Italian jazz-soul vocalist Mario Biondi was born of artistic stock in the Sicilian city of Catania. His great grandfather was a respected painter, his grandmother a singer, and his father a popular songwriter. Biondi sang throughout his childhood, first performing in public at age 12 in church, and soon singing in public squares before hundreds of people. From there he competed in the Festival della Canzone Siciliana, taking third place. Biondi's musical pursuits earned him the opportunity to perform alongside such Italian vocal greats as Califano, Bongusto, and Fiorello, as well as American legend Ray Charles. As word of his talent and skill got out, Biondi found himself collaborating with groups like the Change, Mario Brothers, and Funky Company on recordings and tours. Given his powerful and unique voice, it was not long before Biondi was encouraged to pursue a solo career. Featuring material inspired by American R&B artists like Lou Rawls, Luther Vandross, and Donny Hathaway, Biondi's debut record was released in 2006 on the boutique label Family Affair. Handful of Soul featured the single "This Is What You Are," which went immediately into heavy rotation throughout Italy and the U.K. A year later Biondi performed the song at the important Sanremo Festival in Italy, bolstering the record's popularity and helping to push it into Billboard's European Top 100 chart. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez, Rovi