Interview: Paolo Nutini – 'Always wash your hands and always tell the truth'
Scottish singer opens up on hand washing, truth telling and playing one of the biggest New Year celebrations in the country
'Always wash your hands', Paolo Nutini says earnestly, when I ask him what he's learned in the last decade, 'and always tell the truth.' They are both solid, practical answers to a question loaded with possibility.
2016 marks ten years since his debut album, These Streets, came out, and in that time, he's released two more platinum albums, toured the world, and been dubbed one of the biggest musicians in Scotland. On the back of these experiences, Paolo could have offered up any number of life lessons about life, fame, and the ever-changing nature of the music industry. That he chose instead to ruminate on the importance of handwashing and honesty actually says a great deal about Paolo's character. He is very much an everyman at heart: a boy from Paisley who likes playing guitar, living a normal life well, and keeping the hand soap in the bathroom well-stocked.
'I've learned stuff, and I've forgotten stuff, but what I do know is that it really is all about the fans,' he adds. 'One of the best things I get to do is meet people that have been to the shows and listened to the music. I still don't indulge in the social media side of things, so that's my way of starting conversations – actually hearing people talk.'
Talk is what we wanted to do with Paolo, specifically about his upcoming stint headlining Edinburgh's Hogmanay, but it was a tricky process. Though he may be an everyman in theory, in practice he's a pop star. When we first tried to arrange a chat, he was away in Las Vegas, and it took a couple of cancelled phone slots and an eager wait upon his return before we got the chance to connect.
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Edinburgh gets shared halfway around the world. He found out during his trip that his Concert in the Gardens gig had sold out in record time, for which he was 'overwhelmed' and 'incredibly grateful'.
'I was over in the desert when I got the news that the show has done what it's done,' he says, 'and so when they told me I was pretty surprised.' As a result of its popularity, Hogmanay organisers went on to add an historic second date. Now, for the first time ever, The Night Afore concert is being held on Friday 30 December, which Paolo will also headline.
'It's a bit of an honour, because Edinburgh is so highly associated with that time of year. They offered us the chance to do another night, and I liked that, because if there were people that couldn't get tickets, it gives them a chance to see the show. It also gives them the chance to create another bill, and hopefully get some other acts involved. It means there's more music which is always a good thing, especially at that time of year.'
The second gig may have come as a bit of a surprise, but the first one wasn't exactly on Paolo's 'to do' list initially, either. 'It's something that wasn't really on my agenda at the beginning of the year,' he says. 'This year so far for me has been a very random journey. It's taken me from Latvia to County Clare to New York to Mexico, back home, then back through the States again, to the desert and Indio, California.
'It's been a very weird path. My intention was not to do any shows, bar one in Wales. I've been writing, I've been working a lot with my guitar, my microphones and my band, and I've been sketching ideas as I went. I think I'm actually in the process now of sussing out where I want to go musically, and trying to unravel what I've got. I'm just seeing how it all sits together and aiming to get some new music out as soon as possible.'
So that's the agenda for 2017 sorted, then. But while he's busy making big musical plans, it's unlikely he'll be making big New Year's resolutions.
'It's not something I really do', he says. 'I think you should just try and keep ahead no matter what time of year it is. I do wanna be more active in that sense of getting the community on the go, though. I mean, I can pick up chocolate and put that down, and I can do the same with cigarettes. The main thing though is to try to help people, and to let them help you if they can and if they want to.'
Even with two big shows to come in December, he's not wanting to write off 2016 as a done deal. 'I hope there's still another few twists and turns between now and the end of the year', and we hope so too. For what is life without excitement, surprise, and the proper disinfection of one's hands.
Paolo Nutini plays The Night Afore concert & Concert in the Gardens, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Fri 30 & Sat 31 Dec.