After a period of indecision toward her future, singer/songwriter Gin Wigmore is now on the cusp of a promising career.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, she first made a name for herself at 16, winning the grand prize at the prestigious International Songwriting Competition (the youngest person to do so) for "Hallelujah," which she'd composed in memory of her father. She later included it on Extended Play, a five-song sampler that introduced her as a recording artist, her craftsmanship and soulfully potent voice thrilling critics and listeners alike.
With the recent release of her debut LP, Holy Smoke, which she recorded with the Cardinals (known for their work with Ryan Adams), Wigmore's audience stands to grow exponentially.
And if the reception she's getting now on her first U.S. tour as the opener for Citizen Cope is any indication, she's already made impressive strides. "You kind of expect no one’s gonna really be there," Wigmore says of being a support act, but in venues from Seattle to Milwaukee, "They’re there, waiting, ready to go at eight o'clock. And there’s a full crowd while I’m playing."
Do you write on the road?
I haven’t in the past, but because we have days off I’m actually having a bit of a go of it. I’m working on two songs at the moment. I’m trying out my three-chord blues; I’m still learning so I’m giving that a go. I’m trying to be better on guitar because I just downsized my band to three of us at the moment. So I’m having to play guitar for the whole set. I’m kind of brushing up my skills on it.
How did working with the Cardinals on Holy Smoke influence how you wrote the songs and how they came to sound on the album?
Well, the songs were already all written before the Cardinals came in. I’d picked the songs; it was all ready to go. They heard the songs for the first time then. So in terms of shaping the songs, [they] had nothing to do with it. But they put their Cardinals kind of traditional, fucking-amazing [stamp] on the songs. I like the sound of this record and I think a lot of it’s got to do with their playing.
How have you evolved as a songwriter in the seven years since you won the International Songwriting Contest?
I’ve had more life experience. I’ve lived a lot since I was 16, so I’ve got more things to write about. I’ve started playing around the world and met some great people along the way who’ve taught me lots of things. In issues of playing, I know more chords on the guitar other than G, C, and D. So I have songs that sound different, knowing how to work with rhythms and writing songs off of drum beats to start out with; co-writing, all these different situations I’ve put myself in over the years has meant that my writing now, each song’s got a really strong, different idea from one another. I remember when I wrote songs when I was about 16, they all sounded the same because I didn’t know anything. And all the subject matter was all the same because I hadn’t actually done much. So, I’ve lived a lot and I think the songwriting grows with that.
Speaking of drumbeats, “One Last Look” is one kick-ass song.
Thanks, man. I love how different that is from something like “Dying Day.” They all sound quite different. My vision for Holy Smoke was that. And I always think about what I would want off a record if I were buying it. And I’d be gutted if I went and bought a record and all the songs kind of sounded similar; I’d feel kind of ripped off. So my mantra for this record was to make sure you got a real across-the-board mix and you feel it’s money well spent.
You recorded the album in the Capitol Records Building. That must’ve been a kick, being in Sinatra’s old stomping grounds.
Oh, fuck yeah. And sitting in the vocal booth on his old leopard-skin stool. It was pretty mad. There [are] beautiful old pictures all down the hallways of that place. And you can feel so much. So many great songs have been made and sung and crafted in those walls. It’s a wonderful place to make a record. Particularly because it was my first one, it was quite a big deal, you know? You’re treated like this is a pretty official thing…[with] people putting up curtains in your vocal booth, and candles and incense, just making everything right down to the final touch [to] make you feel like you want to create magic. Now my expectations are really high [Laughs]. I want to make all my records in that place.
How do you see yourself evolving as an artist and as a songwriter?
Wow, I’m not sure. I live each day as it comes, you know? This is one thing I’ve found since coming to America—I’ve been here for the last month—is that each day you wake up, you have no idea what’s gonna happen. To be honest, it’s kind of how I see my future. I’m not sure yet… I don’t know. I’m open to go wherever. And if that means I’ll be living in Nashville, making some kind of country record or blues record or down in New Orleans or something, then that’s where I’ll be.
So you have no allegiance to any one style.
Absolutely not, and that’s what keeps it interesting for me. Because I’ve got a very short attention span and this has been part of the reason I’m so kind of dumbfounded at the fact that I’ve still stayed with music. Nothing has ever stuck for me and music’s the only thing that’s managed to stick out for a long period of time. And the reason for that is every day is changeable. It’s a job where you can keep things really open and eclectic and movable.
Where you don’t have to do the same album eight times over.
Fuck no, I’d go insane.
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