“Say NO”. This is something I am still learning. It’s one of the first things that my wife Chiara told me. I have many difficulties in speaking up for myself, contradicting someone or saying that I do not want to do something. When we met, I was coming out of a very violent and unhappy relationship. I was beaten but music saved me. I accepted some job offers in the USA and went away to find myself again. That’s when I met Chiara and she immediately noticed how I was scared and incapable sometimes to simply say no. Saying no is as important as saying yes. You have to know your limits and your preferences and not be ashamed of them. I know it now and I am thankful for the strength that this tip gave me.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dolche, a world-acclaimed Italian-French singer, songwriter, composer and record producer whose musical output is an eclectic blend of multiple genres such as folk, chanson française, world music, classical music, funk, electronic and more. Dolche is openly lesbian, married to wife Chiara and is pregnant with her first child (due November) and is fiercely supportive of LGBT rights- seeking to push the envelope both professionally and personally to inspire change and hope of a better world for LGBT families and humanity in general. She has recently released the singles Roma, Big Man, Criminal Love and Breathe In and her debut album Exotic Diorama will be released on October 30th 2020.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Hey, thanks for having me. Disruptive women sounds like a great word combination to me! It’s always hard to talk about yourself so I will make it a long story short.
I was an only child, born and raised in a tiny village of 40 people (most elders) in the Alps. I always had an innate passion for music. I learned the songs of the birds, then the parish choir hymns, then (finally) some instruments (some self-made) and then I began to play in some bands and founded my first one at the age of 20. I then went on many travels with concerts around all France, then Italy, then the world opened up to me: One husband, divorce (still friends), married again with a woman this time (the last I believe!) who changed my life and works with me. Power couple and LGBT+ activists. Worked like crazy for a couple of years on my upcoming album Exotic Diorama (out in October). Happily pregnant, unhappily unable to play live concerts (damned Covid-19!).
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Everything. And that is not an easy burden to carry. My music has no genre. This might inspire (I hope!) feelings of freedom of expression, thoughts of pure art and creativity. But professionally it’s sooo hard! Everyone (from Spotify to playlisters to radio etc) ask to define my ‘music genre’. They ask for JUST ONE! Two when you are lucky. The result is that my music in simply unclassifiable. They ask in what language I sing — I sing in three main ones (Italian, English and French) and also others…and often in more than one language in the same song.
Plus I am a woman and I am a musician who can do all the things my male colleagues usually believe that only them can do. I can build a stage, use a mixer, edit and record my tracks, produce music and easily use the hundreds of cables and jacks and plugs and synths and pedals and microphones that you need in studio and on stage. This freaks them out every time. Plus, I can do this even when I am pregnant, hahaha!
As an LGBT+ activist I tend to break all cliches and prejudices every day by sharing my story of a very conventional unconventional life. I hope people will soon stop to be obsessed by the fact that some people simply identifiy themselves differently from what we have been taught was “normal”. Please homophobic people, just think of something else for once. I don’t know…different time zones for example is something you could really blow your mind if you think about it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Once I began singing a song on stage with a completely wrong tonality. I could not understand why all my musicians were staring at me with panic in their eyes. Luckily they adapted to me quite soon and the show was saved. This taught me the importance of listening to the others rather than only to myself. An important lesson that I learned very soon luckily.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Oh yes we do!! Mentors are essential for every artist. I am not talking about a financial help (that too is very important especially now that music does not pay anymore, thank you Spotify for that), but about people who believe in you and can see what you cannot see yet. People who inspire you and gently enlighten the right path that you never realized you could take. A mentor for me has been my father. He showed me kindness and resilience. He works the fields and fights against Nature, an unbeatable and unpredictable enemy. Heat, heavy rains, birds eating your apples from outside and warms from inside. Frost. You need to adjust, be resilient, creative, start over and over again. This was a great example of method and humility for me.
The second one is the complete opposite. A very successful Italian entrepreneur and scientist fell in love with my music from a very early stage and always followed me. One day he simply asked me if he could help me produce my music with complete freedom because he believed in its incredible potential. I learned to be brave from him. I learned to value my work and to accept to think big. I will never thank him enough for this. Thank you Stefano for setting me free from many mental restraints and for pushing me towards pure art.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Well this is a complicated one (actually four!) The first thing that comes to my mind is it is in human nature to constantly evolve and change. A lot of people are afraid of change. I have always embraced it, floating on the wave it creates, and this has been painful at times- but most of the time it’s incredibly adventurous and inspiring. Artistically you have to be disruptive. Otherwise, you are a replica of what already exists, and this has nothing to add to the world. But, of course, it is much safer and easier to adapt to a standard instead. I understand it but I truly feel my guts twisting in pleasure, my hair lifting and my emotions arising only when I hear something unique and pure and full of personality and craft. David Bowie experimented without restraints and often had to face journalists or TV presenters who simply mocked him because of his stage persona or because he was daring and bold. He had to run to the USA and to Berlin to find a place for himself and his art. And today we still hardly find someone who can boast such a varied and impressive and rich career and production. I believe that when something “withstood the test of time” it’s because it broke some rules in the first place in order to become a classic.
Listen to today’s music. We have very few artists, mainly not mainstream, who experiment and create. Reggaeton and Trap flatten the beats of every main radio into a “tum pa tumtum tum” that we hear over and over again. Does it withstand the time? Sure, maybe, for some years. Will anyone ever remember one of these songs or be able to distinguish it from any other? Hardly. So go and disrupt!!!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “Believe in Yourself”. My dear friend and mentor Hovannes introduced me to Al Schmitt, a 16 Grammy awards recipient and amazing audio engineer at Capitol Records Studios in LA. The guy is like a living legend. He recorded Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Diana Krall…I mean…he made me sing using the same microphone Sinatra used. So we get to the studios and what does my friend do? He ghosts us. He literally disappears leaving me and Chiara (my wife) there. It felt like when you are a kid and on the edge of a swimming pool and your dad pushes you in the water to force you to learn to swim. It was drastic. But I thank him every day. I now know that I can do everything alone.
- “Eat white pizza and drink coke when you are hangover”. I spent a few years in Milan and it was a very confusing and difficult period for me. I was a bit lost and I felt alone. That’s when you meet your best friends. When you are down and vulnerable and find kind people who do not judge you. I spent a lot of nights clubbing and drinking and I can assure you that, among the various serious lifesaving pieces of advices I got, this one is pretty precious!
- “Say NO”. This is something I am still learning. It’s one of the first things that my wife Chiara told me. I have many difficulties in speaking up for myself, contradicting someone or saying that I do not want to do something. When we met, I was coming out of a very violent and unhappy relationship. I was beaten but music saved me. I accepted some job offers in the USA and went away to find myself again. That’s when I met Chiara and she immediately noticed how I was scared and incapable sometimes to simply say no. Saying no is as important as saying yes. You have to know your limits and your preferences and not be ashamed of them. I know it now and I am thankful for the strength that this tip gave me.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Oh, I cannot stop creating. At the moment I am writing new music and producing another video (the ninth in a row!) for the album release this October. I am also scouting to find the right producer for my next album and I can’t wait to be in the recording studio again. And I am thinking of ways to practically do something to help all the people in need who write to me about how their rights are violated because they are homosexual. I hope to be able to create a safe virtual space for people to meet and present their stories and interact soon.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Oh, I can sum them all in one: women are affected by the imposter phenomenon. We are raised to believe that we are not worth it, that we are never enough prepared or strong or intelligent. On the contrary, our male counterparts internalized the dynamics of success. It has been studied that in a job interview a man has no difficulty in pretending to have some skills or experience even if he doesn’t have them. A woman in the same position and with more skills does not feel confident and tends to diminish her capabilities. Girlz, we rock and we must acknowledge it!
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
“Se questo è un uomo” is a book by Primo Levi, an amazing and very renowned Italian writer of the twentieth century. The book is his recollection of how he was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Nazi invasion and how he survived it. I believe that, as I read once, men are doomed to repeat history unless they learn from it. I always look ahead, to the future, to new adventures and opportunities but this would have no value if with one eye, I didn’t constantly look back. We are lucky. We live in a world where war and poverty are not our daily concern. Many other people today do not have this privilege. And our grandfathers did not have it either. I take nothing for granted. Ever. I have my eye looking back, reminding me of gratitude at every step forward.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We are what we do”. It’s a simple rule that I truly believe in. Consistency is a great value for me. If someone says one thing and acts in another way, this act defines him/her much more than words. If I criticize the corruption of my government but then try to avoid paying taxes, I am no different from the people I criticize. If I say I believe that nature and environment are in danger and must be preserved but then make an “exception” and litter, I am as dangerous in my daily acts as a polluting factory. If I say I love you and I care for you but then I beat you, I become that ‘fist’. We know what is right or wrong for us. And we need to understand that we choose every day and in every action who we want to be.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I once saw a thing in a movie (sorry I sincerely don’t remember which one because it wasn’t a memorable movie) that I have always thought could truly make an impact and change the world for the better. It’s a simple action that everyone can do.
There was this kid who did something incredibly selfless to help a man and when this person asks him what could he ever do in return, the kid replies to “pay it forward”. He wanted nothing for himself and he gifted his credit of gratitude to someone else he did not know who might need it. He wanted the man to help a person in need the next time he met one. And to tell this person to pass the favour. On and on this could be a grand thing.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thanks for asking because I work a lot on my social medias (well…I admit..not so much on Twitter!) and I love to meet my fans there, to talk to people, to share. I always personally reply to all messages I receive and, although time-consuming, this is something I love to do.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank YOU for having me!