Q&A with guitarist, mandolinist and songwriter Lino Muoio, has been a part of the Italian Blues music scene

"The freedom of playing without rules…No fears for the future, only hopes: that music can be considered more than a mainstream business but and art like painting, poetry, and dancing."

Lino Muoio: Mandolin Blues of Med Sea

Guitarist, mandolinist and songwriter Lino Muoio has been a part of the Italian Blues music scene for over 25 years, playing many gigs and festivals with his main band “Blue Stuff” with various appearances on National television, and participated in many recording sessions for a variety of artists in Italy. Not many folks view the mandolin as a Blues instrument, but Lino believes the Blues and the Mandolin fit perfectly together! After the first solo album "Blues on Me" (2008), he decided to dedicate entire projects to producing a fine piece of work dedicated to the Blues Mandolin. The collaboration resulted in a diverse offering of styles, from the vintage country Blues inspiration of Yank Rachell to the Chicago style of Carl Martin, and a healthy dose of jazz, swing and bluegrass.                       (Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic - Riccardo Piccirillo)

Lino says: “I’ve started playing guitar at 16 as self-taught, driven by great players like Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Jeff Beck and Van Halen. After few years I met one of the oldest and most famous Italian Blues Band, the Blue Stuff. With this band I have played thousand gigs, festivals and recorded all the official releases since 1999. In the last years I have dedicated myself to other instruments like lap steel, ukulele and mandolin. On 2008 I released my first solo album, "Blues On Me" and on 2012, after few years of studying the root of country Blues, I’ve released “Mandolin Blues”, the first Italian record entirely dedicated to the Blues Mandolin. On 2016 came out the album: “Mandolin Blues – The Piano Sessions”, that is an evolution of Mandolin Blues exploring the interplay between mandolin and piano, with an offering of styles from ’20 and ’30 swing and Blues.” In his new album “MANDOLIN BLUES – VEDI NAPOLI E POI…MUOIO!” (2021), the blues and the mandolin come back together and this time they speak Neapolitan! In addition to live activity with the Mandolin Blues Quartet, he dedicates himself to teaching and workshops on blues mandolin and in 2022 will release his first book dedicated to the topic: "Mandolin Blues: from Mississippi to the Mediterranean".

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people? What does "Italian Blues Scene" mean to you?

From the Blues people I’ve learned one simply thing…the Blues is truth. You have to sing about your life, not trying to imitate anyone else. The Italian Blues scene is not important in my musical formation even for my musical journey. I mean, I’m always trying to find the sound I’ve in my mind, trying to mix the instrument from my culture (the mandolin) and the music I love (the Blues). In Italy we’re still stuck into imitation of the American model so It’s not my model.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

To find my sound, my musical texture in which I can contaminate the Blues with the Mediterranean flavor I’m living with. And that’s how I can describe my songbook and style: Blues mandolin music with “contaminations”.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I’m a musician today, no more a guitar or mandolin player. I do like make music with my cultural background that today means Neaples and Neapolitan for the lyrics of the songs. Nothing, I always like to try new sounds, recording techniques and interplay with other musicians. I still like to record live, this means a lot to me for the feeling of the song.                                              (Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic - Riccardo Piccirillo)

"In this particular period, I do really think that music should be a relief for people, a tool to give themselves rest from all the shit we have around us. A key to a music life well lived is the honesty, in every possible meanings."

How do you describe "VEDI NAPOLI E POI…MUOIO!" sound and songbook? How important was Neapolitan music in your life? How does this city affect your mood and inspiration?

Very instinctive and Chicago blues based. Lot of harmonica and guitar rather than mandolin. I’ve tried to reproduce the Little Walter sound with Neapolitan stories to tell. At the beginning it wasn’t much, maybe because I was focused on the language of the Blues. But today, after a 28 years career I realized that only my roots can give the songs the right power and sincerity, that’s way I’m writing all my new stuff in Neapolitan.

Where does your creative drive and music philosophy come from?

I’m always inspired by my life, by what happens around me. If something give me that special thrill I’ll write the lyrics. Then I decide what kind of musical feeling is needed.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

To be honest with my music. Don’t need to show people how good I am on guitar or mandolin, my goal is to give listeners good feelings.

How do you want the music to affect people? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

In this particular period, I do really think that music should be a relief for people, a tool to give themselves rest from all the shit we have around us. A key to a music life well lived is the honesty, in every possible meanings.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Corey Harris! I’m working with him, playing mandolin in his Corey Harris Trio, and the best advice he gave me is to be myself…just being myself, nothing more.

"From the Blues people I’ve learned one simply thing…the Blues is truth. You have to sing about your life, not trying to imitate anyone else. The Italian Blues scene is not important in my musical formation even for my musical journey. I mean, I’m always trying to find the sound I’ve in my mind, trying to mix the instrument from my culture (the mandolin) and the music I love (the Blues). In Italy we’re still stuck into imitation of the American model so It’s not my model." (Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Ehehhehe, too many my friend, really too many in my 25 years career. My last record “mandolin blues – acoustic party” was a great experience… All the songs were recorded live in only one or two takes. Every musician was free to play whatever he wanted and the result is in some songs, absolutely incredible. We were all friends and the added something into the song composition, not simply playing their part… awesome.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The freedom of playing without rules… No fears for the future, only hopes: that music can be considered more than a mainstream business but and art like painting, poetry, and dancing.

How started the thought of book? What are the lines that connect the sound of Mandolin from Mississippi to the Mediterranean music?

It was an idea I had in my suitcase for too many years I’ve dedicated the last 12 years to the blues mandolin, making researches, experimenting new sounds and studying the classics. Today I think I must share my knowledge with all the mandolin fans with an instructional book like this. The line is me, my style, my way to play the blues with mandolin. A good friend of mine, Corey Harris once told me while listening to my new material: “that’s your path my friend. Everyone in US can play the blues, even better than you because the blues is a US thing. What none of US players can do is add the Mediterranean flavour to his playing just like you do.

What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of lap steel, ukulele and mandolin? What are the secrets of?

Well, it’s not easy to say because I was and still am a guitar player since 25 years. Maybe the tone of the mandolin touched me in particular, while from ukulele I love the nylon tone of the strings and finally from the lap still the “flowing” of the notes.

"To find my sound, my musical texture in which I can contaminate the Blues with the Mediterranean flavor I’m living with. And that’s how I can describe my songbook and style: Blues mandolin music with “contaminations”." (Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic - Riccardo Piccirillo)

If you could change one thing in the local (Italian) blues scene and it would become a reality, what would that be?

The Imitation of the American Blues, so we can be free to find “our way to the Blues”.

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Well, I don’t know exactly “how” this counterculture influenced me, but I sure know the did. In the way I respect and share music with other people for example…

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Well not too much even for Italy, I do think that even If Italy is considered a country of culture, in the end is not exactly like that but in certain context I think we’re quite undeveloped.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

1936 San Antonio…I want to see Robert Johnson recording his sessions…

Do you consider the Beat Generation a specific literary and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Much more than a movement, definitely a state of mind.

How does the underlying philosophy of On the Road impact you?

It taught me to respect place and people everywhere.

Lino Muoio - Home

(Lino Muoio / Photo by Ric Pic - Riccardo Piccirillo)

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