Gio Spano seeks to emerge from the shadow of reality television and reinforce his reputation as one of British rock’s most exciting talents this month. Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth caught up with the powerful frontman as he hit the road.
ROR: You’ve performed in the West End and on The X Factor but is fronting a rock band the ultimate dream?
Giovanni Spano: Absolutely. I’ve been doing it for nine or 10 years now. It’s impossible to beat that feeling when I’m on stage with the boys behind me and I can feel the steel! It’s like nothing else. Being up close and personal with people who are singing your songs is something else. I love it. The feelings and emotions that I experience, listening to and singing a rock song, are incredible. I’ve listened to rock music and alternative music all my life but in the last 10 years I’ve really appreciated the power of a pop rock song. My train of thought when it comes to songwriting just naturally lends itself to that kind of material – it’s a match made in heaven. But I’m very eclectic in my tastes. I was just listening to Heatwave’s Always And Forever – what a beautiful song that is. I love that sort of thing too. But rock and roll is my life. It’s an institution in this country. And I don’t think you can beat a really, really good power ballad. A good song with guitars gets everyone going. I remember listening to Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time when I was about eight and that’s when it all became clear. I’ve been an avid fan of – and collector of – music ever since.
ROR: So what can we expect from post-X Factor Gio?
GS: The evolution of the band has been incredible and we’re continuing to grow. We’re writing rock anthems based on everything that we’ve learned over the last nine or 10 years. And we’re taking aspects of all of those great songs that I got to perform on The X Factor. We’re tapping into 21stcentury production, the connections that we’ve made and our experience to make a pop rock album we can be proud of. I’ve got a winning team around me – the boys in the band bring all sorts of different elements to the table. Thanks to The X Factor we’ve got a platform to build on and going on that show proved to people that this has potential.
ROR: And there’s talk of a new album on the cards for later this year?
GS: We’re hoping to put some new music out in April ahead of the tour and we’re looking at late summer for the album. We’ve been working really hard in the studio – we’ve gone back to the drawing board and everything is on the table. We’re getting a lot of ideas down and setting the bar high. We’re listening to everything from Imagine Dragons to Chuck Berry and seeing where it takes us.
ROR: Will the live shows focus on new material or the X Factor songs that went down so well?
GS: Expect a bit of everything. We’ll be playing some of the older material that the band’s been playing for a while as well as some new songs. And of course I’ll be singing the songs from The X Factor. And don’t be surprised if the odd special guest pops up…
ROR: As an established live artist did you have reservations about going down the X Factor road?
GS: I did have an identity with the boys in the band. And as deVience it had taken us a long, long time to reach a certain level. But there was no way in this world that we could have reached so many people without considering The X Factor. Rock music just gets cast aside far too easily. So I did have reservations but I also saw the benefit. And since I appeared we’ve received support from Planet Rock Radio and the rock press – they wouldn’t bother if they didn’t feel we were doing something good for the rock and roll cause. And we are. But of course there’s a certain stigma attached with The X Factor and I was prepared for the negativity. But the rest of the boys just told me to be myself and hold on to my identity. The A&R team from SyCo said the same – they told me ‘be who you are and you’ll be fine’. I had a couple of things going against me – not least the fact that I was in the wrong category! But I enjoyed my time on the show and felt as if I represented myself well. As far as I’m concerned I won. It’s already helped me to achieve great stuff and will continue to help me in the future.
ROR: Do you feel as if rock is still seen as a novelty genre on The X Factor?
GS: It is. That’s what people thought I was going to be. Exactly that. When I first appeared I’m sure some people thought I was just this joke act. I think it was only when I arrived at the Judges’ Houses stage and sang a cover of Kings Of Leon that people sat up and took notice. When I sang Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting I think a few more saw me as a contender. Simon always said I was the X Factor and I wanted to prove him right. I commit myself 110% to everythjng that I do and I explained that to the X Factor team when I first auditioned. But even after that first audition I wasn’t entirely sure that I’d made the right decision.
ROR: Is there an opportunity for more rock focused acts to make their mark on The X Factor?
GS: I think it’s a very fine line between making good TV and making superstars. It’s very, very difficult for the producers of the show to strike that balance. It’s almost easy for someone to be a good songwriter but they’ve also got to bring that charisma and vivaciousness to the table if it’s going to work for TV. I had that experience of performing in front of crowds and I understood the demands of the media. It was easier for me. The people who make X Factor have to switch it up every year and it’s tough for them. I think it’s fast approaching that point where the format is becoming a little stale and the marketplace is saturated. That doesn’t help.
ROR: Robbie Williams is a big fan – are you still close?
GS: We talk all the time which is great. I like to think we’re good friends. He’s great and he’s been so supportive from day one. I had such a blast on the show and Robbie was one of the reasons. He’s such a nice guy. I’m sure there’s a frustrated hair metal rock hero in there somewhere…
ROR: Who inspires you to reach the next level?
GS: I look at people like Myles Kennedy, Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne. Those are the guys that give me inspiration. I want to play at the level they play at. I want to play arenas and stadiums and play them my way. Nothing has ever held me back – in fact I even have a song called Holding Me Back. I’ve always stayed focused and stayed on track. I’ve never wanted to skip the bad parts or the setbacks – and there have been a few. But that’s what makes you stronger. I liken it to bowling. I’ve been banging off the sides of the bowling alley for a while now but I’m ready to go straight down the middle.