For about ten years, English DJ and producer Nic Fanciulli fretted over making a debut album of original music. In the meantime, he did what anyone would do: earn a residency in Ibiza, start a record label, launch a music festival, get nominated for a Grammy, and consistently hop around the globe like the dance music version of a Jules Verne character.
OK, so perhaps not anyone would do this.
Yet for all his success, he didn't make an album. Until now.
In October, Fanciulli released My Heart, a 16-track journey through the mind, soul, and, of course, heart, of the 37-year-old that’s unlike anything he’s ever done before. There are no club bangers, and it is better suited for late-night drives than a nightclub. It is, in a word, exquisite. My Heart is elegant and smooth and has more in common with the work of fellow U.K. dance acts the Chemical Brothers and Faithless than with most of the mindless noise thumping people’s eardrums into deafness.
Standout tracks include the warm opener, “Imitation,” as well as collaborative efforts such as “100 MPH” with Jamie Principle; “Resistance” with Audion, the alter ego of Matthew Dear; and “Saying,” a dream teamup with Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz.
Considering all of his success and the quality of his long-awaited debut, the question remains: What took so damn long?
“I think the main thing was confidence, and the second thing was timing,” Fanciulli says. “As you know, I live the DJ lifestyle. I travel a lot when I tour — Europe, South America, Australia — and I never really give myself enough to focus on the music. So what I did, the last few years, I decided to get myself down to the studio in the wintertime. I felt like it was easier to do it then than it was in Ibiza season."
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The words Fanciulli uses to describe his long-gestating project are “musicality” and “organic-ness,” along with “thoughtful” and, above all, “emotional.” It’s no wonder, then, that he titled the album My Heart.
Like a competitive athlete, Fanciulli found himself in the zone. My Heart was the culmination of many years of waiting for that window of opportunity. When it opened, he pounced.
“It all happened really organically and really quickly. It all came together last-minute. Everyone was like, 'Yup, I’m onboard.' Anyone that wasn’t sure when they could do the record, I just moved on. I didn’t want to wait and tempt fate. I was on a roll, and I was quite happy with it.”
For example, Albarn’s contribution to the album was the result of a whim.
“Honestly, I just heard a story that he was in the studio when I sent the remix [of 'Ascension' by the Gorillaz] and I thought, You know what? He won’t have a fucking clue who I am or anything like that, but I’m gonna try. I sent ["Saying"] to management, and I think because it was so different and out-there, he went, 'Yeah, I really want to do this shit.' Within 48 hours, he’d done the song and sent it back to us, and I was just like, Wow.”
It’s odd to hear Fanciulli state unequivocally, “I wanted it to be an album that didn’t have anything to do with my DJ career.” It’s a career he has worked hard at for the better part of two decades, yet he shied away from the remixes and the big-room dance that’s made him a mainstay on the club and festival circuits.
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In fact, here in Miami, the capital of dance music in the States, Fanciulli has carved out a second home. He’s been performing in the Magic City since 2000 and comes back every year for Winter Music Confernece, and in 2016, did his first Art Basel set.
Fanciulli will return once more, December 8 to Heart for a live show — sort of. He says during the set, he'll be “orchestrating” a punched-up version of My Heart and spinning recent remixes, “stripped down and replayed through electronic devices.” It will be the first time he'll perform My Heart live, and he chose Miami as the proving ground because he feels so comfortable here.
"We joke about buying a house in South Florida out of convenience, but appropriately enough, it’s a topic — that concept of home and being away from — that deeply colored and influenced My Heart," he says. “The last six or seven years, I’ve been blessed with playing across the world and stuff like that, but then there’s a lot of pressure to stay on the road. To miss people’s birthdays and weddings and your kids growing up. Sometimes you need to refresh, and I think I put all that down on the album. I think it became an extension of what I was doing in day-to-day to life.”