Anthony Lazaro has a very strange routine. “Basically, I do a song every day. That doesn’t mean it can’t be something I simply produce,” he says with a laugh. “It’s become a little song factory.” One of those songs is the forthcoming “Blank Spaces,” hitting digital retailers this Friday (March 26), a plaintive, rhythmic tune wrapped in a hushed vocal performance.
“This song is a long time in the making,” the singer-songwriter, currently based in Hamburg, Germany, tells American Songwriter over a recent Zoom call. “Blank Spaces” initially began as an instrumental, an origin point for much of his work. “My songs are like onions. They start with something I like, and then I go back to it. I refine the verse. Then, I go back again and refine the chorus. Every year, I would go back to do a little piece of the song, maybe it was a different variation on the chorus or a different way of singing it. It’s very special to me. It’s probably the oldest song of mine I’m releasing. It’s a historic one. It’s going to be strange.”
“Blank Spaces” arrives on the heels of “Too Late,” a more indie/singer-songwriter vibe, still with his signature silky vocals. Interestingly, he didn’t even intend to release the latter. “It was another accident,” he says. Unbeknownst to him, the song was prominently featured in Heart Signal, a South Korean dating reality TV show. “The song shouldn’t be out, but I’m going to spill the beans.”
Admittedly critical of himself, he was “happy, but I wasn’t 100 percent” on the song. “I had a note to release the song later in the year.” But after its high-profile sync, a new fan reached out to him. “Someone told me, ‘I couldn’t sleep for three days because I couldn’t find your song.’ The people in South Korea really like my music. I called the label to release the song [immediately].
“Sometimes you set a song up to be huge, and nothing happens. I had a couple of songs that I was so sure would land,” he continues. “In time, they were able to pick up, but it was a big disappointment.” Other times, a song you might not expect hits big on streaming or TikTok.
A bit of a chameleon, Lazaro’s other new song “Someone Like You” fully embraces his jazzier roots. “I’m very reluctant to use the word ‘jazz’ for a lot of reasons,” he remarks. “One is that I don’t consider myself a jazz artist. In the same vein, Michael Buble is jazz. Norah Jones might be a little more jazz than Michael Buble.”
With his 2020 record, Strangers in Disguise, a jazz-fused nine-piece, he worried it might be “too old school” for modern audiences. “At a certain point, I noticed that basically it’s maybe not old but timeless. It means the songs are still valid in 10 years. They could be from every decade. It’s basically me saying that apparently there’s part of my production that’s more jazzy, so it’s me embracing it.”
He stops for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Looking back, his debut record, Rock Paper Scissors, released in 2019, is as musically scattered as one artist might get. “I was wondering when I started why some artists don’t try more genres. My first album was a little all over the place. It was garage-rock, jazz, disco, electronic pop, and folk─all that is there. I was listening to my album the other day and thought, ‘Oh my! There’s so many genres.’”
The founder of a prominent Italian music magazine, which he doesn’t call out by name─ “I don’t want to show my age,” he laughs─he always preferred following wherever his eclectic musical tastes took him. “I liked to cover and listen to all kinds of music. People got crazy because my playlist had Sonic Youth and then house music. It was all over the place,” he says. “When I compose music, I do all genres, but I’m learning to dial it down and be more focused. I notice it can be a little confusing for people. They want a specific sound and they don’t want to have to work through the songs.
“We’re living in an algorithm era, so the real DJ is the algorithm. And it doesn’t understand this. If you get a song that’s very electronic, it’s going to suggest all your music to electronic listeners,” he continues. “They’ll get songs like ‘Coffee Cup’ and skip it. Basically, I have to work a little bit with the system. Even if people are really open, still I feel they want a musical experience that’s coherent.”
Over the last 12 months, Lazaro has issued two full-length records and two EPs. To say he’s been in creative overdrive is an understatement. In a way, it’s his way of not only expressing and exorcising what he needs, emotionally, but as a conduit of connection on a broader level. “In the last year, I probably learned more about what makes my music connect with people. I hope I’ve improved, and I hope I’ve learned. Without being too artificial, I like this connection and the comments. I like that they use my music to relax or when they’re feeling down.”
Thinking 12 steps ahead, Lazaro sets intentions for a brand new body of work, tentatively slated for July, with a possible secret cafe tour in September. Meanwhile, he’ll continue writing and stretching his boundaries, including learning Korean and possibly diving into TikTok. “I’m almost ready for TikTok… almost,” he chuckles.
Photo by Asja Caspari