Building Pictures: Show Review / Interview
I had the chance to see singer songwriter John Gribbin and his band Building Pictures last week at the Rockwood Music Hall, and while the venue was quite crowded, the feeling was the definition of intimate. The singer’s humble nature and quiet vulnerability drew the audience to him the way few artists can.
The show began by Gribbin announcing that they were going to play the entire new album, West Orchard, for the first time. Building Pictures sound is simple and soft, yet amazingly rich, with an excellent sense of melody. The performance and the album itself tell the story of Gribbin’s experiences as he traveled to America from Ireland and the places and people he met along his journey. It was a mesmerizing experience that no one in the room wanted to end.
Following the performance, I had the chance to ask Mr. Gribbin a few questions…
Violent Success: How long have you been in America? What was the impetus to move?
John Gribbin: Just over two years. I played a few shows in New York, and I fell in love with the place and the American way of life. I really love the people and the attitude of this place.
VS: Where would you live if you had your druthers? Where does you live? Does you like it?
Gribbin: To be honest I’m pretty happy in New York… I still feel like I’m in the movies when I walk around and look up at the tall buildings. I live in Brooklyn, close to Prospect Park. It’s a great neighborhood, and it definitely feels like home. Great coffee, food, and a little more space for your money when it comes to rent!
VS: Where did most of the album’s writing take place?
Gribbin: All over the place. Castledawson (my home town), Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and even a little bit in Texas of all places. I have traveled quite a bit in the last year, and this has really influenced the record. But overall, this is definitely a Brooklyn album for me.
VS: I was really impressed with how you used your voice. Are those conscious choices or do the changes in note come naturally?
Gribbin: You’re not the first person to ask me that. It just comes naturally for me. I try not to think too much about it as I don’t want to make it a forced thing.
VS: Would you mind telling the story behind the song with the line ‘In Her Veins’? What does that mean to you? Is it a positive?
Gribbin: I’ve always been taken back by how proud New Yorkers are of where they are from. It’s really amazing to me. I met this girl on the subway, and we chatted for a bit. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, and was moving away for the first time. I think she got a new job or something. She was so upset. It was almost like she was tied to the place. It’s a positive for me, anyway. I think it’s great to be proud of where you’re from. I certainly am.
VS: Tell me the story behind the song with the line ‘I’m All Ears’.
Gribbin: It’s a pretty desperate plea, to be honest. I think most people at some point in their lives have a friend that they would do anything for, and this song is about struggling with that commitment. ‘I’m All Ears’ is probably the heaviest song on the record, but it’s actually one of my favorites. It’s unashamedly raw and honest.
VS: Tell me the story behind ‘The Boy’.
Gribbin: That one is about a headstrong woman.
VS: What’s the best and worst thing about music today?
Gribbin: Best – Recording at home on a reasonable budget. Most of my previous releases were recorded in my home studio, and it really shaped me as an artist.
Worst – Mainstream radio is pretty awful.
VS: Musical inspirations?
Gribbin: Pretty varied. I grew up listening to my brother’s Metallica records… but then I mellowed out. Got into the Cranberries. I was obsessed with Damien Rice for a while, but my favorite band is The Frames. I’m a huge Ray LaMontagne fan.
VS: Theme of the album?
Gribbin: There are a few. Love, loss, regret. It’s a hopeful album for me. I think this album was made for someone that wants to walk though a park in the fall with their headphones on, kicking up the leaves.
VS: What direction musically do you see yourself going in the future?
Gribbin: Haven’t thought too much about that, to be honest. I just want to make records that I’m proud of. Honest, passionate records, and as many as possible. If I can keep doing that I’ll be happy.