Over the past decade, Jim Bianco established himself as a bohemian pop/rock songwriter and bandleader in Los Angeles, but he remains a New Yorker at heart.
"I liked Los Angeles. There was enough space out there for me to get to know myself and develop what I do now," Bianco says. "There's a lot of room in L.A., but New York City is a walking city — a real city with grit and grime and a great European feel to it. Everything's in your face all the time. There's a certain character about that that's good for the soul."
Born and raised in Brooklyn, the guitarist/pianist relocated to L.A. in 2000 for a change of scenery and an opportunity to play music with friends. He quickly became a busy man on the scene. These days, he's back in the old borough, writing and performing edgy, melodic rock 'n' roll.
"The things that make L.A. great, they don't really have in New York," Bianco says. "The things that make New York great, they don't have in L.A. Ultimately, they're both great for different reasons."
A longtime performer, Bianco has toured with such acclaimed acts as Squeeze, Shelby Lynn, Imogen Heap, Joshua Radin, Josh Ritter, and Loudon Wainwright III, to name a few. He jumped into the hip L.A. songwriter scene at the famous Hotel Café, too. A hotspot for a new generation of West Coast songsters such as Rachel Yamagata, Matt Hires, and Greg Laswell, the Hotel Café was his L.A. headquarters for years before he moved back to the Big Apple.
Bianco is currently touring through the Southeast in support of an independently released album, Loudmouth. The vigorous nine-song collection is tough, lean, and dry-witted. Ballads and waltzes mingle comfortably with guitar-based rockers and Americana power anthems, with his raspy croon hovering over the top.
Stylistically, Loudmouth bridges several gaps, but Bianco declines to define his style of rock 'n' roll. "One of the traps we fall into in America is in the apparent need to nail something down and define it and put it in a box," he says. "On the surface, it comes from people just trying to understand it, but, ultimately, I think it's rooted in the mentality that everything is named for us so that it can be sold to us."
Far more than fitting a subcategory or label, creating tone and color with the songs was Bianco's main goal when he put Loudmouth together.
"The dynamics are always up in the air," he says. "The last song on the record, 'Home,' can be played solo acoustic or on the piano, and it can mean as much as it does on the record with a full-band arrangement. 'Shut Up and Kiss Me' is almost like a showtune, but I often play that solo acoustic as well. You want each song to have a strong enough foundation to stand up on its own, no matter what.
"I would hope that the through-line with these songs is the attitude, the songwriting personality, and the angle," he adds. "When it comes to it, people have dynamic personalities, and they're in different moods, so I think it makes sense to have a lot of different songs on an album. I think it represents who I am and the range of what I think, whether I write about an elevator operator or a girlfriend who left me devastated."