I first became aware of Jimmy Gnecco and his band Ours in 2001, when their single “Sometimes” aired endlessly on MTV2. Jimmy, as vocalist and songwriter of Ours, was captivating to both listen to and watch, initially reminding many in the press of Jimmy’s old friend Jeff Buckley. Even though Ours was given some of the tools needed to make it big—e.g. they were signed by the same A&R guy as Pearl Jam (Michael Goldstone), produced by U2‘s former producer (Steve Lillywhite) and toured alongside The Cult, Pete Yorn and Ocean Colour Scene—the hits didn’t come as anticipated. In fact, it was four years between Ours’ signing to Dreamworks and the release of 2001’s “Distorted Lullabies.”
Jimmy—a lifelong resident of New Jersey—remained in the big leagues for another album with Dreamworks (2002’s “Precious”) and then one with American Recordings (2008’s “Mercy (Dancing For The Death Of An Imaginary Enemy)”). More big tours happened alongside The Wallflowers and Marilyn Manson. Music was placed in high-profile slots for “CSI” and “NCIS.” For one reason or another, “it” still didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.
Not one to sit around and just wait for things to happen, Jimmy began to take more of a DIY direction after “Mercy.” He released his first solo album, “The Heart,” through indie label Bright Antenna in 2010. Ours put out a self-released and self-produced album titled “Ballet The Boxer” in 2013. Meanwhile, there have been famous friends (and fans) like A-Ha (a one-hit wonder in the U.S., yet a stadium-playing band everywhere else since the 1980s), Rick Rubin (who produced “Mercy”), Lana Del Rey, and Paramore helping out along the way. On a different wavelength in the recent past, Jimmy has also been in talks to be part of a new band with former Guns N’ Roses band members Duff McKagan, Slash and Matt Sorum.
Jimmy kindly took the time to answer some questions about the past, present and future of Ours. The part about what more people should know about him is absolutely stellar, since many listeners of Ours’ music likely assume Jimmy to be brooding 24/7.
hMAG: For long-time fans of Ours, what’s to be expected from your upcoming show at Maxwell’s?
Jimmy Gnecco: We’ll be doing an energetic set of Ours songs, and then we’ll have some of the kids join us to play a few classic cover songs. Our friend Nick Perri, formerly of Silvertide and Satellite Party, has a new band called Mount Holly and they will on the bill as well. Plus ,we have a young up-and-coming band that I work with called Silent Return doing a set of new songs. It should be a great night of music and energy.
H: You played Maxwell’s shortly before it closed, and are now one of the first national artists to play since it re-opened as Maxwell’s Tavern. What is it about Maxwell’s that keeps you coming back?
J: I haven’t been there since it has re-opened, but we always loved Maxwell’s. The electric energy of Hoboken in the summertime is bringing us back around this time. We’re also curious to see what the venue is like now.
H: Being a life-long New Jersey resident, what is it that keeps you here?
J: Family and friends mostly. We live about five miles outside of the greatest city on Earth as well. Tough to leave that for long periods of time.
H: Do you have a favorite restaurant or spot in Hoboken to hang out?
J: Maxwell’s was always the spot.
H: How did you first get involved with The School Of Rock?
J: I got involved in the school in 2008 when we were looking for a place for our daughter to learn the piano. She fell in love with the school, and my now friend Andy took her in under his wing there. I have been spending my time giving back since.
H: A few years back, there were rumors buzzing about you forming a new band with members of Velvet Revolver. Was that blown out of proportion? Or did some jamming happen?
J: That was kind of accurate. I had jammed with them and then we spoke about the possibility of it all. Slash was really starting to get busy with his solo records though, so it kind of just went away. I talk with Duff about doing things here and there, and I remain open to trying something out if it’s meant to be. I wanted to spend some quality time together, get to know each other, and see if great music started to happen. I wasn’t going to just jump in and try to replace two very charismatic frontmen like Axl [Rose] or [Scott] Weiland. It would have to be about great songs, and a chemistry that we were all feeling. There have been a few moments like these in the past, but I was always busy, however I took a little bit of a break from Ours over the last few years and it gave me some time to experiment with different people on some projects. I’ve been having fun.
H: There are a lot of well-known musicians in the Ours fanbase. Why do you think that is?
J: I can’t say for certain. I’ve always just tried to make honest, passionate music. I am still a music fan myself, and I don’t have any problem saying how much I love other artists and their work, so it makes me happy to hear that other musicians enjoy what we do.
H: You put out your first solo album about five years ago, yet most people perceive Ours to be essentially be the work of Jimmy Gnecco. How does working under your own name compare to recording as Ours?
J: With Ours, I have a team of people who believe in my songs or ideas to start with. I bring a bunch of ideas to the table that I can actually finish on my own, but I open them up to my team. Then they enhance them with their contributions. No matter how big or small they may be, we become a team working together towards a common goal. The solo record that I made was just me playing and recording everything. They were there cheering me on, but I would just complete everything. It needed to be entirely that way for me to feel good about calling it a solo record. I guess, once I open up the conversation about the music to the others, it becomes an Ours record. There are certain songs that tend to feel more like Ours songs as well. Songs where the sonic landscape feels more grand and the subject matter is slightly less personal to my life tend to be put in the Ours pile with the hundreds of others.
H: In terms of recording, what’s ahead for Ours?
J: We are about to record another record. I’m just starting to get everyone acquainted with the songs now.
H: Might we ever see more output from [your side project] Weathervane? Or any further collaboration with Paul [Waaktaar-Savoy] from A-Ha?
J: I love Paul, I’ve always loved A-Ha, and I had a blast doing that track with him. I don’t know what the future holds for us with that, but I personally wouldn’t say never.
H: Not a lot is known about you beyond the music. Is there something you wish more people knew?
J: Hmm, well there may be a few things…
I am not as tortured as many may think. “Distorted Lullabies” was me looking at the world and making some notes, as well as raising some questions. I tend to take on other people’s pain in an effort to make them feel better if possible. I am not a fan of social media, however I love people and I don’t want to lose faith in humanity.
I didn’t date Lana Del Rey, though I absolutely adore her. I wasn’t Jeff Buckley‘s roadie, though I adored him as well. I was already a singer with an established style and fan base by the time his first record came out. I am not in Muse.
My children have always come before anything else in my life. I am not against marriage. Just the lawyers that come along with it.
I love to dance, and I was once a BMX champion.
I have a great family, and friends that I have had for most of my life. I look forward to what’s around the corner as much as I am concerned about our current state of affairs. Racism continues to break my heart, and back in 1997 I wrote a song about what I believe Bruce Jenner and many others have been going through for years back. It became one of the reasons why the label didn’t want to put out “Distorted Lullabies,” but I fought them for almost four years, and the record came out. Big strong men getting in touch with their feelings all over the world sing the song back to me, and after all of these years, I finally feel like I accomplished something.
H: Finally, Jimmy, any last words for the kids?
J: Be strong, have integrity, love with all of your heart. Enjoy the ride, because it goes by fast…