Jimmy Gnecco understands music is meant to be felt as much as heard. The frontman for the atmospheric rock band Ours, Gnecco's songs and performances are consistently lauded for their raw emotion and aching vulnerability. The best way to describe his voice is to quote a male fan at a 2002 Buffalo club concert by Ours: "My heart's breaking." That says it all.
Gnecco returns to Buffalo next Friday on a bill with Our Lady Peace in the Molson Canal Concert series. The free show starts at 5 p.m. Gnecco called in and graciously chatted for more than 30 minutes about his solo disc, his connection with fans and how emotion fuels his songs. (More of the interview can be found at www.buffalonews.com.)
>The connection you make with fans seems very important to you.
They're a part of everything. Going back to when I first named the band Ours, I started to realize that it was not about the group of us in the band as much as it was my relationship with everyone around and noticing that everyone was a part of what the songs were about. My friends, fans, people I would meet and the stories they would tell me -- it started to work its way into the music. It became clear to me that it was a big circle we were all involved in.
>Why was the time right to make your first solo record, "The Heart" (being released July 20)?
We put three records out with the band, and we just felt like people had the wrong idea about us as a band. I don't know if we were marketed incorrectly in the past. We felt that people weren't listening to the music, but might be judging us by our image or other bands we toured with. I wanted to put a record out and change the climate a little bit. I had a ton of songs that were building up over the years, and I just felt like they didn't really lend themselves to the sound of a big band. The songs just felt different than Ours.
>Are you pleased with the results?
I'm very happy with it. It feels very natural to me. I can sit back and listen to it and be proud of it. With that, I take all the good and the bad. When it sounds good, I know I was responsible for it. If it doesn't, I can't point a finger at anybody.
>You were writing the songs during a terrible time in your life. Your mother was very ill and recently died. How did that affect your songwriting?
It was tough. I always had a really great relationship with my mom. Once I had my own children, she was always a big part of their lives. It was difficult for me, because I loved her so much. I got to look back on our lives together. We didn't waste any time. Everyone goes through it, losing their parents. The process affected me in many different ways. I was so, so sad. There were times when I had to leave her and go on the road for a month at a time. She was so young when she died -- she was only 59. I would leave the room and look at her and think it was the last time I would see her.
I couldn't help but write about it because it's such an amazing blessing to be able to have an outlet to write songs. If you don't have that outlet, it just eats away at you. The fans were so gracious and comforting to me. It was a therapy session each day out there on the road. It really helps.
>You have a diary on your Web site where you share inspirational thoughts and feelings with your fans and stress such things as love, patience and positive energy.
It goes across the board with my life. I have a rough time being a part of the social network. I never wanted to be self-serving. I'm not trying to gain followers in the sense of "listen to me, buy my music, send me money." It's a tough balance. I want to keep doing it [making music], but I want to keep it as true and pure as possible. So the diary is just my feelings on a day when I have the strength to hopefully inspire other people to do the same thing.
-- Toni Ruberto