UK singer/songwriter and producer, Mauro Dirago, is proof that miracles do happen. His unique charisma brought him close to Priscilla Presley, a friendship which led to the production Elvis’ recently re-imagined Royal Philharmonic Orchestra albums. The same determination also captured the attention of Capital Radio DJ Mick Brown in the early ‘90s, leading to an instant signing with the then mammoth PWL Records. Now a quarter of a century on, Mauro Dirago releases of his debut album ‘Rewind’ on 5 May 2017.
We caught up with Mauro to ask him about the lead single from this album called ‘Slave For You’ and began by asking him to describe it.
I would describe it as a mid-tempo ballad with a touch of the 80s. As Julian Smith from Britain’s Got Talent is on it on the sax and I feel the sax was used a lot in the 80s, it’s got a touch of that on it. It’s nice to bring it back too! There’s a bit of a Latino feel on it as well.
Are you a big fan of the 80s sound?
The reason is that our album ‘Rewind’, from which it comes from, is influenced by the sixties to today. The songs are all original songs but they’ve got different flavours, so you’ve got a bit of sixties, seventies and eighties and today as well. As I was going through all that, when I wrote this song, it felt like [it had] an eighties vibe and that’s what happened. It sort of turned out that way.
On the record you’ve worked with Julian Smith. How did you get together?
We’ve been friends for a while. When he won Britain’s Got Talent a few years back we met each other at a party and started talking and saying we should work together. He’d been doing really well with big live shows everywhere and I’d been doing other things too. At some point we got together. I said that I’m making an album and it would be good if we got together on this, and that’s how it all started to come about. It was exciting; it was fun; and what’s nice about it, when we recorded it, normally it’d be just the instrument in the middle of the song, but I thought it would be more fun to do it like a duet. That’s what makes it more unique: I do a line [then] he does a line. Then it became more fun and a bit of a different record.
Do you think the saxophone is under-rated as an instrument and not used as much?
No, and that’s why I wanted to do that because as the album is called ‘Rewind’, so showing people what has come along from the sixties to today. So many people love saxophone! I’m not someone who likes to follow a trend either. My album is very commercial and radio-[friendly] and poppy but at the same time uses live instruments. I just wanted to be quite diverse on it and remind people of things that they like as well. Again, I don’t want to follow a trend [I want to] do something different.
In terms of the song, have you got any plans for a video?
We’ve got one! There’s a snippet of it online and the full video is out soon. We shot the video in Matera, where Mel Gibson shot ‘Passion of the Christ’ and a lot of Ben Hur was shot their last year. It has that old feel [and] is beautiful. The video is really lovely [with] blue skies.
Was it a fun experience to record ‘Rewind’?
Oh it was brilliant! I recorded a lot of it with my friend Marco Mastrocola who plays most of the instruments on it. We had fun recording that and ended up mastering it at Abbey Road studios which was fantastic, going to that legendary studio.
Another song we’ve got on the album is ‘King of Kings’ which has an 80s flavour and was written with Boy George and Rob Davis, who was in Mud in the 70s, who became a very successful writer. He wrote ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ for Kylie Minogue and songs with Sophie Ellis-Bextor. That fits the 80s flavour but when you go to other parts of the album you’ve got different flavours and genres, and really up-to-date dance-feeling stuff that sounds like Daft Punk. There’s something that sounds like the sixties called ‘Learner for your Love’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ which has a Motown feel.
So it’s a varied album?
Yeah, but what’s nice about it is that it all fits. Someone described how it could have been an album of covers because it’s all familiar to you, but it’s all original and new songs!
You’ve also been involved recently on other projects with the Royal Philharmonic?
The main thing with that is that I was there at the start with my friend Don Reedman who came out with the concept of Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s brilliant and it’s sold so well, and both albums have gone to number one. I was there in the initial stages, and had a hand in getting a meeting with Priscilla Presley about the project and so it was nice to be there at the beginning when she was over here in the UK.
According to your online biography you wrote your first song when you were nine years old. Do you remember it?
Yes! I remember having fun with it. The first record that got me into music was [because] my mum had Elvis’ forty greatest hits, so that was the first album I picked up at six years old. I heard his career from the fifties to the seventies and thought that ‘this is great music to listen to’. Spinning that record meant that Elvis was my first influence. From there I went onto the Beatles and everybody else, and because of that, when I got my first guitar, I wrote rock-and-roll songs. When I heard it back it was fun; it was a fairy-tale-like record. I was imagining cartoon videos. But as a rock and roll song, even at that age, it came out good!
Have you got any live gigs coming up?
We’re working on it at the moment. We haven’t got any dates right now, but I’ll hopefully announce that online. At the moment we’re just concentrating on promo for the album and single so it’s been busy. We’ll be working on getting a band together as soon as we can, but it’s all going in that direction!
Finally what are your big ambitions for the rest of the year?
Because I’ve been recording this album and working on things, for now the dream is to get a few hit singles and a hit album and continue to make music and hopefully it will lead to another album and things like that. I want to keep pushing out albums as every artist wants to come out of a great album and better themselves and just keep moving forward. Also with my music, it’s feel good music that will inspire people that feels good in a car, or play out at a party or whatever. It’s music you can put on that inspires you in different ways, that’s the basics of it!
Find out more about Mauro Dirago on his Facebook page.