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, tonicnyc.com