His second album, Sunny Side Up, went straight to number one in the UK, and he was asked to visit the White House during a recent US tour.

The 22-year-old spoke to BBC News reporter Mark Savage shortly before his biggest British show to date at London's Hammersmith Apollo last month.

Hello Paolo! How has the tour been going so far?

Last night, we had a power failure and all the vocals managed to cut out - so hopefully this evening the same won't happen.

You have a much bigger band this time around. Why did you decide to do that?

It's nine merry men. They just started following me and tagging along.

You don't write music - so how do you make sure people are playing what's in your head?

We've got a three-part horn section, the Horns Of Thunder, and the brass maestro Gavin "The Hitman" Fitzjohn has been doing all the arrangements.

Paolo Nutini
Nutini got back together with his girlfriend after their break-up inspired his first album

Is it true that fans were throwing their underwear at you in Canada?

There were a couple of bras, yes. Tom Jones-style.

One of them came just as I walked off stage and it landed on my mic stand. So that was a nice exit shot.

How do you feel about being a sex symbol?

It's the only reason I'm involved in music - the hope that I'm going to have some underwear thrown at me.

Not really, I just try and dodge it.

Changing tack slightly, you were invited to the White House…

No underwear was thrown at me there, unfortunately.

A couple of President Obama's aides asked you over, is that right?


And was the President at home?

No, he wasn't. I was disappointed because I thought I was going to get to have a go in his private bowling alley.

But I had a chance to take it all in and find out some of the quirks of the last presidents. President Truman, you know, loved the mantelpiece in the banquet room so much that, when his reign ended, he tried to saw it off and take it with him! He had to be detained.

Have you ever been invited to the Scottish Parliament?

I've been up to Holyrood House in Edinburgh and I got to meet the Queen, actually. She was very polite.

Well, I suppose she's not going to turn up and swear at you.

But everybody else got a handshake and I got a high five. It was strange.

Do you get recognised when you go home?

Yeah, safe to say. I don't see why my look is in any way distinctive, so it surprises me. I think it's the nose.

One review I read talked about your "Timotei hair and Angelina Jolie lips".

Angelina Jolie lips? I don't know about that. But my girlfriend is here [turns to face his girlfriend] "Have I got Angelina Jolie lips?" [voice says "oh, yes"]

Well, she agrees. But they're still not a patch on Mick Jagger.

You sang with Mick Jagger at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007, of course.

Yeah, that was a biggie. Just to see who could get their mouth furthest around the microphone!

Seriously, though, he's something else. He was a force of nature.

In what way?

It's that perfect mix between a hard-working musician and a live wire animal.

Where would you place yourself on that scale?

Ah, jeez, I wouldn't know. That's something somebody else would have to answer for you.

Paolo Nutini
The singer says he doesn't have time to update a Twitter account

What does your girlfriend think?

I'm not asking her. I'm getting looks now. But most people who've been on tour with me would say I'm not much of an animal. Except some of the basic primal characteristics.

Mainly, I'm mellow yellow.

You have a very pronounced Scottish accent - but your singing voice is nothing like that. On some of the songs from your recent album, you almost seem to be channelling Bob Marley. How do you account for that?

I don't have a real explanation - but imagine how talking to somebody compares to shouting at them. You sound completely different. The projection makes your voice different, you use your diaphragm instead of your throat. [Puts on his best Robert De Niro accent] "Who knows what's gonna happen?"

You come across as a very modest person. But it's a peculiarly Celtic brand of modesty I recognise from growing up in Ireland, where any sort of pride or boastfulness is an instant target for mickey-taking.

Well, I think the moment you become proud you're leaving yourself open for a big reality check. There's always somebody better - or somebody that's achieved more. You've always got something to reach for.

But you must need a certain amount of belief to step out on stage every night, otherwise you'd be a wreck.

That's why you release records. If the response has been good, it makes walking out on stage a hell of a lot easier.

One of the most touching songs on the album, Simple Things, is a tribute to your father. Do you still get to see him much?

I see him whenever I'm home. I'll see him nearly every day.

Does he still own a chip shop?

Yes, and he works there every day, without failure.

Did you do shifts there when you were a kid?

Yeah, I did, but he would probably argue that I hindered more than helped.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever deep fried?

I remember being asked to deep fry a bag of Maltesers once. But I just told them to get the hell out of the shop and annoy somebody else.

It's a barrel of laughs working in a chip shop. Somebody will come in and ask, "how much is that?" and you'll reply, "25 pence". Then, they'll hold out a handful of change that adds up to nowhere near 25 pence and ask, "is that enough?" And you say, "no, it's not enough". They'll say, "well, what can I get" and you reply, "you can't get anything".

And then eventually you end up negotiating a fritter and everything moves on.

Paolo Nutini's new single, Pencil Full Of Lead, is out next week. He tours Europe throughout November.

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