Sunset, light breeze, the sounds of the city from afar, and echoes of a fun afternoon: it’s all as poetic as it sounds. I’m not overstating when I describe the mood, and I’m not overstating when I define Angelina Mango as one of the wisest and most interesting people I’ve ever talked to.
Born and raised in a family of musicians, Angelina had to experiment with several different passions before finding the one and only, what would have become her present and future: music. From sad songs to the piano to the co-productions with her brother, from her EP “Monolocale” to dream mentors like Tiziano Ferro, Angelina writes music for herself and for the others, to talk about herself and situations that are hers as much as universal, just human.
After the success of her single “Walkman” and her triumph at the Primo Maggio concert in Rome, with the promise of a new EP, and waiting for lots of summer gigs, there’s nothing left for us but to wait and enjoy the journey, following an artist on which it’s worth to bet.
What’s your first music memory?
My first music memory dates back to when I was very young and went on tour with my dad; back then, we would travel altogether because my brother and I didn’t have to go to school yet. I have some pictures of myself when I was 1 year old and walking and dancing on stage! [laughs] This is my first general music memory.
As far as my music is concerned, instead, I remember when, in my last elementary school year, they gave me my first computer as a gift, and it had Cubase, a program to make arrangements: that was when I started writing some very sad songs, too sad for my age.
As kids, either we want to follow our parents’ path, or we want to move as far away as possible from it. What was your experience like growing up in a family of musicians? Have you always wanted to do this job, or did you also have other aspirations?
To be honest, I’ve had a weird relationship with this issue because, as a kid, I didn’t really consider the possibility of doing this job. I’ve always liked writing, but I also wanted to be a researcher, I’ve taken dance classes for many years and that felt like my passion. I realized I wanted the music to be my job only when I finished high school and wondered: and now, what do I do? I tried to go to university and study Literature, but there I realized that what I really cared about was doing music.
On one side, I didn’t have much of a choice but not to do this because no other thing ever felt that right.
You debuted with the song “Formica” and became known with the single “Walkman” that you performed during the Primo Maggio concert in Rome. What do these songs represent, respectively, for you?
“Formica” was a way to say, “Okay, this is me,” so it’s my story. This song and “Walkman” are the beginning of the journey I want to do because, for the first time, I can see myself a bit better, instead of looking outside, and I can see in myself all the vulnerabilities that I would have been scared to express before.
“Formica” is the introduction, “Walkman” is what’s inside.
I really loved how in “Walkman” you use the object, the Walkman, as a metaphor to explain how your head works, the fact that it bursts with thoughts and second thoughts, just like a player with a CD that turns endlessly. You gave the perfect idea of the concept of overthinking, I believe. Are you an overthinker? How was the piece born?
I’m definitely an overthinker!
“Walkman” has a double meaning: one is certainly what you’ve just said, the fact of constantly thinking about things even when you shouldn’t, of always thinking about how things are going, what you should do, what you have done, the future, the past. I’m a very overthinking person. On the other side, it’s also a metaphor for what we are inside. Let me explain: I found myself looking around and thinking, “Okay, it’s been three years since I’ve finished school, time flies, I’m becoming an adult and I’m not even realizing it;” so, the Walkman is something to which everyone can relate, it’s the concept of time passing while we often don’t realize it and have no choice. I don’t know if that’s positive or negative!
I guess it depends on how you look at it!
Speaking of writing songs and making music, how does your creative process generally originate and develop?
In the beginning, I would mainly write in two ways: on the piano, which I would play in the phase where I wrote pop and “classic” tunes compared to what I write today; or I would write with my brother because, when we were younger, he would do the arrangements and I would write lyrics and melodies on his productions. Now, my brother is a drummer, and I’ve slowly started to produce on my own.
To be honest, I don’t really have a specific method for writing. Lately, I’ve been writing a lot while doing other stuff: while I walk the streets, while I’m in the car, while I’m cooking, some clear things come to my mind and it’s as if the song is ready at that moment, finished, and then I put it down, do the arrangement and so on, but in my head, it’s already there the way I want it to be. That’s what happened with “Walkman,” for example.
“…in my head, it’s already there the way I want it to be.”
You have some illustrious mentors, the likes of Enrico Brun e Tiziano Ferro; the latter, in particular, has fallen in love with your talent, and he’s produced “Walkman.” How was this collaboration born?
In an extremely human way.
He’d listened to my first EP, “Monolocale,” and reposted me on Instagram. At that moment, I nearly died [laughs]. After that, I got back to life and thanked him. He told me: “Look, if you write songs, send them to me, even if you just want some feedback.” Right then, I’d just finished the very first draft of “Walkman,” which had a hint of arrangement, and tiny pre-production, and he went crazy! As if he were a friend of mine, he said to me: “I’m going to the studio with these musicians on Friday” (and he named them), and he made these musicians play what I had in my head.
This was so important for me also because I was a bit off in that period, and I had lots of doubts about what I wanted to do after “Monolocale.” Let’s say I’m not really a peaceful soul, I always have a mess in my head! [laughs] This was good for my self-esteem because if someone so brilliant notices and appreciates you, there must be a reason; moreover, he encouraged me to prove that I deserved what he was giving to me. Later, in the studio, “Walkman” went through other phases with Enrico Brun from Sony, with whom I regularly work now, and I still have the live versions played by all the musicians together! So cool!
All of these already are dream collaborations. What’s the collaboration of your dreams that you still haven’t done?
My dream collaborations would be Jacob Collier (who’s never ever going to notice me), Anderson Paak, and Yebba. Yebba is a brilliant singer, she’s teaching me how to sing, the more I listen to her, the better I get at it.
So, what kind of music do you listen to?
At the moment, I’m very often listening to the artists I’ve mentioned before because they’re such good teachers, it’s a way of growing up. I listen to the new weekly releases, to get an idea of how things are going, what people like, and what they don’t like: I think this is important, as well, because a songwriter doesn’t write songs for themselves only, but also for their listeners, so I like to keep updated. I listen a lot to Nao, lately, I’ve been pretty much into R&B, Soul, New Soul as genres, but it’s just a phase because three years ago I was the worst trap fan in the world! [laughs]
“A songwriter doesn’t write songs for themselves only, but also for their listeners.”
The playlist of your life starts and ends with which song?
It starts with “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay, which represents my childhood, the sea, summer, sunsets, and ends with a song by Venditti; Venditti’s songs always leave me with the feeling that something’s ending, in fact, I cry every time I listen to one of them. I wish I could listen to him more because I really like his music, but I just can’t.
The song that describes this very moment of your life?
It’s the song that’s about to be released, the latest one I’ve written.
What’s the latest album you’ve listened to?
The new one by Ghali and the new one by Liberato, I listened to both of them yesterday in the car. I spent a lot of time in the car yesterday [laughs].
The latest tune that made you emotional?
I’ve been to Emma Nolde’s gig at Tunnel Club, and the entire show made me emotional. Until a while ago, I hadn’t really had a deep knowledge of her and her music, but there I felt really touched. After such a long time in which no one had given me that feeling like, “Oh my God, I’m about to cry,” she made it, and I have to thank her for that.
A song you haven’t written, but wish you had written?
There are so many. Every time I listen to a song I like, I wish I had written it! [laughs] One in particular, though, is “Costruire” by Niccolò Fabi. It’s a devastating song.
The artist you’d like to give a song to and the one you’d like to get a song from.
I’d like to give a song to Tosca or Ultimo, I think they have two amazing voices, I’d really love to. From whom I’d like to get a song? Hard to tell because all those artists who write songs, write songs that are very much for themselves! [laughs] Maybe Fabi, he’s such a good writer, why not ask him for a song? Or I could do a couple of collabs, with Anastasio or Tedua!
Who’s your musical hero?
Prince. I’m reading his autobiography, amazing.
Who or what inspires you artistically, but also in your everyday life?
My mother, no doubt, both from an artistic and human point of view.
Your must-have on stage?
Lyrics on my arms. Before going on stage, I write some of my lyrics on my arms, even though I know them and never read them, but if I don’t do that, everything goes wrong!
The bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Maybe the bravest one has been choosing to do this job. I think you need to be a bit crazy to do it. I also realized it during the Primo Maggio concert in Rome, while on stage: I was talking about me, about my things, in front of 300 thousand people, without no one asking! I think that to do something like that, you need so much courage. I don’t know if I have it, we’ll see in the future.
“…I was talking about me, about my things, in front of 300 thousand people, without no one asking!”
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your skin?
I think I’m in a phase where I’m still trying to figure it out…
Work helps me a lot because I feel useful when I see that the audience reacts to what I do. On my own, I really struggle to feel comfortable in my own skin, to be honest. I think it’s so hard and only a few people can really do it. I hope I will make it someday.
What are you afraid of?
Abandonment, of losing the people around me.
The latest thing or person that made you smile?
What we’ve just done! My almost-falls during the shooting and the fact that I looked like a fish [laughs].
What’s your happy place?
It’s supposed to be the studio, being in the studio and rehearsing. But maybe it’s the sea! I think the sea is better… Maybe singing in the sea!
What’s coming after your debut EP? Any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
New songs are definitely coming out, and this summer I’m going to hop on stage and spend as much time as possible there. On July 1st, my band and I will play a gig at Mare culturale urbano here in Milan, so we’re getting the ball rolling, introducing my project. Then, there will be more concerts over the summer, all over the place. I hope a new EP comes out very soon because I have it all in my head, and also on my computer. Then, I’d love to do some collaborations, but I guess I can see paths taking shape ahead of me.
Photos by Johnny Carrano.
Makeup by Claudia Raia.
Teresa La Fosca
Follow Angelina here.
Total look: Antonio Marras
Dress: Romeo Gigli
Jumpsuit: Weili Zheng