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Matteo Bocelli brings pop music, not opera, to Mesa this weekend

The Italian heartthrob is taking his family's singing talent in a new direction.
Mesa Arts Center
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“I’m Here” is not only a love song from Matteo Bocelli’s self-titled debut album — it's also an official proclamation of his arrival into music as a pop star.

Some people might think that the 26-year-old would follow in the footsteps of his famous tenor father, opera and classical music singer Andrea Bocelli, but the younger Bocelli is leaving the nest and soaring to find his own place in the industry, starting with a world tour that stops at the Mesa Arts Center on Nov. 28.

“The truth is that myself, I grew up listening to pop music,” he says. “I was listening to Eminem, Queen and Lionel Richie. So this is truly who I am. And I've been able to express myself completely, you know, with my music, with this album.”

In the song’s video, filmed at the Auditorium Giovanni Arvedi in Cremona, Italy, Bocelli sits playing at a piano while dancers move about the stag. Bocelli, an arrestingly handsome young man, sings, “I've practiced saying this a thousand times / I'm still in love with you.”

He won’t say exactly who the song is about, but he admits that it's about a specific person.

"If you explain exactly your story behind the song, then you could limit the fantasy of the listeners,” he explains in his Italian lilt. “I think what you get from my performance, from the lyrics, the truth is, I would say, explained and clear. But yes, I always try to leave the imagination, you know, to the people.”

It’s a sad song about the loss of love, but it’s also a perfect example of the heart and soul of this, his first album. Each piano-laden ballad is an emotional tribute to passion, whether that be heartbreak or bliss. It's also a journey that took nearly five years to complete.

“Well, it took a long time for different reasons,” Bocelli explains. After he completed a duet with his father called “Fall on Me” in 2018, he signed with Capitol Records and began working with composers. “But unfortunately, COVID happened in between. So we lost a lot of time. But, you know, I always try to see the glass half full and not half empty. I was able to write more, understand better where I wanted to go with the sound.”

Ed Sheeran helped him in that regard — not only with co-writing the song “Chasing Stars” that appears on the album but also how to navigate the business without losing your identity. He admits to being a little intimidated by the singer at first because of preconceived notions of working with a celebrity. But it turns out that Sheeran taught him an important lesson.

“He grew up and he evolved in his career,” Bocelli says of Sheeran. “A lot of people wanted him to do things in a certain way, they wanted him to act in a certain way, you know, to be aesthetic in a certain way and he always refused. And so, he really knows the importance of feeling free to make music, because you've got be authentic to music. You cannot be, you know, fake. And so that's how he acted. That was his attitude with me. He let me work in my own way, express in my own way.”

Having one of the world’s most famous tenors as a father adds a little more pressure to being an independent artist. Some people might have expected him to go into opera or classical music. Although Bocelli didn’t go fully in that direction, his dad had prepared him for something just as important: fame.

Growing up, young Bocelli was constantly in the spotlight. His family was under constant scrutiny from the public and the press. He says his dad always protected him from that and he lived somewhere in between fantasy and reality. That balance allowed him to enjoy the perks of fame such as traveling the world, but also kept him seeing the world as it really is. He never wants to change that part of himself.

“What I always say to my friends is if ever you see me like, you know, different, just say it to me now because I don't want to change, and I think this is kind of the fear that every artist has,” he says. “I want to be who I am, you know. I don't want to be a different person. That’s why every time I go back from tour, I want to be with my friends, with the people that raised me up, because they're the people that still keep me grounded.”

It's not just people who keep him grounded. Away from the studio and stage, Bocelli likes to work with his hands. He collects World War II jeeps called Willys. “I disassemble them. I completely sand them, and I repaint them and I do a complete restoration and that's what I like to do in my free time when I'm home.”

Bocelli is currently single; he thinks his busy schedule takes too much of his time to devote to someone right now

“Every time I decide to, you know, to get into a relationship, I always take it seriously. But I'm 26 and, I don't know, live [for] the day.”

The singer’s upcoming performance in Mesa will be his second one in Arizona on this tour. The first will be in Wickenburg two days prior. Although he has passed through the state before, he wants to get out and explore it this time while the weather is good.

Bocelli’s first album may mark his coming out as a solo pop artist, but it's a lot more than that. He says people were probably expecting him to do crossovers, or because of his last name, opera. But the album represents the son of a famous artist coming into his own.

“I always try to be positive and most of all, I'm very happy and satisfied about the results of this first album,” he says, “I think this is what counts the most.”

Matteo Bocelli: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 28, Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St., Mesa. Tickets are $45 to $65.
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