Interview with Himself
Most people know you from your musical résumé and are probably unaware of your acting and voice work, so tell me a bit about your past as an artist, as well as if you’re still working on other projects on the side.
Ever since I’ve known myself I wanted to be an actor, but at the age of 17 I found out I could sing and, suddenly, it started to weigh a lot on a long made career decision. But a few months later it was time to participate in the tests to enrol Escola Superior de Teatro, so singing was left on the side and I concentrated on acting. It was as an actor that I started my professional life, in 2000 – later that year as an acting director – and it wasn’t until the last third of 2001 that I began my work as a voice actor for cartoons. I spent almost 5 years at Teatro Politeama, which I left in 2006, and dedicated myself to being a voice actor. At that time I only did cartoon characters and songs, later I began my voice-over work on documentaries and publicity and, basically, that’s my everyday life.
Today I am one of the voices of Sci-Fi (a science fiction channel), Espaços & Casas (a real estate program on SIC Notícias) and my voice is present in many cartoons, documentaries, video games and also commercials.
How was it to attend the classes of renowned Glória de Matos, Fernanda Lapa and, particularly, those of Natália de Matos?
Glória de Matos was one of my acting teachers on my first year at Escola Superior de Teatro. Although she’s usually seen as “old-school”, she was very modern and updated, and she was very methodical and precise while directing us. You must realise I was very young, the youngest in my class (I was 18), and I was so available at the time that I felt like a sponge, and at that time in my life it was a great quality because I was open to many new things being presented to me.
Fernanda Lapa was my teacher on my second year but for a very short period, and she’s one of our greatest directors, I believe. She’s very feminist and that theme was present in our work, and I had such fun because she was very open to our input, and that was great for us as sophomore students (trying to prove ourselves).
Natália was/is the best. She can be difficult at first, as her approach to her students is something less than friendly, but later you realise she’s like a mother knowing her children are being thrown at the wolves and she needs to urge them to fight back. She was my teacher for 3 of the 4 years I was there, and still today she’s such an influence on me. Nowadays, with my singing teacher, Joana Rios, I still learn a lot, even though my roots are with her – especially on my everyday work as a voice actor.
How was it to work in Joaquim Horta’s unconventional project Ruído and, grabbing the issue here, how was it like to be a part of the cast of one of La Féria’s biggest musicals, Amália?
Ruído was a great beginning, as I worked with a lot of people; most of them were my friends, others I got to know. It was scary, very new and different for me. Ruído was like an exhibition with small scenes going on in different rooms and the audience travelled freely throughout the rooms. We performed face to face with the audience and some people even opinionated and participated, so for a first experience the challenge was very fulfilling.
With Amália it was totally different. In Ruído, we were a small family, whereas with La Féria the families are always huge. But what made that musical so big was really the audience moved by the memory of the greatest Portuguese myth of the 20th century, Amália Rodrigues. When you work with Filipe La Féria you have to be fast and willing to work harder than you ever imagined, as it was very long hours and a non-stop week. The show was 3 hours long and there were times we performed 8 shows a week; we’d rehearsed until 6 a.m. and had a memorable rehearsal until 9 a.m.! But you learn a lot and I believe no one teaches you the pace of performing in a musical as he does.
This Can’t Be Love marks the beginning of your career as a solo artist yet, in a quite atypical way, since its songs are a collection of covers from the likes of Gershwin, Jobim, Krall and Sinatra (to name a few). How and why did you decide to make such an unorthodox debut and, also, what was the criteria you established in order to choose those tracks in particular?
For me it was natural and obvious. Once a friend described me as an old soul in a young body and I think that’s pretty accurate. The American classics have always been a part of me and my life – alongside other genres, of course – but very little tunes make my heart jump the way the classics do. As I come from Theatre, it usually starts with the lyrics; it’s the words that move me, but the melodies have the last word.
It all began as a joke, actually. Sometimes in classes with Joana Rios – after approaching a certain song – she’d say “you should record this!”, and one day I made a decision to do so. Most songs came naturally, as I already knew most of them and wanted to record them so much, but others came as a surprise. For example, one day Joana was looking for a written arrangement she had of You’ve Changed and came across This Can’t Be Love and started humming it. I continued singing it and, suddenly, we looked at each other and we knew that it was going to be the name of the album.
You seem to be quite appreciative of your collaboration with Joana Rios, who was also your producer and singing teacher. How did you two meet and how did your cooperation evolved till this day.
The first time I met her was in my audition, at the Escola de Jazz Luís Villas Boas, Hot Club Portugal. She was a jury and I had a huge infection in my throat and could hardly speak – let alone sing, and even today she says I didn’t sing that bad (laughs). She then became my teacher at the school and later on in private lessons. We developed a friendship and, although she didn’t suggest herself as the arranger on my record, she was a natural choice – also as a producer. Besides, she knows my voice like no one. She’s been with me since the beginning, her opinion is very important to me, but we also disagree on many things. I think we learn a lot from each other, since we have different styles and come from different backgrounds, but our collaboration is very healthy and stimulating. She’s not easy, as she’s very demanding and has a very strong personality, but, then again, there has to be very few people as stubborn as myself (laughs).
Apart from your passion for Jazz, I was wondering if you had similar attachments to other musical genres. Also, tell me a bit about your film and theatre tastes.
As I said already, there’s not a genre that moves me as Jazz. But I also listen to other genres, although I’m more into artists than genres: Amália, Sinatra, Tina Turner, Prince, Queen, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Gilbert Becaud, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennet, Gal Costa, Stevie Wonder, and also some of the more recent artists, like Jamie Cullum, Lisa Ekdahl and I’m also a fan of Nouvelle Vague.
As for Cinema, I am a great fan of Hitchcock, Bette Davies, Billy Wilder, Paul Newman and I love the catastrophe films made during the 70s, like Irwin Allen’s productions, but that’s more of a fetish than something else (laughs). I love Sydney Pollack, Polanski, Tarantino, Almodovar, Clint Eastwood, but also many movies that Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis directed that I saw during my childhood, youth and even today. I am amazed by the work of such great actors as Tom Hanks, Peter O’Toole, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Judy Dench, etc.
In Theatre, I’m not much into experimentalism and neither performance. I need to be told a story, like a five-year-old. That’s how I am drawn to that fantasy world. I can’t be an intellectual spending an hour and a half figuring out the signs the director created. I like things simple, but true. Of course that big sets and great costumes may impress one, but I prefer simpler productions that tell simple – but great – stories. Theatre is very humane and that’s what brings me near to a play. The last two plays I went to see were Ego, at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, and Demónio Vermelho, at Teatro da Comuna, and both were such simple productions, yet with strong stories with great performances.
How have things been developing in the live front, and do you happen to like it better than the studio setting or are they both as crucial? Tell me also about your best concert experience and if there are any plans for an official video release at some point.
The stage is the stage and there’s nothing better. I love the risk, I love the direct contact with the public – although I’d rather listen to them then see them (laughs). The public intimidates me at the same time, so I love that “black curtain” between us. But the studio is also crucial. I learn a lot at the studio; it’s a lab, although playing by some more restrictive rules can sometimes castrate you. I have always loved listening to live recordings.
My best experience on stage was on last June 25, at Olga Cadaval’s, in Sintra. I write a script to my concerts, and I think at Olga Cadaval’s was where my script worked out the best. Also, I was about to turn 30 two days from then, so it was kind of a preview birthday party.
As for an official video, there is one already, or better, several recorded live at Fábrica Braço de Prata. In fact, the showcase recorded that day was broadcasted by RTP2 and SIC Notícias several times the past spring and summer (you can check them out on YouTube and on my website).
Last, but not least, what are your plans for next year and what can you tell me about your next release?
I don’t usually have long-term plans, as my professional life is very unpredictable. For example, I may not have anything to do this afternoon and, suddenly, I am called from a studio to record something and there I go, and that’s a routine for me. I hardly ever take time off: I’m a workaholic and proud (laughs).
I have given much thought to what my next release should be. I am not sure yet, I think I will have to try some things live first before I decide, but I am inclined to record in Brazilian Portuguese, and also more American and French classics.