Singer-songwriter Michael Azzopardi has just released his debut EP, Pistola, and is making waves in the local alternative music scene. Lara Zammit speaks with the artist about his music and the poetic nature of his Maltese lyrics. 

The four tracks comprising Pistola teem with emotional resonance and lyrical subtlety. They dance on the threshold between music and poetry. Can you comment on the journey that led you to these lyrics?

I’ve been yearning to sing for many years. I’d like to say stage fright was the only thing holding me back, but to sing your song is to be completely yourself. I don’t think I was very good at that before I started writing songs and singing them.

The EP’s artwork, designed by Michael AzzopardiThe EP’s artwork, designed by Michael Azzopardi

My journey is underpinned by a desire to be at peace with myself in a world that feels off kilter. I think music offers us a way to tell our story without it being completely self-centered; it’s a two-way street, a shared experience.

When I sit down and write the words that I’ve held onto for so long, and set them to melody, there is a sense of catharsis and connection with the world at large. The journey was full of those moments so far, and I think the lyrics are a result of that.

Your songs seem to display a certain vulnerability surrounding topics that typically burden our inner worlds, including love and our place in a rather absurd existence. What are the themes you tend to tackle in your music? Do you think your poetico-musical approach to these topics helps you navigate them better?

I think that if we want to lead a peaceful life, we must above all be true to ourselves. To this end, we have to let our guard down and take a risk or two. Music, particularly the performative aspect of it, can help in coming to terms with this.

A song is a heart to heart; it’s a way to be understood and to understand. I feel it is also a means by which to face fears, to work through feelings of shame and anger.

So yes, I think the process creates a little oasis for musicians where they can find some order in their chaos.

A good song is life affirming

How would you describe your musical style? Do you believe this to be relatively sedimented or still in a state of flux?

I don’t think my music has a defined style, and I don’t look for that either. Every song exists in its own little world and that’s very exciting to me. I get to expand on the song’s world with music videos and artwork, which I enjoy making. I can really bring what I want to say to the surface in all sorts of exciting ways.

Having the songs being different from one another keeps me engaged with the overall creative process. So yes, my style is still in a state of flux and I hope it remains that way. I must mention that the aesthetic vision I have for my songs is skil­fully captured by my producer and collaborator Jimmy Bartolo and are then mixed by John Bartolo from Ultralow Music.

Michael Azzopardi. Photo: Rachel Micallef SomervilleMichael Azzopardi. Photo: Rachel Micallef Somerville

The poetic nature of your lyrics is particularly compelling. William Wordsworth called poe­try “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings [taking] its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity”. Khalil Gibran said that poetry “is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary”. What would you say is the place of poe­try in one’s life? Do you think music can exalt poetry into something more penetrating?

I think so, yes. Music can elevate our words and emotions into a more meaningful or memorable experience. A good song is life affirming. Needless to say, this isn’t the only role music plays in our lives.

Music can entertain, distract, give us all sorts of pleasures, but the songs I cherish the most are sung from the heart – by regular human beings who are stuck in that chaotic place bet­ween fear and love.

I think that’s where poetry originates from – from our irrational but heartfelt attempt at reaching a divine state of being, knowing that we probably never will. But in doing so, we come to understand that we are all in this together, arms extended.

Pistola is now available on Spotify and Bandcamp. The EP is produced, mixed and mastered by Ultralow Music and is released under the same label. For more information, e-mail or call on 9930 8778.

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