Chasing fate with Jacopo de Nicola and his local Italian folk trio The Late Saints

Photo by Daniel Mezick
Photo by Daniel Mezick

You might say the emergence of local trio The Late Saints was a matter of fate.

Jacopo de Nicola, guitarist, kazoo player and leader of the self-styled “Italian gypsy folk” band was born in Italy and originally trained as a bass player. While still in Italy, he performed in a variety of bands ranging from a goth act to a twelve-piece traditional Italian orchestra and a techno-jazz trio. In 2003 he started writing original music, and it soon became his main musical focus.

Around this time, he made a fortuitous 500-mile hike along the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. a pilgrimage route in Western Europe. The path came to be in medieval times after the remains of St. James – or what was believed to be his remains – were discovered and a cathedral was eventually erected in Galicia, Spain.

“I started at the modern-accepted starting point of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the mountains of France,” Nicola says. “I started by myself but I met lots of people along the way. I learned that walking the Camino is like walking through life. You meet all sorts of people and situations. So it’s very important to stick to your true self and not get swayed. Because some people can really take you off your path. So it has physical and spiritual consequence, because if you walk too fast or too slow, or don’t respect yourself and do things that can harm you, you can really suffer because it’s such an intense experience.”

Along this walk Nicola met his wife, who was in France specifically for the trek. He says that she was on the Camino with a friend and they kept intersecting paths.

“When you start, it’s almost like you’re predetermined to see certain people,” he explains while picking at a small plate of orzo salad in an East Passyunk café. “Somehow you keep seeing the same people. But there are also people that start at the same time as you and you’ll never see them again. It almost incredible; kind of serendipitous.”

Nicola feels that way about playing with his current lineup, which formed earlier this year. He also feels that way about using his trademark instrument, the kazoo.

While recording an album he never released, he was in the studio and originally imagined a trumpet on some of the songs. He didn’t have the money to hire a session musician and decided he’d play it himself, but the studio did not have a trumpet. Continue reading →