Born in 1977 outside of Monfalcone, Italian singer Elisa Toffoli's first steps into the music world came through dance, but it was singing that captured her heart and brought out her natural talents. Elisa grew up with a love for music spending hours of her childhood singing along with recordings by a wide diversity of artists such as Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitney Houston, Liza Minnelli, Otis Redding, and Madonna. Later, still not even in her teens, Elisa went from singing with recordings to taking guitar lessons so she could accompany herself and then began writing songs. At 14 she became a member of a blues and rock band called Seven Roads. The "Seven" came from the fact that there were seven members. Elisa graduated from Seven Roads into singing for cover bands to gain more experience and pay. When she was 16, she joined a big band, the Blue Swing Orchestra.
In 1994, Elisa, with the help of a family friend, finished her first demo. That demo made it to Sugar Records. A year later Elisa was in San Francisco, recording her first single for the well-known producer Corrado Rustici; the single carried two tracks, "Inside a Flower" and "So Delicate So Pure." In 1997, Elisa recorded her debut full-length album, Pipes & Flowers, which went double platinum. A number of the tracks were made into music videos, including "A Feast for Me" and "Labyrinth." Some of the reviews the album received compared Elisa's work to that of Alanis Morissette and Björk. Elisa was named as one of the best new artists for 1997 by the Italian Music Award Show. She also won the Premio Tenco Award in 1998 for best debut album.
In 2000, she completed her sophomore album, Asile's World -- it performed well on the charts, but she soon earned much more fame when she finished first at Sanremo in 2001 with the single "Luce (Tramonti a Nord Est)." The album Then Comes the Sun, released that same year, didn't include "Luce," but it did include one of her best-known songs, "Dancing." (The song was later used by the television dance show So You Think You Can Dance.) Lotus became her highest-charting album upon release in 2003, despite an eccentric concept; recorded live, it featured new versions of her previous hits as well as several covers, including Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale."
Her hard-rocking follow-up, Pearl Days, debuted at number two in Italy when it was released in 2004, paving the way for her hits compilation Soundtrack '96-'06. Another collection, this one aimed at an international audience, followed in 2007, led by the single "Stay." Elisa's sixth studio album, 2009's Heart, became her first number one hit in Italy; it featured the single "Ti Vorrei Sollevare" (featuring Giuliano Sangiorgi) as well as a cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" and a duet with Antony Hegarty on the song "Forgiveness." Within a year, Elisa had released another album, Ivy. An acoustic set, it included three new songs alongside covers and reworkings of her previous hits (in similar company with Lotus).
L'Anima Vola, released in September 2013, became Elisa's first number one hit in Italy; it was also her first album to include only songs in Italian. It charted for over 18 months and reeled off many singles, including the title track, "Ecco Che," "Un Filo di Seta Negli Abissi," and "Pagina Bianca." One of its famous tracks wasn't even a single; "Ancora Qui" was recorded with Ennio Morricone for an appearance on the soundtrack for Django Unchained. ~ Charlotte Dillon