There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Massimo Varini and his latest acoustic album, Anacrusis I. But there’s nothing new about that scenario, at least not on his side of the pond. Massimo Varini is one of the busiest guitarists in Italy — over 40 million albums have been sold with his name on them, with credits ranging from guitarist to producer to songwriter. Nearly every album Varini is involved in lands at the top of the European charts for weeks on end. He’s a veritable Lady Gaga of guitar (if Lady Gaga was a man, Italian, and a guitar demigod), but Massimo doesn’t earn acclaim by just putting on a great show, he earns it with his devotion to making music and plugging in, emotionally, to his audience. – by Charlie Doom
CD: A unique dynamic exists for musicians these days: there is more opportunity than ever to get noticed, but it’s harder than ever to stay relevant.
MV: Sometimes I think we have too much music. You can listen to music while you wait on the phone, and when you’re outside – every 20 feet you hear a different song coming from somewhere. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. It’s causing people to hear music, but they’re not really paying attention to it. Years ago, if you decided to listen to music you’d put on an album, sit on the couch and let the magic happen. Music is one of the best medicines in the world, but every medicine stops working if you take too much of it.
How do you keep your audiences interested and paying attention?
During my performances I love to engage with my audience and explain what was in my heart when I wrote a particular song. I try to write good music, at least music that sounds good to me, but I also try to make sure nothing is boring for the listener. I want to make something that people care about. Making sure that my set list is exciting is also an important factor.
Why release an acoustic album? What does the acoustic guitar offer, artistically, that an electric guitar does not?
There wasn’t anything in particular; it was more of a personal need. I’ve worked on pop music for a long time, and I still do. I love it, but some years ago I was hit with the realization that every song I wrote needed a lot of time to finish: writing lyrics, arrangements, recording, mixing, etc. With an acoustic you have more freedom. You can come up with a song, pull out your acoustic and voilà: you’re finished! It’s just a different way to talk.
Your name is on nearly 40 million albums, your music is consistently at the top of the charts, you’ve got a successful teaching practice and you play with some of the best talents in Europe. Many people call that success. How close are you to reaching your goals, and where do you go from there?
I don’t like looking back, I like to look ahead. I’m glad all my efforts have given me good results, but I hope that my best is in tomorrow. I love to meet people who’ve learned to play guitar through my books and video lessons. My goals are to keep living “in” and “with” my music, try to do my best, and learn new things. It’s a great feeling to think that every day, somewhere in the world, somebody is hearing my music. Every goal is a new departure.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in building a career as a musician?
Always play as who you are. You also need perseverance, consistency, strength, honesty, humility, devotion to education, punctuality, love, respect, and honesty, again.
You’re known for putting on a great live show — not only with fantastic playing, but because you’re very entertaining. What are a few tricks you’ve picked up that you know audiences respond well to?
Music is sharing – it’s communication, a way to talk. I think if you’re open and like sharing emotions with the person you’re talking to then it comes out in your music. I don’t think about tricks to use on stage…you’ve got to be honest and sincere with everything you do. You’ve got to be intelligent enough to build a good “show structure” that consists of good music, good musicians, good equipment and entertainment…. But the “artist” must be sincere, or the relationship with the audience will be compromised.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten or would give?