Interview with Jimmy Gnecco: The Heart and Soul

The Heart is the ethereally beautiful solo record from the frontman and founder of underground favorites Ours. Jimmy Gnecco has turned his soul inside out, and wonderfully decorated it for all to see with this effort that vocally sets a pretty high bar as far as range, warmth and credibility. Jimmy played a New York record release on July 20 at the Cooper Square Hotel, a venue which befitted the panorama that The Heart offers. “It was this penthouse in this hotel. The elevator opened up to this room that was all windows, and so you could see the whole city…it looked so beautiful from up there. It was one of those places that not many of us get access to in life,” states the lean, heavily tattooed figure whose huge voice seems impossibly housed in his slim frame.

“I Heard You Singing” feels like a handshake that stretches from beyond the grave to Jeff Buckley, and “It’s Only Love” is delicately pristine in its simplicity and “Bring You Home” smolders with a determined conviction that few can achieve with just a guitar and vocals.

In short, the canopy that Jimmy hangs in this record is so vast and deep that you could lose or find yourself in it, whichever you deem fit.

How long did it take you to put this record together?

It wasn’t that long. I recorded for two weeks in February, then we went on the road, and then I finished it up pretty much in June. So about six weeks, then we did a couple of mixes, so all in all, it took about eight weeks. Some of the songs were building up over time, and then I hit record, and I wrote more songs, and they came quickly, the songs that I wrote.

The recording process wasn’t as long as they had been in the past for me. The technical aspect was really easy and pain-free; the painful part this time was just going through the songs emotionally. Recording them was really easy. For the first two records that I did with Ours, I had most of the parts written in my head or had demoed them out, and I spent a lot of time teaching them to other people in hopes that other people can play them on the record so that it didn’t all come from me, because I wanted it to not feel that way. That just took so long trying to explain…you could spend six months just trying to get somebody to understand a part, whereas I could just play a part that comes to me and record it myself.

I was trying to not do that. I started to do with Distorted Lullabies, I was like, “You know what? There’s no other way. I have to play it myself.” This record was all that, so in that sense it was really easy. Often it was one or two takes and I would get the part. I need to go put drums on this; I’d go do it. Or this song needs strings, so I just went and did that. So in that sense it was kind of painless for me. The label supported me just making the record on my own, so there wasn’t any struggles like in the past; there were so many struggles. You could talk about a record for six months before you actually go and do it.

In the past, the labels….it was a really an unnatural process, they just wanted to talk about it, and really nail down what it was going to be before they give you that kind of money. Luckily, this time the label trusted me, they gave me the money and I promised that I would deliver an honest heartfelt record that sonically stands up to any other record. They trusted me to do that and that’s what I delivered, and so in that sense, it was a really good process.

What was the emotionally painfully part for you?

The songs that I had written before I went in, I had got from losing people… a few people close to me. Then just life circumstances, and then shortly before starting the record, I found out that my mom was dying. That definitely took over a lot of the songs from there on out. I had problems recalling my childhood growing up. I started taking note of where I was at that time as a result of my relationship with my mom and the journey. I would say that it kind of dominates the record a bit. It’s pretty present in the record, whether I was thinking about something that made me sad or I was really grateful for. You know looking around and being grateful for the time that I did have, and the appreciation of our relationship and not having any regrets about it. Also singing what I hope for my mother… to have inner peace on a spiritual level and for her to move on.

That’s very moving, and that’s what is really moving about art, taking something that is devastating and making it beautiful.

I tried to stay positive with it, because you have to keep going on. You have to go through it, so you have to find a way to move on and not be angry about it, or resentful. That’s what I learned as she got closer and closer to dying, that we were in a pretty good place with each other. I tried to do that, I tried to make something positive from the experience, and at the end of the day…my mom had cancer, so when you have something like that where you don’t go right away, you get a chance to say a bunch of things and make peace with everybody compared to your life ending tragically.

So it’s an amazing gift in one sense, some people can look at that and say, “That’s horrible.” The time that we had with her when we found out that she was sick and dying, that time was an amazing ability to make amends with her, not with her and I, but other people in life. I was happy for her, so I tried to focus on that. It really helped me emotionally to have the music to put my feelings into; it didn’t hit me really, truthfully till I was finished with the record. The emotions of it, because I was writing about it right as I was going through them, and then once the whole whirlwind was over and the record was done and my mom passed away, everything hit me. So it’s good to have something positive to come out of it. As I was playing last night, I was starting to get a little upset as I was singing, and I thought, “Maybe I should have made a record that I could emotionally get through.” Then I thought, “Well, why I want to do that?”

How was the reaction to the live set?

It was really special. The record was only out for that afternoon, I think a couple of people got it early because they ordered a deluxe package and the record came early. Just to see and hear how it was making people feel…I didn’t have any expectations for this record, you grow up and you’re working towards goals and say, “When we accomplish this, everything is going to be better.” But that way you don’t really appreciate the journey of getting there. So I enjoyed the ride of make the record, of making a song, so once that happened, I hadn’t expectations of, “Oh this record, is going to sell a lot, its going to make me money.” You can hope it’s successful and it gives you the ability to keep making music, for me at least that’s all I really ever want. The main thing is that it’s going to make people feel good. To me, that’s all I’ll hope for. To see that it’s already doing that, I feel really happy with it.

That’s a huge lesson for everyone to learn, to enjoy the journey. Just to focus on the songs a little more, “It’s Only Love,” is my favorite on the record.

That came towards pretty much towards the end of the record. It starts off like a church hymn, being raised as a Catholic, there’s something in that that gave me that feeling and the words came really quickly. It’s very specifically about my mom. It’s hard for me to get through, but again hopefully, it brings people some peace for whatever reason they might relate to it. I am happy that you like it, because that makes me feel good about putting it on the record. I almost didn’t, because there were so many songs already and I like 9, 10 song records. A few almost didn’t make it on, that was one and “Days” was another. Then, I thought, “I need to put that song on the record, because if I don’t, then where is it going to go?” It’s a really simple song; all of it is simple arrangements. There’s nothing new or groundbreaking, it’s just a simple song that was resonating with me for simple reasons, and I am glad I put it on.

It just feels like a very honest record. Are you still Catholic?

My aunt is a nun, we were raised that way. I don’t practice any specific religion, there are a lot of good things in each religion, and there are a lot of things that become twisted and people can start judging others for thinking differently. Buddhism resonates a lot with me, I don’t practice it, but as the years went on, that for some reason made the most sense to me. Doing research and what I felt in my stomach, but I believe in a higher power. I didn’t know for a while if I believed that God is just the earth, we came from it, we have to respect it and there’s a bond. The laws are respecting that and respecting one another. I think everything gets watered down, gets misinterpreted, and gets into the hands of the wrong people. But, I do believe in karma above and beyond everything. I don’t necessarily believe that there is a purpose for everything. I don’t necessarily believe that. I believe what we were talking about before, that you can take something [positive] from a bad experience, if you chose to. I think sometimes when they say, “God has a plan,” how can they say that when 8-year-old children are stricken with diseases or 5 year-old children are being taken from us? I don’t know, I don’t know if any of us know.