Italy’s renowned for many things – food and fashion to name but two – but not its soul music scene. That’s why Francesco Drovandi and Giulia Magnani swapped the picturesque Italian Riviera for the gritty streets of London.
The pair, who perform as M w S, moved from the Cinque Terre to London two years ago, pitching up in the Capital on the same day Britain voted to leave the EU.
“It was a little weird,” laughs Drovandi. “But we didn’t think about it too much as we found London to be so open and positive.”
The pair cite Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Tom Misch as influences and say as lovers of R’n’B and neo-soul they felt in the minority in Italy.
“The music we like is not so popular in Italy,” Drovandi says. “We found some great people to work with but the scene itself is not very big.
“Here [in London] it’s much bigger and there are more opportunities. But it’s also very competitive. When we came here we had to start from scratch.”
M w S started to build a name for themselves by performing at open mic nights. They’ve since picked up gigs at prestigious venues such as The Finsbury Pub, Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s and Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, and with Sofar Sounds and Metropolis Music.
They’ve also spent time in the studio; the duo’s latest single is Island, a soulful, summery track produced by Grammy award winning producer Aamir Yaqub (Rihanna, Will.I.am, Ne-yo).
Island is the first song M w S wrote after arriving in the UK. “It’s about us coming to a new place and feeling a sense of excitement and expectation, even though you’re not quite sure what is going to happen,” Drovandi says.
M w S hope to record an album next and feel positive that, regardless of how Brexit works out (and let’s face it no one’s figured that one out yet), London will remain a major music hub.
“The London music scene is so unique,” says Drovandi. “Other cities have great scenes: in Berlin there’s an electronic vibe and in Paris and Amsterdam it leans more towards R’n’B. But London has every kind of music, and musicians from all over the world, that’s what makes it amazing. I think it would be hard for it to lose its international outlook.”
Tips for starting over in a new city
- Put out the best music you’ve got. Get something out there so people can hear who you are and what you’re about.
- Gig as much as you can, at the best venues you can book, to raise your profile.
- Collaborate with other artists who have the same vibe as you. Work with people on a similar level to you, so you can help each other.