Cover Stories
By Stefano Nappa
Joan Thiele

Joan Thiele: Memories of the Future

By Stefano Nappa
13 min read

Starring: Joan Thiele
Photos by SIMON

Hair & Make Up: Barbara Ciccognani using Agenov
Editor in Chief: Tommaso Lavizzari
Creative Director: Stefano Nappa
Concept & Style: Marco Cresci e Giuseppe Di Rosalia

Location: Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia – Leonardo da Vinci


Joan Thiele is the protagonist of our cover number two. Last February 12 she published for Undamento Atto I – Memoria dal Futuro. It is the first chapter of a new journey consisting of 2 tracks: Cinema and Futuro wow. For these compositions she has collaborated with the most influential and appreciated artists and producers of the contemporary Italian music scene: Mace, Venerus and Ceri.

The division into acts of this project is a nice creative slap in the face of the reality in which we live. In fact, people are no longer used to going to the cinema or the theater. They don’t have the patience to experience a first and second half. TV series, for example, last only a few evenings and then before being archived, it is the audience who decides how long to make them last.

Time is the protagonist of this first act by Joan Thiele: is it a trusted friend or an enemy for you?

We must listen to time, we must also know how to listen to the silence of a journey and Joan manages to tell it even by means of her songs. Being she half Italian and half Swiss-Colombian her DNA boasts a sensitivity never perceived before on a staff.

We begin our journey with Joan among pop, contemporary urban atmospheres and vintage sounds, in the party room of the Conte Biancamano ocean liner. The Genoa-Naples-New York line was its first voyage; then it went to South America and the Far East; later, during the Second World War, it even transported US troops… and so on until its last voyages.

I understood that time is not my enemy, it is the memory of my future. It is remembering the possible futures that I have planned and trying to create better scenarios in the present. Time has marked me, like scratches that I carry with me.

Joan Thiele

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When did you first fall in love with music?

Joan Thiele: «The moments in which I felt something strong for music are many. I don’t remember a single episode. I have felt this visceral bond with music since I was a child. When I was four years old I used to say that I wanted to be a singer. I knew it was in my destiny, but there have been moments when the music just overwhelmed me. I will never forget how my friends and I danced listening to Tiziano Ferro’s songs when we were children.

Music, however, definitely stole my heart when I discovered Led Zeppelin. That was a cathartic moment for me. They opened up a side of my teenage emotionality. This discovery encouraged me to enroll in the guitar course; I forced my teacher to teach me all their songs. I had an insatiable curiosity and hunger, I also read all the books written about them. That was the moment when I went from listening to practicing».

This desire, this hunger, that you are describing to me and that I still read in your eyes, I do not find it in many emerging artists or young people…

Joan Thiele: «In my opinion listening to music is like studying. If you make music, write music, you can’t help but listen to music. When you write music you rework things you have heard or experienced, what you do is not really new. The melody is never new. It is an emotional reinterpretation of something that already exists. You must be familiar with both contemporary and old music. Curiosity is essential. I don’t think it’s a generational problem, because my brother was born with Spotify but he boasts an incredible musical culture, from movie soundtracks to everything else. The way we experience music is very personal. My brother is the example of someone who, having all the music in the world at his disposal, listens to it all».

In the recording studio Ray Charles was told: «Either you have your own sound, or you are nobody». From Save Me to Tango, through Operation Gold to Memoria del Futuro, how did you build your sound? Was it hard to find?

Joan Thiele: «I believe that my records have undergone an evolution. When I started making music, I felt like it was a moment of research.
Even today I don’t feel like I’ve made it from an artistic point of view, I’m not referring to popularity. I also produce the songs myself and, Operazione Oro and the last things I have published, are on a higher level than the first things I produced. I finally started to understand what I like. When you are younger and you lack skills, even technical ones, you have a hard time explaining to a producer what you really want or what you have in mind.

I agree that everyone has to have their own sound, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot evolve: for me the sound is you who are playing. A trivial example could be The Beatles. Their records are all different from each other. Their sound went through a constant evolution, but in the end it was always them who composed it. The soul and the sensations you transmit by means of your songs evolve with the sound».

You started singing in English, then you introduced other languages and, in the end, you opted for the Italian language. Why?

Joan Thiele: «Paradoxically, the songs I composed in English were much more pop. In Italian it is much more difficult to recreate what I used to do before. This choice was not studied at the table, I simply felt the need to write something in my language because I wanted to find my sound in the idiom that I consider mine. I liked the idea of drawing from soundtracks, from the Italian song and from my plays to feel myself. I have also written other things in English that have not come out yet.

Writing in Italian in the last two years has been really good for me. I tried a different approach from the previous one. Creating in Italian seems more authentic to me. The English language and its sound are part of my roots, they are strong. Italian is just a question of evolution. I’ve also written some things in Spanish that will come out sooner or later, but first I needed to find authenticity».

Where does the title you gave to this new project come from?

Joan Thiele: «Last year there were recurring themes, which were repeated in my daily life and which I decided to divide into three concepts. The first one is the concept of time, which has completely changed for me, both in its vision and in its management. I realized how anchored I was in the past. From objects to music. It’s like I had a click that made me change.

These two songs are the end of a chapter and the beginning of something new, this is a memory of the future. The words of the two songs I wrote tell of my journey into the subconscious. It is as if I have already imagined what is going to come».

Where do you get the inspiration to create your music? From the past?

Joan Thiele: «The two figures who have influenced me the most are Mina and Ornella Vanoni. Especially the latter. To be more specific, the entire period produced in collaboration with Toquinho, their record is the most beautiful masterpiece in the world. I’ve been into a lot of Hollywood music lately; soundtracks and compositions of various kinds. I’m a huge fan of Devendra Banhart, and Anderson. Paak is in my top».

Your roots are spread all over the world, but you grew up in Italy. Your music then took you back, as a digital nomad, around the world. What is the most beautiful place where you found yourself composing a song?

Joan Thiele: «Well… in Colombia when I went to visit my father I wrote many pieces of Tango. He lives in the mountains in a place called Salento Armenia. There he grows coffee. In terms of nature this place is incredible: it even hosts the tallest palm trees in the world!

It has remained etched in the music I wrote. I work a lot with images. It often happens that I visually absorb a stimulus and then I translate it into music.

On the other hand, when I listen to a song I often imagine what kind of colors a melody transmits to me. Inevitably, writing those songs created magic. Another incredible place is on these islands in Baru in the Caribbean, where my cousins live. It is a dream place… I should go back».

Today, music technology allows us to record a song wherever we are. You were among the first to publish a video playing live, outdoors, in cool places…

Joan Thiele: «Yes. What I always recommend to anyone who is starting a musical journey is to be independent.

Today you can write down an idea wherever you are, you just need a guitar, a computer, a microphone and a program like Logic or Ableton. The more the idea is defined in your head, the easier it will be to entrust it to a producer in the recording studio».

I remember a video you published on your Instagram where you connected a midi controller keyboard that was not recognized by the computer. You were in a living room and you haven’t lost your temper. This makes me think that your music follows you in any context.

Let’s take a step back, given that the name of the first song of Act I is Cinema, what is your connection with this world?

Joan Thiele: «I am in love with Alfred Hitchcock. For me his point of view, on the narrative level, is unique. The psychology he uses or the terror he inspires transforms his films into an almost calm vision; it’s like he’s fooling your psyche. The way he tells a story through images has always fascinated me. I find his originality wonderful. My favorite one is: Vertigo. It is an absolute masterpiece. I find it truly modern. I don’t want to be nostalgic, I just find it really brilliant».

Can you recommend us a movie for tonight?

Joan Thiele: «The Girl with the Pistol by Mario Monicelli starring Monica Vitti. It’s incredible. The story is beautiful, not to mention the soundtrack. It tells the story of a woman dumped by a man who, after having seduced her without marrying her, leaves for England. She faces this endless journey from the Sicilian reality of the 1960s, where she had been repudiated by society and her family, to face him. During the film you feel the evolution of her personality changing along the journey towards revenge. I recommend it. Among other things, this film was an inspiration for the cover of my single Puta».

What is the best or most meaningful video you have shot?

Joan Thiele: «The last one. I was very satisfied with Puta. I particularly like Futuro Wow, it was set in the cinema and super improvised.

The most exciting one was Save Me, which was shot in Brazil by my best friend and video-maker Giada Bossi, I was still a girl back then…

She has become incredible. It was all organized in a very free, natural way, but it all went in the best way. Now I find more emotion in live videos than in videoclips».

Imagine listening to three songs from your discography with your eyes closed: where do they take you? For example, Taxi Driver takes me to New York, I feel there when I listen to it…

Joan Thiele: «Actually, I wrote that one in New York! I was there with a guy from New York and we wrote it together. We then produced it in Los Angeles. It was conceived just like that, in a natural way.

An important song for me is Le Vacanze. I wrote it between London and the sea. It takes me to the Amalfi Coast, between the hairpin bends and glimpses of that wonderful landscape. Puta, instead takes me to every corner of Colombia».

Do you have a favorite dish you’ve eaten around the world?

Joan Thiele: «I’m crazy about ceviche. It originated in Peru and is a dish made with raw fish or seafood. They are left to marinate in lime, combined with some spices such as chilli and coriander or, even, in a simple oil sauce.

It’s a kind of Peruvian street food influenced by Asia. Whenever I visit my parents in the Caribbean, I pass by a food truck I know well and eat it right away.

Another dish I always think about is the roasted corn on the cob with cheese».

A few years ago there was a MTV program called Celebrity Deathmatch, who would you face and with whom?

Joan Thiele: «I would participate with my friend Elodie! Against… wait, it’s trivial… the more informative version of Patty Bravo and Ozzy Osbourne!».

What are the items that cannot be missing in your backpack during a trip?

Joan Thiele: «A toothbrush must never be missing, I always have it with me at any time of the day. My rescue bag and then my computer.

My microphone is a must, because I need to be able to record wherever I go. In fact now I have one featuring the USB. I carried the sound card while touring in Colombia and it wasn’t exactly comfortable. Finally, a book must never be missing».

What types of books do you like?

Joan Thiele: «Poetry books, since I discovered them I look for them everywhere, even in the markets».

The worst moment of your career?

Joan Thiele: «Artists have their ups and downs. No matter the level. This type of work naturally leads you to have constant mood swings. It takes a lot of patience. Many sacrifices are needed, there are many variations and variables. I’ve had quite a few ups & downs since the beginning. I started earning 30 or 40 euros per event and I was frustrated because it is difficult to stand out and make your own way. However, one good turn deserves another and sooner or later something happens. I had a moment of crisis in 2018. I wanted to change some priorities in my life and it’s as if I had to start over, almost from scratch».

The best moment of your career?

Joan Thiele: «Elodie and I dining with Ornella Vanoni. The most incredible thing that has happened to me, however, is having a cup of tea with David Crosby».

That’s incredible!

Joan Thiele: «Let me explain, when I was younger I took part in this festival in Sarzana, the Acoustic Guitar Meeting. You wouldn’t tell, but I’m a huge fan of fingerpicking guitar… there I met this guy, Marcus, who said to me: – I play with Crosby. At first I didn’t believe him. A couple of years ago, however, he wrote me a message telling me that he was in Milan and that he had a surprise for me. We went to the Teatro degli Arcimboldi and found myself drinking tea in the dressing room with Crosby. I was speechless. I wasn’t believing it, also because I become a fan in these situations, so I was embarrassed. It will remain a wonderful moment».

Doc from Back to the Future arrives. He gives you the keys to the DeLoreans: where and in what era would you go?

Joan Thiele: «I would go back to Woodstock! I have dreamed of being able to relive those concerts and that atmosphere since I was a young girl.

I would spend a few hours there and then go to the future to take a peek.

I’d stop before getting there, though. I would go back to the present. I don’t think I want to know my future in advance».

13 min read

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