Barbara Vulso - Italy

One of the things I like best about doing this web site is the opportunity to meet so many wonderful women of the blues around the world.  Barbara Vulso of Genoa, Italy is one of those women!   The blues is alive and thriving in Italy.  Barbara, the lead singer of the blues band “Mama’s Pit”, is one of the new breed of hot singers keeping the blues alive.  I was happy to get the chance to speak with her and learn more about the blues scene in Italy.   Barbara was worried about her English, but I think her love, dedication and passion shines right through.  Enjoy!

When and where were you born?

I was born in Genoa, a northern Italy town, the 2th of July of the 1975, I’m a Cancer.

Do you come from a musical family?

I’m the first musician in my family, but music has always been a part of our family life.

How old were you when you started singing?

I started in a church’s choir, but my voice was too loud and the director asked me to go away…It’s strange, isn’t it?

 When did you hear your first blues record and what did you feel when you heard it?

The first blues record I heard it was “ [Soon I Will Be Done With]Troubles of the world” sung by Mahalia Jackson at the end of a movie [“Imitation of Life”].  I was nine  or ten and  I cried, and I didn’t know why that voice gave me that feeling.  I felt touched by her voice.

How did you become a blues singer, music made popular by Black Americans, in Italy?

I started singin’ soul music and r’n’b. A friend of mine asked me about  a  participation to a jazz and blues festival, to open the concert of the jazz  singer Adrianne West, so I started. The first song was the Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “The Sky’s Cryin’” [Originally sung and made famous by Elmore James]. I don’t know how I did it, but I started to be a blues singer.

 Is it difficult being a blues/soul singer in Italy?

Well, has I told you the first time we “met”, in Italy there’s a sort of  racism to blues women, not by audience, but from the musicians. It is very  difficult to find women who play blues. The managers don’t like women and when you play in a festival you have to front men who tell you that you can’t be a blues women for two reasons, you’re a white woman, so sometimes you listen at not so good black singers but they’re black so people think  that they have to be great. I’m not racist at all, but I don’t look at the skin-color to appreciate musician any way. It’s incredible, but I saw this way to act so many times. But I have to say  that is not like this everywhere, and in the last few years things are changed.

What is the blues scene like in Italy?

Blues is one of the most played genre in Italy and the great major too are sensitive to its influence. There’re a lot of blues festivals and clubs (I opened a club in November and every week we have a blues bands playing).

What singers influenced you?  Who do you love to listen to?

I have two “teachers”, the first one is the queen Aretha Franklin, I learned so much listening to her records like “Ain’t No Way” or “ Natural Woman”,  the second is Janis Joplin, each time I hear her voice she gives me strong feelings and I can find in her songs so much of me.

Do you find being a full-figured woman blues singer to be a good thing in your country?

I don’t know, I never minded about this, the only thing that I can say is that when you say you’re a musician people ask “ok, but… what’s your job?” I started workin’ in music when I was fifteen, I went to school in the mornin’ and in the clubs in the night…This is my job!!!

What was it like recording your CD?

Wonderful, simply wonderful, but one of the hardest works of my life and we were all so tired!!!

What do you feel like just before you go on stage?

I 'm quiet and relaxed, I learned that I need to sing for the audience, I  need to give strong feeling to people…It’s my way to communicate.

In five years, where do you want to be with your music?

Five years?…well, I would like to travel ‘round the world with my music, to see different places and cultures and to learn how to understand each of them.  I’d like to have music experience in U.S. and why not…to be famous. Not for the money, I don’t like ‘em, But to gain the chance to sing my stories, to tell what I have inside to people all over the world!!!

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