• Michael Bugeja

CLAUDIA FANIELLO: CONVINCINGLY BETTER


She is, without a doubt, one of Malta’s best-known female vocalists and perhaps she was destined to be, having grown up in a house where music was the order of the day. “My mother is a singer, so there was always music at home,” says Claudia Faniello when we meet to talk about her international debut album, Convincingly Better.

Faniello started out doing television shows and competing in the festival circuit when she was around 12 years old.Back then, the young singer looked up to her more famous older brother Fabrizio who, as everybody knows, would go on to win the Malta Song Festival and successfully launch himself internationally.

“Fabrizio is seven years older than me; I grew up in his shadow, so it was probably inevitable that I would follow in his footsteps and become a singer. He was very supportive when I did take the step, despite the fact that we had diverse musical tastes.”Yet, while her initial musical public appearances emanated a pop flavour, she actually harboured a more dominant rock inclination. “Many bands and artists influenced me, though my favourites changed as I grew older. At home, mum was more into Italian pop while I was listening to stuff like Savage Garden in my early teens, moving on to bands like HIM, Pink Floyd and Metallica. I believe one can learn a lot from listening to different artists and genres.”

I find this all the more interesting in light of the fact that Convincingly Better has a defined rock trait anchoring the larger part of its content. “Yes, I am focusing on a new direction, because over time I’ve realised where I want to take myself musically. I want to make music which gives me a feeling of accomplishment; this is important to me because I treasure my ability to sing. “Music is such a wonderful thing I believe one has to really feel it inside to be able to truly express that same passion and share it with the listener.”

Mindful of the fact that she is participating in the upcoming Malta Eurovision 2011 festival with the guitar-driven Movie in my Mind, I’m curious as to whether this expressed proclivity to­­wards a rockier sound is a subtle step away from the festival circuit.Faniello says its more about moving away from the ‘Malta Song’ template. For a long time, she says, it seemed only a certain type of song was making it to the finals.

It’s no secret that a lot of the songs that surface at festivals do seem destined to only appeal to that particular market. Faniello says that though she is grateful to the festival circuit for launching her career, she wanted to do something that was more ‘her’ – “to sing songs that truly represent who I am in both musical terms and content and that can also hold their own within and beyond the festival circuit”.

Convincingly Better, spearheaded by the punchy pop-rock single (and its quite impressive music video) I Hate This Song, marks Faniello’s first step in the new direction. That single was received very positively locally, auguring well for the similarly-inclined Movie in my Mind to hopefully fulfill her musical aspirations without alienating her festival fanbase.

“I know others probably have tried before me, but I would really love to dispel this stigma that exists in the ‘Malta Song’ scene where any song that has a hint of rock about it is frowned upon.”

While most countries participating in the Eurovision have long embraced rock along with all the other genres that complete the musical spectrum, from a local perspective, it’s safe to say that this is a mighty task to undertake. With Movie in my Mind making it to the final 24 of the local competition, however, it seems the Maltese trend is showing signs of change too, and Faniello is obviously pleased that her rock song, penned by Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg, has got this far.

Incidentally, Vella is also the main songwriter behind Convincingly Better, though the album also includes contributions from Mary S. Applegate (of The Power of Love fame) and a number of Swedish songwriters.Understandably, Faniello’s immediate priority is next week’s Malta Eurovision 2011 festival, but there is another issue high on her agenda.“It irks me that there a mistaken presumption that artists who participate in festivals do so because they aren’t able to infiltrate the mainstream music scene,” she says.

This is, of course, totally mistaken, not only because Faniello herself has had a fair share of mainstream success but also because there have been quite a few established mainstream artists who have participated in festivals. Admittedly, there are also a lot of mainstream acts that tend to steer clear of having any festival connection, primarily because they are put off by the previously-mentioned ‘Malta Song’ template. Faniello acknowledges this but, she says, it’s also linked to her decision to follow her heart. “It’s perhaps understandable that new artists may not feel comfortable taking risks by being diverse. “But I personally feel I can rely on my experience in the festival to bring something different that will hopefully instigate others to eventually do the same.”

Clearly someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, Faniello is also a strong-minded person convinced of her plan and determined to succeed in her chosen path, which is also reflected in the title of the album. “Well, apart from the fact that one of the songs is called Convincingly Better, we also decided to use it because the album is a fresh, significant step forward in my career. “I’m convinced it will be for the better.”

www.claudiafaniello.com

This article was first published on The SUnday Times of Malta (06 February 2011)

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