June 28, 2010
The Festival Degli Autori singer-songwriter competition in Sanremo, Italy was an experience of a lifetime, and one that I am sure will launch my career to the next level. Beyond all of my expectations and hopes, I won the international section of the festival, and have been offered a record deal with Sanremo Productions. Other competitors were so fabulous I truly feel humbled and honored to have won. (Photo by Rosita Bonelli).
In the international section there were artists from America, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. I met so many people who were not only wonderful artists but kind and humble people who were there for the love of the music and for the hope to take the next step in their careers by performing for important industry contacts. In the Italian section were huge talents I had met in November and also some new discoveries that I was incredibly pleased to come into contact with.
The competition itself was incredibly intense. On the first day we stayed inside the theater for a total of fourteen hours listening to 75 different artists perform their songs for a preliminary panel. Out of the Italian performers, ten were chosen to move on to the next day, but no one knew who had moved on until the next morning. On the second day, the ten Italian finalists were announced, and that afternoon the international artists presented their pieces, though I had also performed the day before, a duet I co-wrote with Maurizio Opinato. I felt so incredibly good about my performance that afternoon that I forgot that it was essentially the competition itself, for the third, second, and first place winners were to be announced that night after dinner. I had no expectation to win and simply felt pleased that I had sung my heart out, alone on a stage, a song that I had written and that meant so much to me, to the best of my ability. I had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and ate avocado and shrimp and then suddenly my friend Rosita (who, interestingly, shared a hotel room with me and ended up winning in her section of the competition as well - she and I became fast friends) reminded me I might have to sing again that night if I placed in the top three. GULP! It really didn't seem possible.
Filing back into the theater, I didn't know where to sit or what to do with myself. I didn't want to be so presumptuous as to sit behind the curtain on the side of the stage waiting to be called, but I didn't want to be in the audience battling my way through the seated people if I was called on to perform and accept an award. And if I were called on to perform, I had a guitar that needed to be tuned! I decided to compromise, and when they announced it was time to call out the three top place-winners for the international section, I went and waited in the outer hallway of the theater, so I could run onto the side of the stage, grab my guitar, and race onto the main stage if needed. I heard my friend Marilu from Luxembourg get announced as third place, and she performed amazingly. I then heard my friend Laure Pere from Canada get announced as second-place winner and she presented a song that is very special and distinct. I felt sure the winner would be Marco who has a great voice, a stellar band, and was presenting a pop-rock song that the audience had really enjoyed. So when Maestro Ermanno Croce said "and our winner comes from very far away! All the way from Seattle, Hilary Scott!" I literally couldn't believe it. I managed to move my feet and pick up the guitar and felt somehow that there was a huge grin plastered on my face, but the next five minutes were somewhat of a dream as I walked onstage, thanked who I could remember to thank (forgot to thank Euro Ferrari but have since apologized to him and he understood - now I know how people feel when accepting awards and trying to remember all their thank-yous - I didn't prepare any because I sure didn't expect to win) and then performed "And Just" for the second time that night in a moment I will never forget. It felt amazing. Afterwards, I was so stunned, I didn't even realize exactly what had happened and I asked Maurizio, "what does this mean, exactly?" He said, "It means you got a record deal!" I literally hadn't gone into this expecting anything, so to suddenly realize how huge this was overwhelmed me a bit, but in the best of ways.
I want to thank Euro Ferrari for the amazing production and arrangement of my song, Maurizio Opinato for inviting me to apply for this festival, and Ermanno Croce for giving us all the opportunity to be part of this. I also need to thank my supportive friends and family who have helped keep me going on this long journey to a place where it now finally feels the flowers on the fruits of my labor are going to blossom. Thanks also to AJ for being a constant source of insiration and support, and being the story behind my winning song.
After accepting my first place plaque, we all went out to celebrate, and discuss possibilities for the future. I think many collaborations are going to come out of this, and since I sang for many important industry people and appeared on national TV, I feel like I have a great kick-start for all the things that are going to happen in 2011. Today I spent about an hour talking to Euro Ferrari about the plans for recording, publicity, promotion, concerts, etc. More on that to come, as well as a blog entry about the amazing and crazy whirlwind four days I spent in France with Agnes Dautraix and friends. Stay tuned!