Humble Pie

Our homeland security dollars at work
Sam Bassett

Chris Garneau is scared of Pitchfork. Yes, the online music mag. He tells me this and sheepishly looks down into his Stella. I reassure him that his debut, Music For Tourists—the cover is a whimsical cartoon drawing of a plane crash—will not incur the wrath of the taste-making webzine, but then I take it all back. Maybe they'll hate it. Then again, maybe they'll love it. "You never know," I offer, in a consoling tone. At 24 years old, this Brooklyn-transplant kid—and I say kid because he'd look 16 if he didn't have five o'clock shadow—is about to have a lot of firsts, starting with this interview. "I was pretty nervous, before coming here," he confesses. It took an hour and a half for him to fess up.

I suggest he might get compared to Rufus Wainwright. This riles him up. "Just because I play the piano?" he says. "So do a lot of other people." I inadvertently annoy him several times actually—earlier I had told him that his album was great, and that it had the potential to resonate with housewives and young girls and Ryan Adams fans alike. He responded with a distant "OK." It's not that he's a cold guy; he's just largely unaware of whether or not he's good. Which is odd for a musician, and especially one in New York. I thought everyone knew they were good.

This humility isn't really a surprise, though, if you listen to Music For Tourists. It's soft, honest, and wholeheartedly intimate. I tell him that I might use the word intimate to describe his music, and he said OK to that, too, but didn't elaborate. From the moment you put Tourists in and hear his Buckley-ish voice paired with nothing more than a piano and a string section, you start to get a picture of an introspective, humble dude who's probably a bit more inside his head then we typically think 24-year-olds are, which is saying something.

Tourists was recorded over the last two years, in between waiter gigs and bouts of drinking. "The more honest I became—which was difficult—the more interesting the songs became," he says. He seems honest about this. We order another round and agree that his brief stint in musical theater—an anti-intimate profession if there ever was one—was best abandoned.

Chris Garneau plays Tonic February 2,

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