Elisa Toffoli (born December 19, 1977 in Trieste) is an Italian singer-songwriter, performing under the mononym Elisa. She is one of few Italian musicians to write and record mainly in English. She draws inspiration from many genres such as pop, alternative rock,electronica and trip hop. In Europe she is perhaps most recognised for the single Come Speak to Me, while American audiences may recognise the song Dancing as featured in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons of So You Think You Can Dance.
Elisa Toffoli was born on December 19, 1977 in Trieste in north-eastern Italy. Her early influences include Björk, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald, while she has credited Rudyard Kipling and Jim Morrison of The Doors as lyrical inspirators. She began writing songs at the age of 11 and later played in several local bands. At 15 she appeared in a televised karaoke program, Karaoke hosted by Rosario Fiorello.
Initial albums and Sanremo Festival:
At 16, Elisa met Caterina Caselli, who one year later signed her to the record company Sugar. At 18 she left for Berkeley, California (U.S.) to work on songs for her debut album with record producer Corrado Rustici, who has also worked with Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Zucchero among others.
Elisa's first single "Sleeping in Your Hand" was released in late May 1997, followed by her debut album Pipes & Flowers on September 22. She was credited as a writer or co-writer on all tracks. The album soon went quadruple platinum in Italy and won her two prizes: Targa Tenco and PIM (Premio Italiano della Musica). She was also a special guest on Eros Ramazzotti's European tour. In 1998, the re-release of Pipes and Flowers included a new track, Cure Me, recorded in Venice with British producer Darren Allison.
May 5, 2000 saw the release of Asile's World (Asile being Elisa written backwards). The album took a new turn in terms of musical influences and featured songs produced by Howie B, Roberto Vernetti, Mauro Malavasi and Leo Z.
In September 2000 Elisa recorded her first song in Italian, "Luce (Tramonti a nord est)". The song was initially written in English, but an Italian lyric was written in collaboration with fellow singer Zucchero. The song was performed at the 2001 Sanremo Festival supported by the Solis String Quartet, and won her the Critics' Award, Interpreter of the Year as well as the competition altogether. Both Italian and English versions were later included in a re-release of Asile's World. In November she was awarded three prizes at the Italian Music Awards: Best female artist, Best single (Luce) and Best song, as well as taking home the Best Italian Artist at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2001 in Frankfurt. She also received Premio Italiano della Musica's Best Female Artist and Best Single (Luce).
Third album and international release:
Elisa's third album, Then Comes the Sun was released on November 9, 2001 with Rustici returning as producer. The album saw a return to a more pop/rock sound and went triple platinum. The following year she performed both at the closing of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah singing a jazzy version of the Italian national hymn, and at the 2002 Pavarotti and Friends concert, singing Voglio vivere così (col sole in fronte) with the world famous tenor.
In August 2002 Sugar released an International album simply entitled Elisa. The album is a selection of songs from her first three albums fronted by Come Speak to Me, the original English version of her hit Luce. The single received high rotation on MTV Europe as well as fair airplay and moderate attention in several European countries, but still failed to establish Elisa as an international artist.
Acoustic album and Pearl Days:
In late 2003 Elisa released the album Lotus, an acoustic album featuring new, stripped-down versions of some of her songs as well as a handful of new ones including a cover version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". The album was followed by an extensive acoustic Italian tour as well as a double DVD set consisting of an MTV Supersonic concert and The making of Lotus.
Elisa's fourth studio album Pearl Days was released on October 15 2004. All tracks were produced by Glen Ballard, known for producing Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and tracks for artists such as Anastacia, Michael Jackson, Shakira, Christina Aguilera and The Corrs. The album was more rock-influenced and sported more electric guitars than her earlier records. One of the songs, Life Goes On, was later translated to Italian (Una poesia anche per te) and became the fourth best selling single in Italy in 2005. The single was accompanied by a self-directed video which won the Premio Video Italiano for Best Female Artist. In the summer of 2005, Elisa appeared at the Live 8 concert in Rome alongside Zucchero, Luciano Ligabue and other major Italian artists.
Two non-album singles were released in 2005 and 2006, Swan and Teach Me Again (duet with Tina Turner). Both supported major Italian films, namely Melissa P. and All the Invisible Children (Segment 9: Song Song & Little Cat directed by John Woo). Elisa also performed Luce (Tramonti a nord est) at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Torino.
Compilation albums and live box set:
On November 17, 2006 Soundtrack '96-'06 was released, a collection of hits through her first ten years as a recording artist. The album also contained four new songs; three in Italian and one in English. The album peaked at number 1, was certified diamond and became the third most selling album of 2006 in Italy with more than of 700,000 copies.
A revised edition entitled Caterpillar was released in September 2007, aimed at the International market. Several of the songs had been remixed, rearranged and partly rerecorded and it featured an entirely new cover version of The Rolling Stones Wild Horses.
The box set Soundtrack Live '96-'06 was released on November 23 2007, containing a CD and DVD from a Milan concert during the Soundtrack Live Tour 2007.
In the wake of Elisa's increased popularity due to her song Dancing appearing on So You Think You Can Dance, yet another compilation album appropriately named Dancing was released in the US on July 15 2008. Being the singer's first album to be available in the US, it is recognised as her American debut.
Heart and second acoustic album:
Elisa released her next album, Heart, on November 13, 2009. The first single was Ti Vorrei Sollevare with Giuliano Sangiorgi from Italian rock band Negramaro. The album also contains a collaboration with Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons in the song "Forgiveness". On November 30, 2010 Elisa released Ivy, an album in the same vein as Lotus, featuring 3 new tracks, acoustic versions of her past songs and covers such as Smashing Pumpkins' "1979". The album sold over 60.000 copies in Italy and was further supported by a tour.
In 2012, the song "Love Is Requited", written by Andrea Guerra and Michele von Buren for the soundtrack of Roberto Faenza's film Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You and performed by Elisa, received a Nastro d'Argento for Best Original Song.
On 18 December 2012, her collaboration with Ennio Morricone, "Ancora Qui", was featured on Quentin Tarantino's film, Django Unchained and its soundtrack album.
Elisa and Andrea Rigonat (guitarist and band member) had their first child Emma Cecile on October 22, 2009. The second one, Sebastian, was born on May 20, 2013'.