Name: Tommaso Moretti
Occupation: Drummer, composer, educator
Nationality: Italian  
Current release: Tommaso Moretti's "Redefine The Purpose" is out now. It's the first single to be taken off his new full-length album Inside Out, featuring Ben Lamar Gay, out May 3rd 2022 via BACE.

If you enjoyed this interview with Tommaso Moretti and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official homepage. He is also on Facebook, and Soundcloud.

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?

All of those inspiration sources that you quoted have triggered my creative process at least on one occasion.

With reference to my latest work, the uncanny feeling of alienation and overall uncertainty for the future (a trademark of the 2020s) played a part in creating in my mind the right environment to conceive 3 songs.

“Edge Of A Decade” came to me on New Year’s Eve 2019-2020 with a feeling (premonition?) of standing at the verge of a big historical transition. During the first lockdown, there was a generalized wish that the pandemic could push humanity to heal morally. That feeling helped me carry through and focus on my craft and it inspired, for example, the music and lyrics of the song “Redefine the Purpose”.

Coming to terms with the realization that the culture of denial that defines our society was nullifying all the “lockdown resolution list” resulted in a darker mood as you could hear from song “A Call for Awareness”.

On a brighter side, the personal relationship made of pure love and joy with my 5 years old daughter guided my inspiration throughout the album. In particular the song “ESM” was envisioned after her energy and sweetness.

The developing self- perception of my identity as an immigrant was driving my emotions while composing songs: “Going Home /Flying Away From Home” and “Italiano In America”.

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a “visualization” of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?

I don’t need a concrete idea to get me started, it’s usually an undefined spark. The more I work on it the more I can visualize it on a defined musical context.

The fact that I’m working with a specific ensemble and instrumentation can influence the direction that a musical piece is taking, but that has to do more with the arrangement than the actual composition. I consider the intimate dimension of the original inspiration somehow separate from the aesthetic and practical need to arrange it in a determined style and for a specific instrument. It’s like the soul of the song versus the body of it.

Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do “research” or create “early versions”?

In the making of Inside Out, I recorded earlier versions of 3 songs (quoted earlier) on a phone app where I played all instruments (drums, guitar, xylophone, percussions). The impossibility to get together with all the musicians at the same time (for obvious reasons) also dictated the way the album was recorded. Every musician was invited separately to lay down their parts and improvise over drum tracks I recorded first.

For the songs “Redefine The Purpose” and “A Call For Awareness” I decided to keep my xylophone and guitar in (adding Ben Dillinger's upright bass and Natalie Lande's flute on the former and Ben Lamar Gay's cornet and Ben Dillinger's upright bass on the latter), to stay somehow loyal to the instrumentation palette of those earlier versions. I couldn’t picture them differently.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

No, I don’t have any rituals. It happens pretty organically for me, I usually don’t like to push myself to write something. It’s like a seed that pops out in my mind.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

Usually, it’s a melody that comes to me, but of course it has also happened that some ideas were generated by the act of “noodling” on guitar or drums.

If a musical sketch or idea survives the night and sticks in my mind then it’s usually worth pursuing it, even though sometimes I “cheat” and record some voice memo singing melodies or rhythms on my phone.

Once you’ve started, how does the work gradually emerge?

If that “seed” is sturdy enough, it grows and eventually keeps on haunting me until I consider it mature.

Sometimes it can get to a point where it’s hard to employ my mind in anything else. I have to get it done not because of deadlines but in order to have some peace of mind.

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

Yes, some of the compositions I’m most proud of manifested that quality to me. Almost like a sensation that I wasn’t inventing anything but more like discovering something that was already meant to be. That’s why I don’t like to have deadlines when I am writing new material, I prefer to give the song the chance to express itself through my mind.

A similar process but on a different timeframe happens when I experience improvising (extemporary composing) with musicians I have a special connection with. It’s all about finding the right mind space to let the music make its course through your mind and limbs without forcing any specific direction.

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

It’s definitely a complex and contradictory process.

Raw ideas are often prismatic, I can look at them from different angles. When I follow the wrong direction, I eventually realize that I’m ending up on a dead-end street. At that point I back up and being honest with myself, I investigate what was the mental obstacle that deviates the natural flow of the original idea.

The song “Taming The Bitterness” emerged from a stressful period of my life and while I kept revising it and changing my mind, I eventually realized that the process was becoming an attempt of “self-therapy”. I was unconsciously hiding to myself the most natural solution of the dilemma.

The more I advance in my years the more I appreciate simplicity.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

As it is right now, I am still exploring my own creative state.

I learned for my experience that keeping an open mind and not rushing to conclusions to try to prove something leads always to the best outcome. Sometimes it’s a small musical intuition that trigger the right chemistry in my brain leaving me no other choice than to let it out. It could also be the opposite. Having the right mindset on a specific day could offer the fertile ground to have a musical thought stick. It’s probably a combination of both. When it happens, I’m so absorbed in it that the time flows differently. It’s like being in a bubble that can pop just when the right conclusion reveals itself.

Of course, everyday life has to go on, so I’m also slowly learning how to “save the progress in my mind” and get back into it later. The harder for me to pause my creative state the more I’m convinced that it’s going to lead into something good. It can be conflicting and also confusing for whoever is around me. It doesn’t happen often for me, I’m not really prolific but at the same time I always have musical thoughts in my mind.

I’m basically raising the bar for myself of what can make it through or not, waiting for that next good idea to activate my creative state.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

When I finally find the conclusion of a composition, I can usually feel a sense of relief and serenity. If that feeling is not there, I have some more work to do.

For me it’s usually split into 3 phases: composing, arranging and producing. It doesn’t happen that often that an idea at a later phase takes me back to an earlier stage. Modern technologies are offering so many new interesting tools to blend up the 3 categories but I think that those phases are sequential: Producing has to serve the arrangement and the nature of the composition.

When I am in the studio, I have already envisioned clearly the song but I am always open to use any tool to dress it up in a way that could make it look more seductive. The spirit of the composition can’t be altered.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re “satisfied with a piece”? What does this process look like in practise?
The ability to step out of your shoes and look at the progressing work from a different prospective is really important. The music that I write is meant to be a written platform for musicians to improvise and be creative within (and sometimes without) the boundaries that I established.

When I consider a song finished, I don’t mean that the song is carved in stone or immutable. The composition is always going to be alive and be different as long as it will be played. It’s not rare that I change the arrangement or the form of a song to fit the qualities of a specific musician that is going to play it.

The spirit of the music, also in this case, has to stay intact and felt by each of the musicians involved.