Right, I always think that those children are teaching souls and they were meant to have a certain impact on people’s lives for a certain amount of time.
That’s a neat way of looking at it, again that’s taking something and being grateful for what it was. That was something that I really had to get my head around for the last couple of years, because I had lost friends when I was really young and it used to freak me out. I lost my cousin, who was just a little bit older than me, and he was raised as my brother in our home. He was always there, and it was really someone who I considered to be my brother, and I really had to find a way to deal with that. That was what I came back to, I was so grateful for the time that he was here, and he lived his life completely, as much as he could for 36 years, more than I’ve seen people do in seventy years, the things that he did, and the love that he had in heart and he gave to people…so I try to look at it in a positive way like you said, that’s a good way of looking at it.
Getting back to the music, I sat in on an interview with Meatloaf once and he said, I am not a singer, I am a vocalist. Do you ever draw those kinds of distinctions personally for yourself? I definitely think you fall into the singer category.
I’ll be whatever anybody wants me to be. I’ll look at the song and someone will write a song for as a vehicle for their voice, and I’ll always use my voice as a vehicle for my song. Often for me, it’s about a song. I do aspire to be a great singer, and there’s a difference between focusing on being a singer or being a vocalist, like he was saying. I love Meatloaf and I can hear what he means by saying that. Like John Lennon, I consider him a vocalist; artist, writer, poet, and I come at it from both angles at different times in my life, so I am a songwriter first and foremost. The other times, I use my voice when it’s feeling really strong, and I technically know how to sing well, properly. I go in and say, “I can sing the hell out of that song.” So it goes back and forth for me, I am not to argue with anybody about how they would see it. I am a singer, if that’s something that you take away from it, and that’s something that you like about it, that’s great! I wouldn’t take that away from anybody, however they view it.
Speaking of great singers, you covered Chris Cornell’s “Someone To Die For” for the Spiderman II soundtrack. What was that like for you? Also working with Brian May, and did Chris let you know his thoughts on the song?
It was great, I got a call from Rick Rubin, we were getting ready to start the last Ours record [Mercy] that we did together, and we started to talk about that. Then he said, “Hey, something came up today, I was in a meeting over the other song Chris Cornell wrote, and Audioslave is already doing a song on the soundtrack so they want somebody else to sing it.” They were talking about getting Eddie Vedder to do it, and Rick said, “There is nobody else to do this song, I have the guy and he is the guy.” He really went out on a limb for me with it, he sent it to me, and I thought that Rick thought that we hadn’t captured on the two Ours records, what he saw in my music or my voice. That we really hadn’t gotten that yet on record. So when I approached this song with just my guitar and voice, he said, “That’s exactly what the way I hear it.” So, we went in with that approached, really it was all revolving around simple music to support the vocal. The process of recording was really great. I was in Rick’s house recording it with one of my heroes, the keyboardist from the band Jellyfish, Roger Manning.
So it was really a surreal time for me. I was in Rick’s house, Roger’s playing the piano, I was playing the guitar and singing, it was one of those moments in time for me, I had to really to just slow the moment down, and say, “Wow, is this really happening?” So we did that. We got the arrangement done, then Rick said, “I was thinking about having Brian May play a solo on this.” I don’t normally like guitar solos, but I like Brian May guitar solos. Rivers Cuomo from Weezer said, “Hey, I would love to do a guitar solo on that.” He’s another one actually, I love his guitar playing, and I thought he would have done a great job as well. We went to Brian May first, and we sent the track to him and Brain said, “Yeah, I would love to do it,” and he sent it back to us. The guitar on it was so cool, that I said, “I have to re-sing this. I have to get it really, really great.” So my approach on the song was… you know Chris’ voice is really edgy and in his recording of it, he sounds like Chris Cornell, so I didn’t want to reproduce what he was doing. So I kept having in my head the whole time, “Just think Stevie Wonder, think Stevie Wonder.” So by the end of it, I was going for those notes, and you know they are really up there, and I could have approached that from a rock standpoint, and when I am going [really high note hitting] That wasn’t in Chris’ version, I made all that up. I made the whole end up, Brian wanted to change the arrangement up, so he changed the arrangement around in the end and put those extra bits up, so I made all the end vocal things and the different harmonies. None of that was in Chris’ version. I feel proud of it, in the sense that we did something unique to our version.
You made it your own.
Yeah, and I felt we captured the song, I am proud of it and it was a great experience, Rick was great to work with on that. It was good, because that showed us that we could work together to do the next record. I wondered what Chris thought, and I run into him here and there at different places, and he’s a weird guy to me for some reason. I don’t know what it is; I don’t know why he looks at me the way that he does? I want to get something back from him, “Like hey man, thanks for doing my song. I really like it.’ Or at least, “Thanks for doing my song.” Unfortunately, nothing of that came. He, just a few times saw me, looked at me, and walked away. I know [Tom] Morello, so often I would run into them and I would be hanging out just rapping with Morello, and Cornell would look at me and keep walking. I don’t know what that was about, and I don’t know if it was a past thing with [Jeff] Buckley or not, but I just feel like…if that is what it is, he doesn’t really fucking know what went on between Jeff and I. Or who I was before there was Jeff Buckley in the world as far as musically. He doesn’t know that I was well on my way and on my path. So some people just get that in their heads and they don’t get past it. It’s their loss, because Jeff actually really liked me. Sorry to break it to you, but he liked me.
I never got a chance to interview Jeff, but interviewing the person who heads the Road Recovery charity, his former tour manager, Gene Bowen; Jeff sounds sort of like your cousin. That they just lived life to his fullest.
Again, I chalk that up to how we were talking about religion. Somebody, the real deal had an idea, and then all these other people around it, trying to protect what they think it was, and not even knowing what that person himself even means or thought. There’s a bunch of people around Jeff that kind of looked at me in an unfair way I think…. I understood it for awhile. I get it, he’s close to you and he meant a lot to you. You tend to want to protect the integrity and the legacy, but I didn’t wakeup, heard him singing and say, “I’m going to sing like that.” I sing the way I sing already, I’ve been singing this way for twenty something years. I don’t know, it would have been nice if Cornell would have said, “Hey man, thanks for doing my song. Thanks for making me a bunch of money.” It would have been nice.
Yeah, well my mom says that there’s only seven faces in the world. So maybe there’s just seven voices as well.
There’s probably some truth to that.
Is there more touring for you in the works, in the near future?
I don’t have a plan just yet. I am going to Europe for a few things. No specific touring plans, other than getting out there and spreading some love. Take it one day at a time, I will be out there playing. I just don’t know what tours or with who right now. I’m just taking a step back and getting the record out. I’ve been on the road for the last ten years, going really hard, not just a few weeks here and a few weeks there. I have been going nonstop when I haven’t been in the studio. I know it’s kind of an odd time to be taking a step back with the record coming out, I just felt like there’s no reason for me to get right on the road just yet. Let’s get the record out, take a few weeks for people to get the record, and I’ll start doing something in the fall.
Since Jeff Buckley came up, the song “I Heard You Singing” on this record, is that for him?
It is about him. What he inspired, it’s about what came as a result of him baring his beautiful soul. I hear him singing everyday in other people, not even him. I see him as an inspiration out there, and that’s what it’s about. I see him in other people and that’s a beautiful thing to see for somebody that likes him and likes his music. To see how much he affected people, that’s so beautiful, so yeah, that’s what that’s about.
The Heart is out now. Jimmy Gnecco performs at Don Hill’s in NYC on Oct. 2.