Our Exclusive Interview With Singer-Songwriter C.R. Gennone

C.R. Gennone is one of New Jersey's most prolific songwriters: He released five EPs in 2015, his first full-length album with C.R. Gennone and The Degenerates, “Salt of The Earth,” in June of 2016, and is already at work on a follow-up to be released in 2017. He also wrote almost every tune on Tribal Days' May 2016 full-length release, “Laughing at the Funeral.”

We had a chance to discuss some of Gennone's creative influences, dietary preferences, and spiritual leanings in the interview below.

You've released a lot of music lately. What do you think is driving your creativity? What do you aspire to? In Moby Dick, Herman Melville wrote, "For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness....all mortal greatness is but disease." Do you think ambition is a disease? If so, what is the cure?

Creativity comes in waves. I don't think I'm driven by anything in particular. Sometimes certain lines or melodies just hang in the ether and sometimes you have it and sometimes you don't. It all depends on what I'm going through or sometimes I'll hear something interesting that someone says. You just have to be an active listener. Listen to everything. Eavesdrop on people's conversations, listen to their stories, get something out of them and be the voice.

I aspire to be an artist that can't be pinned down as just one thing. Categories are stupid. Sure, sometimes I play rock and roll. Sometimes I don't. They can call me whatever they want, just fuckin' listen to the song. I want someone to hear my music and be like, "oh, it's Chris." That's all.

I don't think ambition is a disease. I think ambition gives you strength. While ambition and ability are two different things, you cannot succeed without ambition. Sure, I get negative about shit and can be cynical too, but at the end of the day; and I know this sounds cliche, but if you don't have ambition, set goals or believe you can make it, you won't.

If your latest album, Salt of The Earth, was a farm animal, which animal would it be, and why?

I'd say Salt of the Earth is kind of like a bronco. The album is about being in this certain stage in your life and thinking about all the good memories, the future and the regrets. I think it relates to a bronco because they both come from a wild, unrestrained place and are eventually tamed to become part of the norm. 

You recently signed to the Sniffling Indie Kids label, which released your last album. How has it been working with them? Do they actually sniffle? If so, why don't they see a doctor?

They're good dudes. I've gotten to know them a little bit more lately. Frank is definitely the go-getter, which is what every great label needs. And Eric is kind of the taste master. Him and I like a lot of the same bands. It's still a really small label but they support my thing and help promote their bands so it feels good to have that.

I told them they should go see a doctor but I'm not sure if they have insurance.

If you were born in the early 20th century, and a dictator like, say, Joseph Stalin wanted to pay you exorbitant amounts of money to be the State's official musician, but you were only allowed to compose patriotic propaganda songs, how much money would you need to be paid (using American dollars as of 2016 as a reference point) to do it? Why would you or would you not do it?

Would I be killed if I refused? Maybe I could write propaganda songs but have little underlying tones that made fun of him. Then I'd probably be killed. I wouldn't do it. Being rich would be cool but the last thing I want to be is a fuckin' joke. And maybe that's a superficial reaction but if I was the same person and really wanted my own music to be heard, I wouldn't do it.

Let's talk about novels. This isn't a question. Just talk about novels for a little while.

When I lived in Chicago, one of my favorite past times used to be smoking a cigarette and reading a book in the bathtub. It just felt so satisfying. I don't know why. I read a lot of books during that time. Lot of Kerouac, a Che Guevara biography, some Proust, Hemingway and Bukowski.

I'm sure there's some great modern novels out there, but it just doesn't really pique my interest. I'd rather read more of the classics or some interesting biographies. Been meaning to check out the new Replacements book and I read about half of the Tom Petty one, which was cool, but also lost my interest.

Peanut butter: Chunky or creamy?

Definitely chunky. I like anything that's crispy or crunchy.

If you had to choose one musician to be your father, which of the following would it be? Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Tom Waits, or Johnny Cash? Who would be your top pick and why? Who would be your last pick and why?

I'd have to say Tom Waits. I feel like he'd be a supportive parent and even though he'd probably come home late and drunk every other night, he'd probably be the easiest to get along with. He'd be the kind of father you can have a drink with at the bar and shoot the shit as if you were just acquaintances.

My last pick would be either Bob Dylan or Mozart. I think Dylan wouldn't give a shit about much of anything. His persona and ego is larger than he is. He'd be the kind of dad that would come home once a month and then just disappear. And Mozart would probably just drive me crazy. I like the idea of living a little loosely and I feel Mozart would be a pretty strict father. It'd be cool if he were the same kind of person he was in Amadeus though.

Do you believe that human beings have a soul? If so, please describe what the soul consists of and tell us about where you think the soul goes after bodily death.

Yea. But I think the phrase "having a soul" is a matter of interpretation. Everyone's got "soul." I believe the soul is just basically your purest self. I suppose it's impossible to envision, but if you try to strip away everything and get down to your deepest, darkest and most honest thoughts, you'll feel it. I think it's part of your subconscious. We layer so many things on top we can lose sight of who we are or don't even know who we are. It definitely takes some kind of deconstruction to get there. But it's possible.

I'd like to believe in a heaven but I don't buy it. I believe our souls just wander after death. They take whatever beings or vessels they can take and live up to another 100 years. When we die, it's just our bodies and the vessel that dies. But souls live forever. Deep stuff. Anyway, that's what I believe.

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L.M. Alder is a writer, librarian and musician. His stories, poems, and reviews have appeared in Asimov's, Ghost Town, decomP, Corium, the EEEL, and other places. He is the co-author of A Cathedral in a Mason Jar: The Untold Story of Elvis Presley (tNY.Press, 2016). You can check out his band at TheDeafeningColors.com.