In the five years since his last album, Paolo Nutini has travelled, lived and, by his own admission, grown up. Andy Welch finds out why the Scottish singer needed an adventure
When Paolo Nutini last released an album, the world was a slightly different place.
Barack Obama had just been sworn in as President of the United States, no one knew what an iPad was, the photo sharing website Instagram hadn’t been created and Prince William had yet to make a Duchess of his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton.
A lot can happen in five years, though - Obama’s been re-elected, the sixth generation of Apple’s tablet is about to be announced, Instagram has been bought by Facebook and William and Kate’s son, Prince George, is approaching his first birthday.
A long time, then, but not long enough for people to forget about Nutini.
Right now, his new album Caustic Love is heading for the top of the charts, destined to perform equally as well as his first two, These Streets and Sunny Side Up.
And it deserves to. It’s a superior record, a dramatic improvement on his debut, which hindsight has rendered naive, and a considerable step up from the knockabout swing of Sunny Side Up, enjoyable as it was.
But why the five-year gap?
“I wanted to live a bit,” says the 27-year-old, stirring the ice in the cocktail that’s just arrived. (He likes Mai Tais at the moment, if you’re interested, as he finds other more boozy cocktails a bit “too manly - I like something more flowery”.)
“What was I going to write about?” he continues, retuning to the topic of his career break. “My first-world problems on the tour bus? ‘Oh I never had a bath robe in my 5-star hotel’, ‘My spa wasn’t included in my room rate’ or ‘My double espresso was cold when it arrived’? That’s an album I don’t want to hear.”
He’s got a point, and despite most artists knowing the pitfalls of writing about their stardom, so many don’t heed the warnings and plough on regardless. Thankfully Nutini knew better, and decided to travel to give himself something to write about.
“I hadn’t lived that much before my first album. I felt some growing pains that I wanted to figure out, so off I went.”
He didn’t venture too far afield. He spent some time in the Caribbean, and Amsterdam, where a planned fortnight turned into a few months when his band joined him and work began on what would become the new album.
While on his extended holiday, there were always musical ideas floating around, a melody sung into an iPhone here, a chord progression there, and all of the travelling was done with a guitar on his back.
Nutini also fell in love with Munich and Berlin in Germany, and Barcelona and Valencia in Spain, places he’d been to but only fleetingly seen from his tour bus and always planned to revisit. He didn’t make it to Iceland, Egypt and Morocco, which were also on his wish-list, but he’s already making plans to go.
He did, however, spend a long time in the Tuscan hills, which is where he spent every summer holiday growing up.
“The place has barely changed since the Fifites, let alone since I was going there as a wee kid,” he says. “It’s a little village in the mountains where there’s no consumerism, no commercialism, just a load of vegetation.
“Look to your left and there’s a view like a poster, look right and it’s another photo. The food is insane, and the real beauty is there’s nothing to waste your money on. Just nice people, good weather and great food and wine.”
He then goes off on a bit of a tangent about mobile phones and society’s reliance on them, social networks taking over from traditional communication.
Nutini prefers not to bother with any of it, if he can get away with doing so, although his parents aren’t so pleased with his radio silence while he’s away on tour or travelling.
“I get the ‘Are you alive?’ text from my dad every so often, and I’ll no doubt get one again soon,” he says. “But I’d rather wait until I see someone to catch up, than for them just be able to follow what I’m doing by being my friend on Facebook. Each to their own, but it’s not for me. I had WhatsApp for a day because someone said I should have it but I deleted it the next day. No thank you.”
Caustic Love was recorded over a long period of time, although given how much Nutini enjoys talking and digressing, it’s actually hard to get a straight answer from him. He’s a natural raconteur, and can hold court on everything, from Scottish Independence - he’s not willing to disclose which side he comes down on but he’s not too impressed with the Yes or No campaigns - to classic soul music.
He is, in short, in extremely good spirits; animated and lively.