Giovanni Zarrella has worked his way up from a pop singer to one of the most sought-after hit stars in the country in recent years. In the Ippen.Media interview, the 45-year-old talks about his new album “Per Semper”, how he deals with criticism and that he would have liked to have been a Backstreet Boy earlier. He also seems well prepared for his upcoming tour.
Munich – Giovanni Zarrella will probably not be bored in the coming weeks and months: the hit star will release his new record “Per Semper” on August 19th, the last part of his album trilogy to date. From September the former Bro’Sis singer will be going on a big tour. In an interview with Ippen.Media (an overview of other great interviews), the 44-year-old talks about the production of his new album, criticism of too many hit shows on TV and how a Billie Eilish concert inspired him.
Giovanni Zarrella developed from a pop star to a hit star – “I just want to show what I am”
Giovanni, in recent years you have worked your way up to become one of the country’s biggest hit stars. What has changed for you during this career, especially compared to the time before?
The biggest and most important change – just emotionally – was that after the time with Bro’Sis I was looking for myself, musically and also artistically. And that I was very restless inside because I just didn’t know where I belonged, who I am and why I didn’t manage to make music successfully as a solo artist. That was certainly a heavy weight to carry around like chains on my feet.
Because I had the feeling that people don’t want me alone. The biggest change to this success was the moment when I finally felt that I had a right to exist on my own – not just with a band. This is certainly the best and most important of all the findings so far.
Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that you have now found your very own musical niche. Has that finally got you where you belong as an artist?
In any case. I never divided it into genres though. I didn’t just decide to make hits now. I said I want to sing big German hits in Italian now. And Germany simply has fantastic Schlager songs, but of course also great pop numbers. The songs that really carry a certain nostalgia, a melancholy or even a longing are the big hits.
I’ve never thought about playing this or that genre, but at some point I just said to myself: ‘Come on, I just want to show what I am!’ I am an Italo-German who grew up with these two cultures and with these two countries in my heart and raises my children the same way. I wanted to put that on a record – and that ended up being my lucky charm!
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Criticism is “completely fine” for Giovanni Zarrella – are there too few music and hit shows on TV?
A lot of fame, being in the public eye and of course a correspondingly larger audience can also bring with it some pitfalls. Were there also downsides that came with your rise?
I tended to see the downsides when I was looking for myself – when I wasn’t satisfied, when I didn’t know what to do, when I had no idea how to start, which producer was even interested to work with me or which record company would even give me a deal. That was even a shadow time for me!
But since that changed, I’m just grateful that I can now make music for so many people. And that there is criticism of things that you do, especially when you reach a lot of people, is completely normal and right. It happens with the music, it happens in the TV show, it can happen with anything. Because people who perform an art always leave room for criticism – and that’s perfectly fine too!
Your TV show has already proven itself to be a hit with ratings, but at the same time there are always voices criticizing that there are too many hit shows on German television, especially compared to other genres, in which the same guests often appear. Do you understand this criticism?
My wish was to create a show without being attached to any particular genre of music. And we have already proven that it works: we had guests like Michael Bublé, Wincent Weiss, Max Giesinger, Sonja Liebing, Roland Kaiser and Al Bano. We always try to cover a colorful mix of different tastes for each show.
Personally, I think there can’t be enough shows presenting music because there are far too few of them these days. When I was with Bro’Sis, you could go on TV every day to make music there: you were with Stefan Raab or went on the “Harald Schmidt Show”, you could be on “Top of the Pops”, “The Dome” , or the Bravo Super Show – you could go to a music show every day!
Unfortunately, none of those exist anymore. So I don’t understand the criticism. I’m happy about every guest who wants to present his music, whether newcomer or superstar. If it’s a great artist, I wouldn’t care to see him somewhere else a few weeks before or after.
Giovanni Zarrella before the release of “Per Semper” – he raves about working with a hit producer
You have been working successfully with Christian Geller as an album producer for a while and other stars, such as Florian Silbereisen or the No Angels, also trusted in his skills. What would you say, does he do so well that he is now so successfully involved in the German music world?
Christian knows very well what an audience wants to hear and at the same time recognizes exactly what an artist can give to that audience. In fact, he does it better than anyone else. He really is one of the best producers in Germany. Which music suits an artist, which idea suits an artist and for which audience is it?
He thinks about it first and only then starts to make the music. He probably doesn’t have three songs lying around that he just made for fun. He wants to do something very special for every artist and that is what makes him stand out.
Has anything changed in your collaboration with regard to your upcoming album “Per Semper” (release: August 19, 2022), where this time you didn’t reinterpret German hits, but big, international pop anthems?
Nothing has changed there because the idea came about through and with both of us. We wanted to create a trilogy: the first two albums were German hits in Italian and now it’s the first time that we dedicate ourselves to international songs. I don’t know if there will be a fourth album in this style, but we definitely wanted to complete this picture – especially with world hits that mean something to me from artists that have accompanied me on my way.
I have titles from ABBA, from George Michael, from Elton John, but also from the Backstreet Boys or Robbie Williams. These are all artists who have accompanied me over the years, who have shown me a direction here and there or who I associate with something specific. We didn’t think about it for five minutes: We said very clearly, this is how the third album we make together has to be!
“Per Semper” has personal meaning for Giovanni Zarrella – “connection to me and my life”
You recently explained in a panel discussion how much “Un Angelo”, your Robbie Williams cover of “Angels”, means to you. Are there any other songs on the album that you would say have such an emotional meaning for you?
Definitely: I sang “Home” with Michael Bublé on my show in April and we then recorded this song again as a duet for the album. Michael has emerged as my all time favorite artist over the past ten years and now I’m singing my favorite song of his with my favorite artist for my own album – it’s certainly something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life!
For this moment alone, it’s nice that I decided to make music – and that I never stopped believing that it can go on! Then there’s Non Puoi Lasciarmi Cosi on Per Semper, the Italian version of Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games – that was really important to me!
Even before I was with Bro’Sis, way back in the late 90’s, my boys and I always wanted to be Backstreet Boys. We thought, well, then you’re simply the greatest: They play cool shows, they make good music, they get around the world, they’re just super popular. At the time we thought: ‘Dude, being a Backstreet Boy is the best thing!’ And that’s why I really wanted to have a song by them. Because I have to smile when I think back to those times when I was a teenager.
Would you say that this makes Per Semper more personal than the previous two albums?
I think those are all three incredibly personal albums. The first two albums also have very personal titles that were also very important to me. But with “Per Semper” it’s perhaps the case that with every title and every artist I’ve made sure that it somehow has a connection to me and my life.
Giovanni Zarrella praises the interaction of casting shows and hits – “Goes together!”
You yourself come – thanks to Bro’Sis – originally from a talent show. It’s now the case that such TV formats and hits in particular go hand in hand. Does it go together and how do you see casting shows as a career springboard from today’s perspective?
Yes, that goes together! I think you should always use every opportunity, even search and find, that gives you the opportunity to present yourself. And some just see no other way than to do exactly that through a casting. “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” or “The Voice of Germany” are great showcases where you can show what you’re made of.
If you look at the success of Ramon Roselly, Pietro Lombardi, Beatrice Egli, Ross Antony, Wincent Weiss, Max Giesinger or, ultimately, with me – they are all artists who originally come from talent shows, but have a very different basis. For me it was like this: I scraped together the money I earned at my parents’ restaurant and took it to the recording studio to record stuff. Another might have been a street musician and said: ‘Today I’m going to a show like that!’
Or take Sandy from the No Angels: She worked in a boutique and then just tried her luck and now she is playing with her band on the Wuhlheide Parkbühne in front of 15,000 people, 22 years after the group came into being.
That’s also the most important thing I want to pass on to my children: it doesn’t matter what they want to do. They don’t have to make music, become a professional soccer player or end up in some profession where you say: ‘Oh look, he made it!’ They should know what makes them happy, but then also do everything they can to achieve exactly that, to work on their dream and to believe in their goal – everything doesn’t always work out, but that’s why it’s not just downhill, it’s flat sometimes also uphill!
You recently went to the Billie Eilish concert in Cologne and you also like to watch shows by other artists. Especially with regard to the fact that you will soon be giving concerts yourself again: are such evenings purely a leisure activity or do you also get inspiration for your own work from them?
I definitely get inspiration from it! I really went to Billie Eilish 99 percent because of my daughter because I promised her. I have to say that that’s why I was there for the fun of course, but of course I take a very close look at how she organizes her concert.
And of course I can see that this is a fantastic show, with an incredible interplay of stage, lights and screens – what’s happening there is sensational! The sound too: I’ve never heard anything like it in the Lanxess Arena. I took so many photos and videos of the moments that were created. I find it totally inspiring.
If you have a passion for something, then you want to live it out 100 percent. And for me it’s just part of opening up, especially to other artists. Sure, Billie Eilish is almost 25 years younger than me, but I can still learn so much from her – and, although she’s popular with a completely different target group, I can also adapt things.
At the beginning of September, Giovanni Zarrella and his TV show band will go on a big solo tour: from September 2nd, 2022 to October 1st, 2022 , the hit star will play his most famous songs and the hits of his new album “Per Semper” in around one and a half dozen cities, including Frankfurt (September 5), Berlin (September 15) and Düsseldorf (September 25). In Munich, the German-Italian will be a guest at Circus Krone on September 29th. Tickets in different categories are still available.