‘I feel too much loneliness around, we need to get emotional again’
Written by Monica Landro
Photos by Graziano Marrella
He is certainly one of Italy’s most popular musical talents. He dislikes being in the spotlight because he is not very talkative, in fact he is rather reflective: we are talking about Ermal Meta. Ermal is an extraordinary singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who over the years has won respect and affection with his intense music and touching lyrics: he can sing more pop or rock songs but also ballads with a depth that hits the mark. Five albums have confirmed his artistic and human value. Among the many tracks, just think of Vietato morire, a song about domestic violence with which he placed in third place at the Sanremo Festival in 2017. Then again, the following year he returned to the Ariston stage and won with the song Non mi avete fatto niente in partnership with Fabrizio Moro. The song, which took part in the Eurovision Song Contest, is an anthem against violence and war, and demonstrated his ability to address important issues through music.
In addition to his musical career, Ermal wrote the book ‘Domani e per sempre’ in 2022. A literary debut that brought him great satisfaction, not only for the numerous translations into other languages but also for having earned the attention of the Strega Prize. The novel sheds light on the difficult history of Albania in the second half of the 20th century.
We met Ermal Meta at the Manzoni Theatre in Milan on the occasion of ‘Buon Compleanno Mimì’, an evening in honour of the never forgotten Mia Martini. Each artist attending, to remember her, sang one of her songs, as well as their own.
You chose Almeno tu nell’Universo , a song written back in ’72 and then sung in ’89. There is a line in the lyrics that reads: ‘You know people are lonely, how can you console yourself’. Has the concept of loneliness changed shape and value a little in 2023? What is loneliness like today?
It hasn’t really changed. I would say the situation has worsened.
Today, loneliness is a daily companion for all people, and it is exacerbated by the fact that we have the feeling that we are never alone
because we are overwhelmed by all this technique that surrounds us and towers over us, in the words of Umberto Galimberti (Technique is the highest form of rationality ever achieved by man, according to the philosopher ed.) All this technique also becomes our extension, almost that of our thoughts, and replaces most of the time the search for what could be our true life.
In simpler terms?
In much simpler terms, this doesn’t allow us to move away from loneliness because we try to fill it. Loneliness is too deep a hole to fill with things: it is like trying to cover a black hole, everything vanishes in there. Loneliness is not something you can cover or something to distract yourself from. Loneliness is your company and you must learn to accept it when it comes and make that loneliness a time for you to be creative, to take for yourself, to reflect. Loneliness cannot be defeated, especially today. People are more and more lonely even though they are all together. I perceive this around, from the people I know, from what I get, from what the news says, what I read on social media… and this is very scary.
You are very concerned about society. In the recent Palermo rape case, you wished the perpetrators, once in prison, to ‘end up under 100 wolves so that you understand what rape is’. The allusion was to a message exchanged by the rapists on chat after the violence: ‘We were 100 dogs on top of one kitten’. For these very strong words of yours, you were very much appreciated by some but also very much attacked by others. Looking back, would you make those statements again?
A hundred more times.
Today’s kids, peers of the rapists and the victim, have not exposed themselves. What could you say to them, already famous and with an established fanbase to invite them to speak out, as you did?
Nobody has exposed themselves, not only young artists. And in any case, I have no message towards my colleagues in their twenties who don’t feel like taking a stand on something like this. I simply have nothing to say. It would be pointless.
Let’s talk about the pandemic, which has been a watershed in our lives that are now divided between pre- and post-covid. You have stated that you have been greatly affected by it. What did you leave of Ermal in the pre-covid and what is new about Ermal that you found or discovered after the covid?
You know I had never thought of it in those terms? So… until that moment there, it seemed like everything always fell into place. After that moment, I realised that it wasn’t like that, that
everything we do is extremely shaky, that you almost have to ask yourself ‘what am I doing and why’,
but here you get into existential questions that most of the time have no answer and maybe the answer is just to keep asking yourself.
I get a sense of disillusionment in this…
Not disillusionment because I have never been a person with my head in the clouds. Like Ermal Meta I’ve been on the market for a few years now, but actually I started at a very young age, I’ve been in many bands, I’ve written songs for many. If music were a restaurant, I could tell you that I’ve worked in a kitchen all my life, so I know all the little sins, the vices of this job…
In the lyrics of Vietato morire there is a line ‘You know that a wound closes and you can’t see inside’. We all have these kinds of wounds. Is there one of your own that you feel like telling?
No, wounds are personal. If I tell you, then I end up not writing a song about it, so I prefer to write a song, also because these are things you can only tell once.
Ok, I’ll take it! Then I’ll try another phrase I like so much, taken from the song Piccola anima: ‘They say there’s nothing more fragile than a promise’. What is the promise you make to your beloved fanclub I Lupi di Ermal, for the near future?
I don’t make any promises to them, but
I do make a promise to myself: to always be true to what I think, to what I feel,
and to try to do everything honestly, with respect to this wonderful gift that is music.
It sounds easy when you say it like that, but actually music is disappearing quite a bit, we are left with the songs, which is different. There are so many songs that have no music in them….
What are you referring to, what do you mean?
I am talking about emotionalism. Why is it that when we listen to a song from the 1960s we can see landscapes, clothes, haircuts? Why is it that by listening to 70s music we can see very clearly many aspects of that era? I am referring to this kind of emotion….
But is it the music that is disappearing or is it we who are disappearing?
We are the ones who are disappearing, with tremendous speed from an emotional and self-consciousness point of view.
We just try to get to the end of the day by saying ‘Ok, I did it again today’ but it’s no good living like this.