February 11, 2019 Interview – Jimmy Gnecco of Ours
In music, we find comfort and salvation. Many would say it is the gateway to the soul, unlocking dimensions beyond those of the material world. For over 25 years, New Jersey based Singer-Songwriter Jimmy Gnecco has worked tirelessly, striving for excellence, trying to create the best music he possibly can. Achieving such goals with his uniquely emotional and dramatic singing style, Gnecco has touched the hearts of many with his band Ours, first breaking into the mainstream at the dawn of the new millennium with 2001’s Distorted Lullabies album.
A prelude to what was to come, Ours would continue their own path, releasing 2002’s Precious and 2008’s Mercy (Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy) prior to opting for the independent route. A band which can not be constrained, Gnecco led Ours to a new level with the 2013 album Ballet the Boxer 1, and now after a few years of silence, they returned in late 2018 with New Age Heroine II. The second record in a series of three albums, 2019 should be a big year for Ours with the pending release of Spectacular Light and some epic live performances planned. Inspired by it all, Gnecco recently sat down to talk his evolutionary path as a songwriter, the new music, performing live, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – Last we spoke, in 2013, you had just released Ballet the Boxer 1. Recently putting out the follow-up album New Age Heroine II in late 2018, what has the last 5 years been like for you?
Jimmy Gnecco – I locked myself in the recording studio and just started to work. Not specifically knowing exactly where the songs would end up, but with the intent of recording as many of the 200 songs that I had, as possible. I ended up getting 50 finished. Ten that became the New Age Heroine album, 20 more that we are about to release with the Spectacular Sight album, 10 more that I have given to a young artist that I am working with named Hannah Gernand, and an additional 10 or so that are still undetermined as to where they will end up.
I’ve been working around the clock, writing, engineering, performing, and mixing the tracks. I’ve been putting together a new band for Ours, building that, plus writing, recording, and producing other artists. Between the Ours material and all of these other artists, it looks like 2019 will be a year of lots of output.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it certainly seems like you have a lot going on! You have always been a songwriter who puts the music before anything else. That in mind, what was the writing and recording sessions like this go around for the music that would become New Age Heroine II?
Jimmy Gnecco – I started recording and had some of the heaviest emotional songs that I had ever written. I was feeling very good about them as far as the songs go, but I wasn’t really excited about releasing a record with these kinds of songs at that moment. I had put The Heart (2010) album out not too long before, and I was trying to get back to the spirit of songs that had a lot of energy, and that really got people moving and excited. The only issue was that I kept coming back to these songs and feeling like they were some of the best songs I had ever written or recorded. So, I came up with the idea that I would sit on them, and finish and release the high energy record first.
During the process, my friend who was set to mix the record with me passed away, and I was faced with having to do everything myself. Not having much choice, I jumped in and started to complete the songs and mixes. This took a little bit longer than I would have hoped, but I don’t believe that there would have been any other way. Being that so much time had passed, I decided to release New Age Heroine, which is the second record in a series of three albums. I hoped that this record would find its way into people’s hearts in the most natural of ways. No big hype or machine pushing it, but more by people falling in love with it and recommending it to others and turning them onto it. I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose by doing this, knowing that I was about to unleash such a beast of a record with the upcoming Spectacular Sight.
Cryptic Rock – You certainly do feel the emotion in the music. Listening to New Age Heroine II, it comes across as a heavier record at times than what you have done in recent years. It also is quite somber and delicate at times as well. Looking back, you mentioned in our previous interview you were feeling inspired for a more Rock-n-Roll driven sound with Ballet the Boxer 1 after your experience with the guys in Velvet Revolver. Did that feeling cary over into the sessions for New Age Heroine II?
Jimmy Gnecco – Parts of that definitely carried over into all of these songs, but I also believe that I found more of our own path with them, and created something that is definitely more Ours.
Cryptic Rock – Understood. There is no denying Ours has always had their own sound from album to album. In our previous talk, we touched on the idea of modern records getting into ‘volume wars’ and you certainly steered clear of that with Ballet the Boxer 1. You do it exceptionally well again with New Age Heroine II. How important is it for you to let the music and its subtleties breath freely?
Jimmy Gnecco – It’s a delicate balance between jacking everything up so that people are affected by sonic impact and completely sucking the life out of the actual music and nuance. I feel like I found the balance on New Age Heroine. I am actually in the process of remixing and mastering Ballet the Boxer as well, in hopes to give people a different look at it. Kind of like bringing it into full color. It was important for the story for it to be very crude and have a feeling of adolescence. This was probably shocking for people who are fans because I had made more polished and produced sounding records prior, but this was about the story, so I wanted it to be presented in that way. The new versions will still have dynamics, but they are coming to life in a way that I believe will almost freak people out who had heard them before. Literally like going from black and white into color.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting, it will be exciting to hear that as well. In regards to New Age Heroine II, another aspect that stands out, as always, is your passionate, unique vocals. You have done many live shows and recording sessions through the years. This said, what is the key for you to keep your voice in such great shape?
Jimmy Gnecco – For more than 25 years, I pushed myself and sang like it was the final performance of my life, like the entire world was watching. Like it was the Olympics of live shows. Not just performing, but at times purposely grinding and deteriorating my voice for effect. There is no reason that I should even have a voice anymore to be quite honest, but for some reason, I have given the best vocal performances of my life on these new records. I am very grateful for this, and I’ll take it as a sign that I should keep going, but take care of it.
That being said, over the last few years, I have slightly changed my approach and brought some technical aspect back into my singing. I would compare it to a boxer not just throwing crazy and wild punches. My intent is stronger than ever, and I am putting all of myself into it, but I’ve learned how to not burn out as easily. This is something that I always worked on and had elements of, but I would also get lost in the moment and have complete reckless abandon at times where I pushed so hard, that I wasn’t sure if I would ever sing again. I won’t sing like that anymore, but I will never hold back, if you know what I mean.
Cryptic Rock – Well, the approach has always been one that grabs hold of you – you can feel the emotion in each note. Let’s talk more about the new year, you will actually be releasing another new record later in 2019, entitled Spectacular Light. Tell us about the concept between the album series and what we can expect from Spectacular Light?
Jimmy Gnecco – Spectacular Sight is an album that is built for arenas and stadiums. One that we hope will reach many people, lift them up, and bring the drama and excitement into the space. I’ve tapped back into the spirit of what had moved me to play music in the first place. It hits hard at times, the songs are epic, and it’s a wild journey. Consisting of 20 songs as of now, there is also a wide arc of music on it. It’s our goal to put on a show like Queen, The Doors, U2, The Who, or Depeche Mode, who in my opinion, currently has one of the best live shows out there.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds very exciting. You are also out showcasing new material live with shows through March. This run was scaled back a little. Can we expect some more extensive touring come the later spring and summer months?
Jimmy Gnecco – When the show is ready and where I want it to be, we’ll resurface. As I had mentioned, we want to do it on a large scale. Clubs won’t be the right place for the show, so once we find the proper venues, we will bring the show to the public.
Cryptic Rock – That will be something to keep an eye open for. We talked about your intense singing approach. Looking at you as a songwriter, you have always conveyed a great deal of emotion in each song. What do you think some of the most important things you have learned as a songwriter at this point in your life?
Jimmy Gnecco – The emotion and the melody have always been the most important thing to me. Early on, I enjoyed being kind of vague as far as the lyrics go, and then having a few really strong direct words that got through. Over the last bunch of years, I have cut back on the abstract side of lyrics, and I have gotten way more direct, but I’ve pushed myself to dig deeper emotionally, and perspective wise so that even in being direct, hopefully it runs deep. Then, I worked some poetry into the feeling of it all. I learned that being sarcastic isn’t great because not everyone gets it and sometimes, I can’t afford for a lyric to be taken the wrong way.
I used to get off on people not understanding me because I felt like it made me more exciting of a person to be unpredictable… but, I don’t think that this is a good thing with certain lyrics. I don’t like being shocking for the sake of it. That shit is just boring to me. I am also disappointed about how sensitive everything has gotten though, and how careful we have to be or else someone somewhere gets seriously offended. I just think that we lose great art that way, and I don’t think that people should always be so overly sensitive about certain things. That doesn’t excuse any wrong doings, violence, or spewing hate, but if we get to the point where every single word is such a hot button, I think art, comedy, and music will all be super boring. I actually don’t think we are all that far from that currently.
Another thing is the groove. I never wanted to write a song in the past that got people just because of the groove. That was how I felt then. Just seemed cheap to me… but again, I think that the groove is incredibly important to making something feel amazing if all of the pieces are right. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any lyrical substance and rely solely on the drum groove, but this time I feel I learned how to find a balance that can get people up and moving and still have the lyrical and musical integrity.
So many have done it well. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Bowie, The Doors, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, U2, INXS, Prince, Michael Jackson, and so on. I was excited to get to that place this time. Rhythm section has to be slamming!
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you are really invigorated and that is fantastic! You also raise some extremely valuable thought-provoking points as well. Speaking of some of the great artists you just mentioned, you had previously mentioned that your musical influences are pretty diverse. Tell us, are there any new artists you are digging lately?
Jimmy Gnecco – I really loved the big Dua Lipa single. I think the Arctic Monkeys are great, not that they are so new. Noel and Liam Gallagher’s newer records have been in rotation, as well as Richard Ashcroft’s. My friends Reeve and Zane Carney have made records that I love. Also Royston Langdon and my friend Citizen Cope. Not new artists, but new music. I was really enjoying Lana Del Rey’s work for a bit too, but sometimes all good things must come to an end.
Cryptic Rock – Good selections! It is always fun to discover new music, whether it be from a new artist or an elder one. Last question. You had mentioned you were not necessarily into gory Horror films, but you appreciated ones that make you think more. Have you seen any new Horror or Sci-Fi films you enjoyed? If not, maybe discovered something older?
Jimmy Gnecco – I watched The Shining (1980) a bunch of times over the last couple of years. All work and no play… great! I also got into a bunch of the American Horror Story seasons too. I loved Jessica Lange in them. So good!