Q&A with Italian blues and folk duo of The Crowsroads, formed by brothers Matteo Corvaglia & Andrea Corvaglia

"I think that blues music had once a great relevance in alternative music, but today it unfortunately does not attract the attention of great audiences; even among those who listen to alternative music, it often represents a “niche”. My hope for the future is that blues music can recover its leading role in the alternative scene."

The Crowsroads: Blend of Blues Folk Vibes

The Crowsroads are an Italian duo formed by brothers Matteo Corvaglia (guitar, vocals) and Andrea Corvaglia (harmonica, vocals). Their rough, immersive sound is shaped by creative harmonica lines, solid guitar rhythms and vocal harmonies. They have been on the road for about a decade, since they were teenagers, playing original songs and selected covers from the American and English catalogue. They have opened for Robben Ford, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, John Popper & Jono Manson and many others.

(Photo: The Crowsroads)

In 2019 On The Ropes -their second album, the first containing only original songs- was a critical success. It features Sarah Jane Morris (Seaweed), Frankie Chavez (Monologue) and Jono Manson (The Gardener’s Daughter) as special guests. The Crowsroads are currently working on their new album, to be released in 2023. The Crowsroads are Matteo Corvaglia on guitar, vocals; and Andrea Corvaglia on harmonica, vocals. The Crowsroads will be the Italian participation at the European Blues Challenge, Chorzów in Poland (June 1-3, 2023).

Interview by MIchael Limnios

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

Matteo: Usually, I fall in love with music that doesn’t need tricks or special effects in order to convey its message. In a certain way, this kinds of music (blues, roots and similar) educated me to appreciate beauty in its most simple and sincere form. When I was a teenager and I was shaping my music tastes, I thought I could find in my favourite songs all the literature, the history, the philosophy, even the geography I needed. Probably I’m still at that point, and music is still the lens through which I look at (and speak about) reality.

Andrea: Blues music taught me simplicity, authenticity. I came into contact with it at the age of ten and from that moment on my ideas on music changed: I began to perceive the balance between sound and silence and to appreciate the technique of the players. Since then, travelling has become for me not only a way to see new places, but also a perfect moment for atmospheric and sound suggestions beyond physicality.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Matteo: My brother Andrea and I started our project The Crowsroads about ten years ago, when we were teenagers, without a real plan: we simply liked playing together and covering the songs we loved. Then came the original songs, the live stages, the studio sessions, the collaborations: our style soon became a blend of blues vibes and folk-rock attitude, in a strange crossroad of American influences and European sensitivity. Our songs are mostly autobiographical, and they are like “photographs” of our trip as musicians and human beings: listening to them, you will know exactly where we are and where we are heading.

Andrea: The Crowsroads’ sound is for me rather unconventional. As a harmonica player I have always tried to play my instrument a small instrument with many properties with a “different” intention. I believe that one of our trademarks as a band is the “rhythmic harmonica”, whose mission is to enrich the sound without exceeding. My creative drive comes from the desire to shape melodies with a unique character, always putting a little piece of me into them; writing "unconventional" harmonica parts is also fundamental for this purpose.

Why do you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Europe?

Matteo: I think that blues and roots music find their audience in a population of listeners in search of freedom, improvisation, even imperfection, in a world where mainstream discography is mostly in search of a “perfect formula” to reuse again and again. In these music styles, we can really find that amount of authenticity that is often missing in mainstream music.

Andrea: Blues music is mostly based on essentiality and instinct; I think that this spontaneity is the secret of its success in Europe. Listening to the great Italian and European music, I have always perceived an approach that’s totally different from the one that can be found in blues music: I believe that what drives us towards the blues is precisely the desire of listening to something that’s far from our traditional habits.

"Music taught me that in good times as in bad times the most important thing is to be loyal to your own ideas and to feel good with yourself. Then, it made me really aware that unity is strength, and that our daily mission - in a band as in life - is to make things work, no matter whether we are in the forefront or in the backlines." (Photo: The Crowsroads are Matteo Corvaglia and Andrea Corvaglia)

What would you say characterizes Italian blues scene in comparison to other European scenes?

Matteo: Italy has raised – and continues to raise – amazing blues musicians. The originality of our bluesmen and blueswomen lies - I think - in a certain “Mediterranean” way of composing, playing and singing, though musicians themselves are not always conscious of that. In the past decades, a lot of musicians were able to make the Italian language, and even local dialects, work perfectly with blues phrasings and sonorities, creating something unique.

Andrea: The Italian blues scene  like any other blues scene, I think is characterized by the emergence of local traits. Italian traditional music has a full, rich sound, so our way of playing the blues is often melodic. Obviously, there are some exceptions and special cases of an aggressive, raw approach also in Italy, but I think that for the most part Italian bluesmen and blueswomen show “Mediterranean” influences.

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

Matteo: At the first place I would put our first open act, back in 2016, for Welsh singer-songwriter Judith Owen, in our hometown. It was a great “first time” and Judith and her band (featuring Leland Sklar on bass and Russell Kunkel on drums) were very kind to us. Then, I remember with great emotion an afternoon spent in Milan talking about songwriting with Sarah Jane Morris, who later took part to our song “Seaweed”, making it shine. And to top it off, our victory at the Italian Blues Challenge, a great joy at the end of a period of uncertainty. 

Andrea: Some years ago, as the Crowsroads, we opened for John Popper and Jono Manson in Brescia, our hometown. It was wonderful to deal with musicians of such artistic depth, always looking at the substance, never exceeding, driven only by the desire to make good music.               (Photo: The Crowsroads, Matteo & Andrea Corvaglia)

"My brother Andrea and I started our project about ten years ago, when we were teenagers, without a real plan: we simply liked playing together and covering the songs we loved. Then came the original songs, the live stages, the studio sessions, the collaborations: our style soon became a blend of blues vibes and folk-rock attitude, in a strange crossroad of American influences and European sensitivity. Our songs are mostly autobiographical, and they are like “photographs” of our trip as musicians and human beings: listening to them, you will know exactly where we are and where we are heading."

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

Matteo: I’m not a nostalgic person, but I would love to see people rediscover a “slower” way of listening to music. It’s great to have all this music at hand in every moment, but sometimes this leads to a kind of one-use philosophy. You need time and repeated listening to really appreciate an album in all its details. From the blues of the past, we can also learn the importance of live music: an artist feels really complete when he/she is on the stage, and the audience plays a fundamental role in the artistic process.  

Andrea: I think that blues music had once a great relevance in alternative music, but today it unfortunately does not attract the attention of great audiences; even among those who listen to alternative music, it often represents a “niche”. My hope for the future is that blues music can recover its leading role in the alternative scene.

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

Matteo: Music taught me that in good times as in bad times the most important thing is to be loyal to your own ideas and to feel good with yourself. Then, it made me really aware that unity is strength, and that our daily mission - in a band as in life - is to make things work, no matter whether we are in the forefront or in the backlines.  

Andrea: Over the years I have learned how to follow the dynamics of a song, playing my instrument, when necessary, without necessarily "stepping forward" during the piece. Another important thing I learned is that as a musician you have to know how to get the best result with any instrumentation, because in blues music what counts most is you spirit and personality: no advanced, expensive equipment can replace it.

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(Photo: The Crowsroads)

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