From his first gigs with the legendary Mother Hips all the way up to his last solo album, Mystic Traces, Greg Loiacono has always been driven by one unwavering desire: to connect. With his charismatic new album, Giving It All Away (Blue Rose Music), recorded at Dave Schools’ Northern California studio, Spacecamp, Loiacono dives headfirst into the dichotomies of love, exploring happiness and heartache and redemption and regret, all with great insight and empathy. He’s assisted by his longtime friend and collaborator Scott Hirsch (Hiss Golden Messenger, William Tyler), who assembled a collection of originals and reimagined covers that could speak to the dualities of love and heartbreak while simultaneously challenging Loiacono to fully inhabit his new vocal approach. Loiacono shared the first single from the album, a slow-jam version of the Genesis hit “That’s All,” at Jambase this week along with his upcoming live dates.
“I knew I wanted to put a cover song or two on this record and ‘That’s All’ really encompasses so much of what this record is about,” says Loiacono, who transported the song from its original ‘80s habitat into a more swaggering, Curtis Mayfield-esque setting at the suggestion of Blue Rose founder Joe Poletto. “It goes back and forth between the push and the pull, the highs and the lows, the agony and the ecstasy of being in love.
The subtly powerful rhythm section of Michael Urbano on drums and Dave Schools on bass really sealed the deal on the cover concept. And Danny Eiesnberg's organ part is quite remarkable in its groove. I am very happy with the way this track came out."
Loiacono had spent lockdown producing records for other artists and revisiting country and soul music of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the songs and sounds on Giving It All Away capture that vibe perfectly. He credits Hirsch for pushing him beyond his comfort zone as an artist, forcing him to embrace his falsetto singing voice and write with a clarity and directness he was unaccustomed to.
Working with Hirsch as producer and backed by an all-star band that included drummer Urbano (Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt), organist Eisenberg (Counting Crows, Jonathan Richman), and Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools on bass, Loiacono cut the bulk of the album live on the floor at Schools’ Spacecamp studio in Occidental, California, capturing most tunes in just a few takes each. Though Loiacono would later add vocals at his home studio and solicit remote contributions from horn players and backup singers including the legendary Vicki Randle (Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples), it’s the energy and the feel of those raw Occidental sessions that lays the groundwork for the album’s amiable atmosphere.
“Recording live was essential because the rhythm section is the centerpiece of these songs,” explains Loiacono. “We knew we had to keep everything feeling groovy and deep in the pocket at all times, even on the slowest songs.
“The whole session was really something special” he continues. “We had some challenges getting the recording started, including PG&E losing all power within a 15-mile radius of the studio. But those hangups gave us plenty of time to run the tunes. This was the first time we had all played together. There was instant chemistry between us and by the time we started tracking this song we had really found a great connection and groove. It's a true joy making music with these individuals.”
That emphasis on groove is undeniable on Giving It All Away, which sounds straight out of the late ’60s or early ’70s with wide-open drums, buoyant bass lines, and lush organ pads underpinning Loiacono’s gently aching meditations on love, loss, and everything in between. The intoxicating “Can’t Forget” wears its broken heart on its sleeve as a badge of honor, while the doo wop-tinged “Mr. G” grapples with the burning questions that linger long after a relationship has ended. The breezy title track takes solace in the revelation that you can never share your heart too freely. “We’re only living when we’re giving it all away,” Loiacono sings. “You can’t take it with you when you go.
“I remember riding around in the back of my mom’s Chrysler as a kid and she’d be playing this Sade song called ‘Hang On To Your Love,’” says Loiacono. “I always envisioned ‘Giving It All Away’ as a response to that tune. The idea here is that you shouldn’t hang on to your love! You should give it away while you can. Tell the people you care about how important they are to you because life is fragile and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Even if you risk getting hurt by opening yourself up in that way, it’s worth it, because someday you won’t be around to give that love anymore.”
Loiacono’s artful cover choices help reinforce that notion throughout the record, as well. The soulful “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” (originally by Barbara Lynn, though later performed by Freddy Fender) refuses to grow jaded in the face of rejection, while an R&B reinterpretation of The Mother Hips’ “Del Mar Station” transforms bitterness into determination, and the inspired take on Genesis’s “That’s All,” which makes peace with love’s fickle nature.
And in the end, that’s what Giving It All Away is all about. Deep connection requires deep vulnerability, and growth is rarely comfortable. When it comes to love, though, the risks are always worth the reward.
Giving it All Away
What Can I Say
Even Though I Lost
Love is The Way
Del Mar Station
And Not Cry
You'll Lose a Good thing
TOUR DATES (full band shows):
May 22- Hipnic Festival Big Sur, CA
August 12th- The Chapel SF, CA
August 13th- Harlow’s Nightclub Sacramento, CA
August 19th- Michael’s on Soquel, CA
August 20th- Chico Women’s Club Chico, CA
*stay tuned for additional dates