Paolo Nutini

The sandpapery strains of his debut album suggest an old American bluesman. His name sounds like that of some Italian opera star. Paolo Nutini is neither.

But the singer/songwriter has drawn comparisons to the likes of Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, and Al Green for his soulful, raspy voice, commendable critique for a 19-year-old kid from Paisley, Scotland.

Since the release of his debut album These Streets, which entered the UK album charts at No. 3 in July, Nutini has ridden a wave of success in Britain and Europe.

A lot of that success may have to do with Paolo Nutini not being exactly what he seems to be. The singer got his name from Italian heritage on his father’s side of the family, Scotland natives for four generations. And although he looks like he’d be more comfortable in a Calvin Klein ad than singing the blues at a club (he recently signed a contract with London’s Storm Models), Nutini’s album and live performances have debunked cries of him being just another pretty face.

Mike Luba of Madison House, who co-manages Nutini along with Scottish managers Brendan Moon and Mike Bawden, dismissed the modeling contract as a side note, and said that with Paolo, it’s all about the voice.

“The kid is just so good looking that it will definitely be a part of it, but really we’re going to try to keep the focus on the music,” Luba told Pollstar. “He’s just one of the most natural raw talents I’ve ever come across. His voice is really astounding for a pretty young kid. It sounds like a really old soul.”

And Nutini does come across wiser than 19 years old when speaking about the journey so far and his plans for the future.

The entertainer got his start in 2003 while attending a concert for Paisley singer David Sneddon. The concert was delayed and an impromptu talent competition was organized. Nutini performed a couple songs, receiving a pretty favorable response from the crowd, including one audience member in particular, Brendan Moon. Moon offered to manage him and Nutini got his start in the biz when he quit school and hit the road.

Moon put Nutini in the studio and hooked him up with another of his clients, the band Speedway, as a supporting act and roadie on its tour.

“We would go on and we would support them before the gigs,” Nutini told Pollstar. “In order to make it sort of financially feasible we would have other jobs so that the record company could pay us to go.”

But it wasn’t quite the rock-star lifestyle that a 16-year-old kid might imagine.

“I set up the drum kit, sold the T-shirts, helped load in and did all the infinite PR stuff,” he said laughing. “It gave you an insight of the not-so-glamorous side, not that it is glamorous at all. It’s just a riot.”

Nutini toured on and off with Speedway for about a year before he took the plunge and moved to London. He went there with one thing on his mind: to sign with a label, and shortly after his 18th birthday in May 2005, luck came knocking in the form of an Atlantic Records deal.

Paolo Nutini

In typical fashion for the singer, everything else happened quickly.

After signing with Atlantic, Nutini hooked up with 13 Artists and William Morris Agency. Within a year, he was playing South By Southwest, Carnegie Hall for the New York Pops Birthday Gala, the Montreux Jazz Festival and even a few support slots for The Rolling Stones.

Luba explained the frenzy surrounding the performer.

“Things with Paolo tend to move really fast because he’s so compelling,” he said. “You meet him, see him or hear him, and from little kids to old ladies, everyone relates to it.”

Following the July release date, Nutini played U.K. and European club gigs and a festival circuit before heading back to Texas for the Austin City Limits Festival.

Nutini said he doesn’t mind the nearly constant touring as, at this point, he and his band have just been working to improve their live performance

one club, festival, or store appearance at a time.

“It’s all a gig to me,” he said. “Really, I think as a band, all we want to do is get better.”

The singer will continue to tour U.K. and European clubs and halls through fall, and These Streets will hit the U.S. in January 2007, when he will begin his first real go at touring in the States.

Nutini said he tries to let things evolve organically, and both he and management understand, most importantly, that the singer has to stay true to himself and not rush things.

“Music is not something that can be made in a factory,” Nutini said. “You’ve got to just let it come out of you. I’m all for spacing out what I’m doing, and taking the downtime to work on the ideas that I have.”

Luba agreed.

“I think if this is done really wisely and with a little restraint, then the kid is going to have a career for a very, very long time.”