Interview with Jimmy Gnecco
Jimmy Gnecco "The Heart" - by Mel in Toronto
A perfectly controlled and outstanding falsetto, a beautiful voice that can burst out into passionate screams, a voice that is so powerful and has such a wide range that it in itself sounds like a symphony, these are the attributes that Jimmy Gnecco's voice is known for and loved. Today, the lead singer of alternative rock band Ours releases his debut solo album The Heart.'
The name of the album sums up what Jimmy Gnecco intended to do with his first solo album: "I just wrote exactly how I was feeling and it came completely and entirely from my heart," Jimmy says while on the phone from his New Jersey home. The cover of the album shows a shirtless, tattooed Jimmy Gnecco looking straight into the camera. "I wanted [the cover] to be as pure as it could be," Jimmy continues. The name and the cover of the CD are a very good indication of what listeners are in for - a very honest record.
Earlier this year, Jimmy played a solo show in Toronto, which was well attended and the new material was very well received. One of the outstanding songs was the title track THE HEART, where Jimmy asked the audience to clap along, which the crowd willingly did throughout the entire song. Jimmy says he "wanted to create something where the audience can participate with me when I play."
The first release of the album is the song BRING YOU HOME, for which a video was released last week. In the video, you see Jimmy Gnecco singing alone at first, but then seemingly random lights turn on and lots of people appear behind Jimmy, clapping to the rhythm. When asked about the video, Jimmy says that it was his idea to have "somebody feeling alone and nobody understanding them; [someone] who is completely isolated and then realizing that as you put on the light' which is a metaphor for once you start to give love, you start to get it back. Realizing I had it wrong, there are really good people out there who really genuinely love me and that was the message with the video." The second song of the album that a video was made for is MYSTERY.
The future looks bright for Jimmy Gnecco. He has got quite a few projects on the go, such as his band Ours, his solo music, including a possible collaboration with Canadian musician Daniel Victor: "We are talking about doing some different things together, not sure when," Jimmy says.
Jimmy Gnecco will be touring to support the album and will probably have a band with him for most of them. For fans in Europe, he will likely be back in the UK in August and to other European countries in October. In Canada, he hopes to be back in the fall. Check out his website for tour dates.
Another project Jimmy Gnecco and his band Ours were involved in was with the School of Rock, which offers music education for kids. "I was just happy to help the kids, I've always been excited by people who are excited about music themselves. If there is anything I can do to help, I'm usually pretty supportive of it. I started doing some shows here and there with the kids. They learn some of my songs, and some different songs. They do different ensembles, so for a few months they were working on David Bowie or Radiohead ensemble, or Beatles. I started to help out with those as well," Jimmy says. "It's exciting to see the kids grow and discover music and really flourish, it's inspiring, you learn something from them everyday. The thing is trying to encourage the kids and not ever teach them that this is the way to do it. Encourage what they already have going and try to maximize it."
"In your own words" – ONE on ONE with Mel and Jimmy
Mel: Why did you name your album "The Heart"?
Jimmy: In the past with the Ours records, I was writing songs from my heart, but sometimes I would disguise them with metaphors or poetry. And this time, it was completely how I was feeling rather than try to turn it into poetry or paint a picture of how I was feeling with descriptive words or metaphors. I just wrote exactly how I was feeling and it came completely and entirely from my heart. I just figured it made sense.
Mel: Looking at the cover which you have for the album, it also looks very intimate and personal, like you are not hiding anything. Did you choose this cover to go with the theme of the album?
Jimmy: I did. I felt that it was important, if there was going to be a picture of me, I did not want it to be about any clothes that I was wearing, or fashion or anything like that, I wanted it to be as pure as it could be. There is a certain kind of innocence and purity that we have as children and born as babies. I wanted to maintain that kind of theme.
Mel: Some of the songs that are going to be on the album you already performed with Ours, for example "I heard you singing," how did you decide which songs are going to be on your solo album?
Jimmy: Ours songs would be songs where the contributions from the other people in the band made the songs different than they would be on my own. These are songs where I couldn't hear any counter melody or counter parts, everything that was recorded for these songs was the supportive part and a part that made it sound bigger, but it didn't change the sound of it. I tried to pick the songs that had this kind of vision..
Mel: The title track of the record "The Heart" has a great dynamic. This song especially stood out to me during your live performance in Toronto, as you invited people to clap along and be part of the song. Could you please talk about this song?
Jimmy: The Heart is the one song, oddly enough, that I would name the record after. It's kind of a contradiction of what I just said of being completely direct. It is a little vague and creates the feeling of I don't know what he is saying or what it is about.' There is a moment in the middle of the song where I really spell it out and say here it is [starts singing] "there will be days, when you struggle to say." Just saying that I am having a rough time putting into words what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling. That's why I try to create this vagueness and confusion in the beginning of the song. Then it really focuses up, so that is what this song is about. The feeling of it, I wanted to create something where the audience can participate with me when I play. There are a few songs on the record that way that are kind of about the audience participation.
Mel: Could you please talk about the song "Rest Your Soul"?
Jimmy: My mother ended up becoming sick and dying during the time when I made this record, but I started to write this song before I found out that she was sick. It was written about her in a sense, and about myself. Just about an uneasy soul more than about somebody dying, finding peace, finding some sort of inner peace. It just ended up really resonating in a different way as the months would go on because I found out that my mom was sick and it was really a song dear to my heart. Originally it didn't start up being about her, I lost my cousin a couple of years ago who was raised in my family. He was like my older brother, I was really close with him. I also lost another close friend of mine, a couple of years before that. I just couldn't stop thinking about them so it was kind of originally inspired by that feeling of thinking about them, thinking about how I felt about it. In a lot of my songs, often it's not about one thing, it's about a couple of things that make their way into the song.
Mel: You have a lot on the go: Ours, your solo album, but one of your other projects was to produce an album with Canadian artists Jay Sparrow. I listened to it and I think it's a really well produced album. How was this experience like?
Jimmy: Thanks, obviously his music is very different than our stuff. And it should be, because he is different than we are. It wasn't my intention to make him sound like us. That's not how I would approach producing anybody. I would really hear who they are, what they want to do, and then go from there. I had a great time doing that record and I think they are a great bunch of songs, and I think we got great versions of them. That's always the trick, making sure that you get a great recorded version of a great song. He did a great job with the songs and he sang really well. I didn't do any singing on the record, purposely, it wasn't one of those things where he had me come in to sing, I think he knew about the way that I work and just the level of commitment that I have for a project. I think it was more from that angle, than it was for me coming in as a singer. We really worked hard on the basic tracks, he did a great job. He really rose to the occasion, I'm really happy with it and I'm really proud of him.
Mel: And you played some instruments on the album as well.
Jimmy: Yes, I played drums, I played electric guitar, and acoustic guitar, some piano, and percussion.
Mel: Do you see yourself doing more producing in the future?
Jimmy: I'd like to. If anybody is as gutsy as Jay was to let me get in there, then I'd love to do it.
Mel: If you could record a song with any artist in the world (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Jimmy: Uh, there are lots of those. I'd love to sing with Elvis, he always had those great background singers, I'd love to do something with Jim Morrison. Now, unfortunately I can say the late Michael Jackson, I always loved him. Alive: I'd love to do something with KD Lang and Fiona Apple. I think something about both of those would really work. Also Bjork, I'd love to do something with her. There are so many, I could go on.
Mel: You started doing music at an early age, right? Did you take lessons?
Jimmy: Yes, I started really young and I did take a handful of lessons. There are a couple of people I would go to for a lesson here and there. I was about sixteen, I started to study with a woman in New York City. Just a handful of lessons from her really set me on my way. It was not something that I did religiously. I didn't go every weekend and have that kind of structure. No formal training just picking things up from people here and there for the most part, with the exception of a handful of real lessons, like I said from this woman that really sculpt it. And then, I would take the little bit that I learned and applied it to what I was doing with my band and I kind of learned that way. I did learn some basic things about breathing, and singing properly so that I would not lose my voice.
Mel: You use your voice incredibly, so I bet you take good care of your voice.
Jimmy: I do my best. It's a full time job taking care of it.
July 20, 2010 by Mel in Toronto [Melanie Schade]
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