|“It’s being beat down. The challenges in our society…coming back and finding the strength to fight again but without becoming a monster in order to survive in a world full of monsters.” That’s how Jimmy Gnecco describes his latest creation.
In 2013 a successful Pledge Music campaign resulted in the album Ballet The Boxer, 1 (One of 2013’s 5 Albums You May Have Missed). As album titles go, it’s ambiguous at best. It connotes fighting for a more graceful way to exist and survive without the constant fight: physically or emotionally, as nations, as people. It’s a striking record, no pun intended.
However Jimmy Gnecco, the mastermind of that record and its title: not so ambiguous. The New Jersey native is a clear thinker, straight speaker and a captive of the human emotions which he translates via one of the more stunning and flexible voices in rock today. It’s entirely possible that you may be unfamiliar with this beautiful creature despite his very devoted following, despite his 20 years of music making, despite recording the track “Someone To Die For” with Brian May for the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, despite seven acclaimed albums (solo and with his band) and despite fronting the seminal rock outfit, OURS, with that emotive and soulful voice that can crush an octave until it weeps.
If for no other reason than the pure love of this thing called music, the art of vocal craft or how a great rock song gets beneath your skin, it’s in one’s best musical interest to dig into where his music has been and where it’s going. As a lyricist he is particularly gifted due to often being painfully acute in diagnosing what ails us. Always present have been personal and professional challenges; so life goes, and sourcing the pain and the pleasure has always been the genesis of transparent art. It’s just what he does. “There’s no real formula except what I’ve always tried to have present in the music is that human connection.” Jimmy explains. “The questions that we have, the things that we wonder about. The things that we hope for, the things that we are afraid of. Emotional. It’s very honest. It’s never, ever coming from a stand point of thinking what’s popular.”
Ballet… was of careful design. “When we put the record together, each song we loved for a certain reason because they served a certain part of the story. Without one, another might not mean as much.” The record is also as prime an example as any of emotional and honest- along with exceptional- alternative rock, as well as Jimmy’s command of fleshing out the beautiful and the ugly alongside the intense and the delicate. There’s always an elegant juxtaposition of light and the dark in the songs. “It’s just a natural thing that exists. For every way of looking at something in a beautiful way there’s another way of looking at it.” And Jimmy keenly focused on expressing both of those aspects on Ballet…, which he calls an album of two halves. “The first part of the record is supposed to make people feel that disconnect, discomfort at times. Almost this vindictive feeling. “Coming For You” is antagonistic: I’m coming for you, motherfucker, you better watch yourself.” Let’s be honest: sometimes you just want to swing at whatever is pushing you around. Only to have the second half of the album grasp at and for resolve with the dualistic “Fall Into My Hands.”
“On the surface there’s this thing that’s very beautiful: if you’ve lost hope, I’m here. You can fall back and I’ll catch you.” Yet there’s just as much shadow play at work: “It’s kind of speaking from a devil’s point of view. If you waste the opportunity you’ve been given to make it a meaningful life full of love, you can choose to have it in your life, love and all this beauty or you can throw it all away and fall into my hands.”
Although Jimmy admits, “There are some songs on this record that don’t get resolved and won’t get resolved until the next record.” File that away as something to look forward to.
Yes, that’s David Carradine in what would be his final performance.
Musicians have various motivations for diving into their craft: fame, money, awards, tigers on a gold leash, an entourage, a house in the Hollywood Hills. Jimmy’s is a little off that beaten path and, again, wanders into the realm of connection. “Genuine conversations with people that were genuinely moved- I love that and I will always love that. It’s a very romantic idea to me, to sit in my bedroom or the car and I write a song, and these are your inner thoughts. You’re putting them down, put it on a record and you send it out to the world. It’s like sending out a note in a bottle and you always wonder who it’s going to reach. So when the music reaches people you want to know who it’s reached and how it’s affected them.” And standing on a stage feeding an audience powerful sound feeds him. A receptive listener open to being touched touches him and reinforces a very simple tenet.
“I have hope in people. You go out and somebody’s riding up your ass in your car and running you off the road, screaming at you and you get razzled, you wanna strangle somebody. And then you go away and you’re like ‘I can’t lose hope in people.’ You still have this love, ultimately it comes back to wanting to love, wanting to be loved.”
And there is the fragile ballet that the boxer in us all has to dance.