Need to Know: Enio


By Justin McCraw

Enio Chiola joins a growing list of queer Canadian musicians, such as Owen Pallett, Rufus Wainwright, and Theo Tams. With the March release of his newest album, Immolate, the 26-year-old Torontonian and one-man-band entered the digital age. A master's of sociology student at York University, Enio chatted with us about Italian families, owning a Mac, and finally being able to produce the music he's always wanted.

Out: What was your childhood like?
Enio Chiola: I didn't really know I was queer until 13, but up until that point it was great. I come from a traditional Italian family and a lot of relatives live here, as well. Growing up was really kind of fun with the family side. The school side and the social side was always a little different. I think there's a cultural divide between European and North American, and so that was a little tough to get over, but other than that, no big, huge tragic moment growing up.

You started making music when you were 11. Now you play several instruments, including the mandolin. Can you talk a little bit about how your music has evolved because Immolate sounds rather different than, say, Yellowbrick, your first album?
Actually, I had a few albums before Yellowbrick that sounded even much more different. When I first started writing music, it was more just -- I was a child, and I wanted to experiment with poetry, and I didn't really play any instruments, so I was just writing lyrics. And then I picked up the guitar, and then I got better at the guitar. And suddenly I was able to start writing songs, but it's been a slow build. So with the difference between Yellowbrick and Immolate, it was more about technology and recording. So Yellowbrick and the albums after it, up until Immolate, I had this digital eight-track recorder. And it's not a computer. It's just like a little console. And I plugged my instruments into that, and I recorded it. And with that, though, I can't loop anything. It's all real time, so if there's a little guitar part that repeats throughout the entire song, that's me playing it throughout the entire song. And then a year ago, I got a Mac. And then I just started learning about computer programming and computer recording, and Immolate is sort of the result of that. I didn't really set out to make an album when I first started recording, I just sort of was playing around with different sounds, and then as the recording process evolved, an album sort of formed itself. Immolate is really just me trying to experiment with these new technologies and these new resources that I've acquired and having a lot of fun. Immolate was a lot of fun to record. All the other albums in the past, those have all sort of been more of a project that, at times, has been really tiring. But Immolate was entirely a very fun process for me.

What has it been like to really do this all on your own? What does your studio look like where you record? Is it just your Mac laptop and your instruments?
Before, I used to just record out of my basement apartment at my parent's place, but I moved in with my partner a couple of years ago, and now I have an office. So that's where I do all my recording. I have my piano there and my guitars and my variety of instruments just hanging around, and it's basically what you said: it's my Mac and my instruments in one little room. Recording by myself gets really tiring. I really encourage collaborations. But I don't know a whole lot of musician friends that have a lot of time on their hands to record with me. So I'm really kind of just stuck with myself. So I try my best to keep things inspired and going.

You sort of touched on this next question previously, but you say you're not lonely any longer in the liner notes to 'To Make Do." Does that mean you've found someone, and would you mind talking a little bit about that and how that's affected your music?
Before I met my partner -- we met in February 2008 -- I was still kind of going through things. About a year before I met him, yeah, I was sort of lonely. Coming from an Italian background surrounded by cousins and relatives who are all getting married, family has always been a very strong value of mine. So regardless of my sexuality -- and I'm completely out with my family. They all know. So that's always been a goal of mine: to start building a family. And it's hard to find. In the queer community in Toronto, I think, it's hard to find someone who has those same types of values, as well. I would consider myself a little lonely when I was searching for all that, and I was just sort of meeting men that wanted to just have fun with for a little while and not really commit to anything more than just casual dating. "To Make Do" was half a project and half real. "To Make Do," I wrote the music, and I was singing someone else's lyrics. And then I basically wrote my own lyrics to that music, and so it was half a project and half this sort of catharsis purging. But now that I met Jamie -- my partner -- it's harder to write songs. A lot of my music is more on the sadder side of stuff. And since he's come along, it's harder for me to write. It's harder for me to write songs that express emotion. I find now what I'm able to write is more stories. So things I find a little upsetting or stories that I find really interesting that should be told through music. And they're not necessarily personal stories. They're generally inspired from anything -- ideas that I have floating around or movies that I've seen or chance encounters with different people that I've heard of. But Immolate is odd because there's very few new songs on there that I wrote after I met my partner. Most of them are older songs, like "To Make Do," for instance.