BY TERI SACCONE
It’s hard to believe that just 10 years ago Francesco Lucidi was a struggling musician with only rudimentary English skills, working diligently to carve out a career within the tight-knit London session scene having relocated from Italy after winning an international drum competition. Now he will be seen by millions in the new Elton John biopic Rocket Man, due out in theaters May 31.
Lucidi (pronounced LOU-chee-dee) is playing John’s longtime drummer Nigel Olsson in the film, which was made by the team behind Bohemian Rhapsody and co-produced by the Sir Elton himself. He had never acted previously but being a seasoned drummer with a strong physical resemblance to Olsson certainly helped his task. Olsson has been the primary drummer with John over the last five decades having recorded numerous albums, including Honky Château, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, and Captain Fantastic, and has played live with John at more than 2,000 concerts since 1969.
How did 33-year-old Lucidi, who hails from a picturesque town in Umbria, Italy, procure the role in a major film? “An agency contacted me when I was working in Amsterdam,” he says during a break filming a music video for one of his bands. “I didn’t even know there was a film being made about Elton.”
He continues, “They asked me to do a video audition, so when I got back to London I recorded both studio and live versions of ‘Crocodile Rock’ and sent it to them. I got offered the role. Immediately, I had fittings for the costumes and within weeks we were shooting the film.”
The role, he says, is not dialogue-heavy. “Although I’m not talking to the camera in Rocket Man, as a band we had to talk with each other in our scenes. But mostly I’m behind the kit.”
The film’s musical director, Giles Martin (son of Beatles-producer George), recorded the soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios with a different set of musicians. “When we were shooting the Troubadour scenes, Giles was watching us from the video monitors and told us looked like a real band,” says Lucidi. “He’d not realized that the band are professional musicians in our everyday lives.”
Lucidi is stylistically different than Olsson in his drumming. Initially influenced by prog-rock and metal, he cites Mike Portnoy as one of his first drum heroes. “I got into music through my older brother Luca, a keyboard player,” he says. “We had a band growing up. He had all the discography from Queen and Dream Theater, so I absorbed both heavily. I’ve listened to both Nigel’s solo albums and, obviously, all his playing with Elton. He has more of a pop approach to drums. But I play drums in 2019 whereas he recorded this music 40 years ago, which was a completely different era. So I doubt he had metal as an influence as I did.”
While he worked to make a name for himself Lucidi was a part-time barista until hooking up with the experimental metal band Jurojin, which featured drums, tabla, guitar, and bass. “That was my first proper band in the UK,” he says. “We did many tours of the UK and Europe, opening for metal bands like Korn in front of 25,000 people. At the time, I was focused on that band 100 percent. When it collapsed, I was devastated.” Lucidi learned from that experience and currently has his hands in many projects, keeping his focus diverse.
Another career highlight was drumming for the hugely-popular Guitar Hero Live, which proved to be a lot more competitive than the Rocket Man acting gig. “That took me three months to get because I had to audition with 600 other musicians,” he says.
Despite appearing in Rocket Man and now being an accomplished drummer on the session scene, Lucidi is not resting on his success. He is constantly on the go, recording sessions, playing live, and focusing on two up-and-coming groups including alternative rock bands Mercutio and Hide Your Mother. “That has a dance-y rock vibe that is quite accessible to the masses.” Singles are out, videos are being shot, major label interest is rife. Yet with Lucidi, the possibilities are as wide as the skies above.
“I love doing all kinds of projects and I’d possibly do a theater course,” he says. “My main focus is music, but we live in a world where you never know what’s coming. I would do another film. I’m not shy and always set high goals, and always believe I could reach the highest levels I wanted to. I just want to live a comfortable life doing what I love.”