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Jim Bianco

npr

JIM BIANCO

JIM BIANCO
JIM BIANCO

Throughout his career, Jim Bianco has drawn inspiration from, what some might consider, untraditional sources. Whether an elevator operator in Tokyo, a stalker in Hollywood, a wedding in Tennessee, or a sinner in church, his songs have twisted their way out of his head and into the hearts of his fans.  

“My father is a Brooklyn-born weight-lifting Italian Roman Catholic who wields a pompadour and only drives a Cadillac. My mother is a kind, classic, 1950’s Brooklyn Jew who quit high school to work in a pencil factory. It’s pretty obvious where my obsession with eccentric characters comes from.”

Bianco is a founding member of the Hotel Café scene, the popular venue in Los Angeles credited with the renaissance of the Los Angeles singer/songwriter movement. With antics such as building a catwalk onto his stage and leaping offstage into the crowd to perform from the middle of the room, Bianco’s performances played an integral part in shaping the club’s reputation as it grew in popularity in Hollywood and beyond. With Hotel Café as his jumping-off point, Bianco went on to tour the country and the world with performers such as Squeeze, Shelby Lynne, Loudon Wainwright III and many more.

Though unconventional, his music has garnered the attention and support from the likes of NPR’s Mountain Stage, NBC’s Craig Ferguson, HBO’s True Blood, and the Getty Museum, to name a few.

With his new record “Cookie Cutter”, he has once again focused his attention and inspiration on, what might be, a peculiar subject: YOU.

Yes, you.

He wants to know one thing, specifically: is your life song-worthy?

Think about it for a second.
You listen to music every single day. Throughout your life you’ve heard thousands of songs. They provide the soundtrack to your most memorable moments.  
But none of them are about you. Not a single one.
They might relate to you, or you might relate to them, but they’re about someone else. Who, exactly, are they about? What makes their life worth singing about? Do they have something special that you don’t?  

On “Cookie Cutter”, Bianco sets forth to answer that question for seventeen fans, who gained the opportunity by pledging to a fundraising campaign. For the project, Bianco asked each of them the same 69 questions about their lives, and wrote a song based solely on those answers.

“I gathered information from people who were virtual strangers to me. I felt a responsibility to write a song that was unique to each person, but that could also be appreciated on a universal level. I crafted a questionnaire that required each person to recall events in their life that made a lasting impression: the death of their first pet, how they lost their virginity (and with whom), their most memorable family vacation, their first kiss, and so forth. I also asked lighter questions, like their favorite song, or the color of their eyes. I was setting the bait with the questions and hoped their answers would inspire something worth singing about.”

The result is “Cookie Cutter”, a record that, like life itself, runs the gamut from extremely serious to extremely ridiculous. Themes range from reunited lovers, runaway pets and ballerinas, to brain cancer survivors, Jesus Christ, and, (everyone’s favorite), death. The production of the record is equally dynamic, with everything from boisterous horns that explode across the soundscape to tender moments with bare piano and violin; each sound chosen to match its song’s unique personality.

“When I embarked on this project, I was nervous I would be writing the same song over and over 17 times, struggling to make them each distinct. I was amazed to learn that, in everyone’s life, there is a unique song; in fact, there is most likely an entire album.”

Bianco sees the project as a rebirth of an old model: “Centuries ago it was common for the church or the aristocracy to commission composers to create a piece of work for them. Whether it was for a royal wedding or a religious holiday, composers crafted the music for specific people or events,” he says, “’Cookie Cutter’ is the modern version of that.”

On his website, fans can view all the questions from the project, read the story behind the songs, and even inquire about having a song written about them. So for anyone who has ever imagined the soundtrack to your life: here’s your chance to actually make it happen.