Kenny Greco Goes It Alone on New Album

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “This is the record I’ve always wanted to make,” Kenny Greco says.

The Youngstown-based artist’s latest album – his fourth – stays true to his blue-collar singer-songwriter style.

But Greco feels like he nailed it this time. The self-titled album came out in August and is available on all online platforms.

Just about every sound on the new record was made by Greco, except for some background vocals here and there by Candace Campana and Pete Drivere, who produced the album at his Ampreon Recorder studio.

“It was a DIY project,” Greco says. “Everything else you hear is me – guitars, keyboards, piano, bass guitar and percussion.”

Greco wrote nine of the 11 songs.

Although he rarely performs gigs – and has no record release show scheduled at this time – music has always been Greco’s passion. With a heartland style that is somewhere between folk and Springsteen, Greco’s lyrics can stir a visceral reaction because of their honesty.

“Songwriting is where I take the most pride,” he says.

Greco, who is the owner of Southside Recycling in Youngstown, discussed his new album in this question-and-answer exchange:

Q. You have talked about needing to get these songs out into the world, and you did them almost entirely by yourself, dubbing in multiple guitar parts, piano, vocals and harmonica. Can you expound on your motivation in writing and recording these songs?

A. The older I get, the more of a rush there seems to be on not just projects like this but on everything we do in this life. Writing a song is as close as one comes to immortality. They will be here long after I’m gone, so I better get it all out now.

This is the record I always wanted to make. No vast production, no massive layers of instruments … just me and a guitar and a piano. [Which is] how it started all those years ago.

The cover of Kenny Greco’s new self-titled album.

Q. There is some regret expressed in these songs. You seem to be looking back on life – either your own or that of the characters you create. There is a theme of reflection and then changing course for the future. Are you taking stock of life?

A. There definitely is an undercurrent of that on this record, especially with the newer songs I wrote. But it’s not a look back at what I missed as much as it is an appreciation for where I’m at … and that I made it so far, mistakes and all.

Two of the songs, “Father’s Day” and “Spared,” are not part of my personal experience, and that is my favorite part of being a writer. I get to put myself into someone else’s shoes and write about it, and sometimes by doing that I get the best material because I’m not as sensitive to the writing or making it too specific to me. I’m almost writing a movie or a play. I guess it’s writing without personal limitations.

Q. There are two covers on this album: Cher’s “We All Sleep Alone” and Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” The first one seems to be an unlikely choice, but it fits well with the theme of the album. Why did you select these two songs to cover?

A. Most people would be shocked with me doing a Cher song. But I’m not a fan of one style of music; I’m a fan of music, and I’ve always loved that song and I’ve played it live for years and found a way to make it my own.

‘In Your Eyes’ is different, as it’s not only one of my favorite songs of all time, but it’s a lot of people’s favorite song as well. So I wanted to really hit it out of the park. I had to make it my own but keep enough of the original so people can still recognize it. I worked more hours on that song than any other one on the record to do it the justice it deserves.

Q. There are quite a few examples of studio magic on this album: The acoustic picking in the interlude of “We All Sleep Alone”; the mounting strings and mournful harmonica in “One Step Away”; the soulful and bittersweet electric guitar outro on “See You Down the Road.” Can you elaborate on your writing and recording process?

A. There were two phases to recording these songs. First, I’d lay down the basic tracks, like percussion and guitar or piano. Then I’d step away for a week or two and really look to find ambient sound to offset the tracks and give them more depth. Then I’d find those parts and layer them on.

The guitar outro on “See You Down the Road” is very special to me. That song is very special to me. I worked on that guitar outro for literally two months, playing it hundreds of times until it was the sonic equivalent of what I was feeling. It’s the only piece of music I ever wrote that puts into notes exactly what I felt inside. Which is songwriting 101, I guess.

Pictured at top: Kenny Greco’s blue-collar rock shines through on his new album.

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