Currently locked down in London, enjoying the warmer weather and laxer lockdown laws, South African-born singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and designer Giulio Beltramo can’t hide his excitement when he explains that the fashion label he works for is hard on the hustle in preparation for businesses reopening, “Non-essential retail opens up [this week] so it’s kinda like all hands on deck, go, go, go, go!”
A lover of all forms of art, Beltramo graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BA in Film Production and a triple major in Drama at the end of 2019, and wasted no time relocating.
Beltramo and I met at a show he hosted at the Raptor Room in Cape Town where he came in from left-field and completely caught me by surprise. Something about his voice and his lyrics connected with me and I remember being genuinely excited for this breath of fresh musical air.
His relationship with music goes way back, picking up the violin at 5, singing in choirs and orchestras, being classically trained in both piano and flute, and eventually teaching himself guitar, but it wasn’t until he’d moved to Cape Town (from Joburg) that he’d begun to see himself as more than a choral singer.
He explains, “I never really believed that I could sing or like do any of this, it was kind of just like something I would dream about but never actually pursued in any way, shape or form, and then I met [Lauren Norstrom — singer, friend, and inspiration], and we kinda had these shared dreams and I started song writing and I feel like it came at the perfect time, like post-high school, pre-coming out, like, ‘What am I as a human?’, and it became like a really strong way for me to talk about my identity and establish who I am and what I wanted to be.”
I’m curious about his coming out, and he giggles shyly before he starts, “Okay so my mom has a gay brother so queerness was definitely not something that was taboo in our household, I mean my mom has always been very accepting of it. I lost my dad when I was 16 but that was before I’d actually come out, but he would’ve been so fine with it, I think, I mean he loved me for exactly who I was.”
Even though queerness was something familiar and accepted in the family, his own sexuality was something he needed himself to come to terms with first before telling the family. “I told them all last year like in August. We had like this huge family get-together and I just sat them down around the table and was kinda like, ‘Listen up, folks, I’m gay!’ and I’ve just been really lucky ‘cause they’ve all just been really accepting and made it really easy and smooth,” he confides.
I ask him about the role that art and music has played in him really getting to know, love, and be comfortable with himself, and he starts, “Song writing became like my little diary, my expression, ‘cause I mean I don’t like talking about my problems but I’m more than happy to write them down in a song and sing them to a lot of people.”
His positivity is infectious as he elaborates, “The thing I like about queerness is that everyone’s got their own way of doing it. I think queer people in general just seem to be braver with their identity and like make a point of actually displaying it and OH. MY. GOD. I love fashion! And that’s the thing about creativity and music — it’s the intersection of sound and art and film and I’ve always made a point of being involved in all of them.”
Beltramo explains that he has found freedom in expression that allows him to celebrate every part of himself, “The thing that I love about my queerness is that I can be like 50 people in a week just by choosing to be, and this multifaceted nature just opens up possibilities.”
In his latest single, “Wearing Down My Soul” — the first single off his upcoming debut EP, The Whole Half Story — Beltramo sings of the frustrations associated with knowing your worth but not finding the one to reciprocate it, and the importance of loving yourself first.
The rest of the EP works through similar themes of life and lost love and what he’s gone through to get to a point of self-acceptance. “I’m so proud of this work ‘cause it’s a new kind of song writing, a new kind of musicianship that I haven’t quite done before which for me is super exciting,” he explains.
“The Whole Half Story is a 5-track EP and basically tells the full concurrent story and it’s very reflective of my sexual identity, where I stood in my relationships, what I was going through, all that kinda hearty stuff. And I think it’s just undergrounded by a whole lotta love, a whole whole whole lot of love… I’m really just coming to terms with me and all my flaws.”