Good! Working on the finishing touches to this album and the music beyond. I feel like I’m preparing to open the Wonka Factory after a blackout. I’ve kept what I’ve been doing very private to give it my maximum focus and attention.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Camera’s On”?
The song was my response to being in a constant state of surveillance in most public and even private spaces. This awareness breeds a feeling of disquiet that can overheat a paranoid mind. The idea of privacy and anonymity these days has really changed and yet many of us turn the cameras on ourselves.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
I think it was just a creeping feeling as I noticed more and more “security” cameras in public spaces. Grappling with a sense of personal space and privacy in a time of mass surveillance is one of many issues we have. It is the ubiquity of lenses everywhere and the way people have just grown accustomed to them.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
It was so great! My director Andrew Aidman had worked with me on my last video “Come Down” and I really liked the way he pulled the shoot and crew together and kept things moving. Plus he got my vision to the screen, no easy feat when you’re making a vampire flick! For the new one, I knew it was going to be more elaborate and involve multiple locations. As the plot came together, I knew that I had to cast Danny Shorago and Chriselda Pacheco as the leads. I’m so glad I did, as they put on a tour de force performance and took things to a higher level. There are some flashback scenes in the video and though you only see them for a quick moment, those were some of the most fun to shoot.
The single comes off your new album Gleams– what’s the story behind the title?
It is the title of one of the songs on the album. The main line in the chorus reads, “The pressure applied forms a diamond inside and it gleams.” Sometimes great art is conceived under great duress and that pressure can be good to push your focus and feelings over the edge. When I was looking for artwork, my friend and producer Fernando Perdomo was showing me some designs from famous painter Paul Whitehead and when I saw the diamond piece, everything just clicked together. Paul had pained some famous album covers for Genesis and other bands in the 70’s and I love being part of his legacy.
How was the recording and writing process?
I write all the words and music and then demo the basic song on piano, bass, drums and lead vocal. Having these bare-bones demos gives my drummer Ryan Brown a good idea of what I’m after, even if my execution isn’t perfect. For recording, I linked up with Fernando Perdomo this time and we worked pretty quickly when we got together. I recorded the piano and some of the bass tracks at my studio then did the rest at Fernando’s place. Once the basic tracks were done, Kaitlyn Wolfberg came in and we created the string arrangements. After that, the album took on a sound of its own. Then Durga McBroom from Pink Floyd came in and added an amazing element as well with her vocals.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are playing for someone else rather than working in your own original material?
Very. For someone else, my task is to reproduce the record or do what they want me to do. I spend a lot of time preparing parts, learning and crafting sounds and getting familiar with the material. For my own music, it all comes down to my instinct and intuition, which I’ve honed over the years and feel I can trust. I’ve gotten a lot better about working things out in the demo stage so I’m prepared when I get to the studio.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
My lyrics aren’t overtly literal or personal but my own experiences do thread through. The craft of songwriting has always been something I’ve taken seriously and a big part of that is remaining open to inspiration as well as digging for it. Each of these songs is its own little world and every chord change and turn of a phrase was lovingly handcrafted at the piano. Most of the time, things flow smoothly because I have a good process by which I’m set up to write. That way I can scratch into it easier. I would also say that teaching music and conceptualizing chords has imbued my songs with deeper changes than I was ever aware of when I was starting out. I have a deep, yearning curiosity and that has pushed me into a lot of different realms of music as a listener and player.
Any plans to hit the road?
I would love that! I have traveled recently to play some solo shows and have a record release show in LA on May 26 with a full string section for the first time. If the new album hits, it would be great to take it on the road.
What else is happening next in Robbie Gennet’s world?
I’ve been working on a lot of music without releasing it and this year, I’m doing my best to change that. I will be releasing more music this year and entering the new video in film festivals worldwide.