There are few that shoot as straight as Gin Wigmore. The Auckland native has been an assertive and wholly-confident figure in the realm of Australasian music since her arrival some seven years ago as a curious, soulful 21-year-old with a head full of steam and a voice of sugar and spice. There was a moment there, however, where it could have all come crashing down entirely – after leaving her fiancee and moving to the other side of the world, Wigmore found herself needing to clearly redefine what it is that she wanted out of making music.
The end result of this road to re-discovery is Blood to Bone, Wigmore’s third LP overall and first in nearly four years. It shows that there is still a lot of heart and soul pulsing its way through Wigmore’s music, as well as an adventurous spirit that is indicative of her refusal to stagnate or fall into holding patterns as far as her stylistic approach is concerned.
Ahead of a small run of east coast dates, Wigmore chatted to Music Feeds as if they were an old friend about tall poppies, hidden tracks and the never-ending bullshit of lockout laws.
Music Feeds: We’ve caught you back home in New Zealand, correct?
Gin Wigmore: That’s right! We just arrived in New Plymouth. Only the fanciest part of New Zealand, y’know! [laughs] It’s rainy and miserable here, but it sure is nice to be out of the van. We’re about halfway through our tour at the moment.
MF: How have the shows been going? One can imagine it’s a very loving vibe when you return to NZ these days.
GW: It’s been surprisingly awesome, actually! I honestly wasn’t sure what the vibe was going to be like with some of these places. We haven’t played McArdle in maybe six or seven years! Rotorua’s coming up – I’ve never played there in my life. The whole thing has just been so cool, though – it’s felt like a big warm hug. It’s so welcoming to be home and to be playing all these places.
MF: What’s your band set-up now? There’s always been a mix of American guys and of New Zealand guys backing you over the years – is that still the case?
GW: Yep, this band I’ve got at the moment has been with me for almost three years now. I’ve got a bunch of Americans with me; mostly from New York. I’ve also got a guy from Los Angeles and a New Zealand guy that I’ve been playing with for about five years or so. We’re a very tight crew by now. It’s brilliant – they’re like a bunch of brothers to me.
MF: You were laying pretty low for a good chunk of time between Gravel & Wine and Blood to Bone. Was there ever a fear of burning out or losing your inspiration to create music?
GW: I honestly just didn’t have anything to say! After I’d finished the whole slog on Gravel & Wine, it took awhile to find the songs – finding what it is that I wanted to sing about, putting the music together, taking on the task of producing. It just took time, y’know? I think I’m at a point now where I just want to do what feels right for me, and I don’t want to compromise on that. I’m stoked, because this record turned out just the way that I wanted it to and I’m really proud of it.
MF: So, what changed? What sparked what you wanted to write, sing and produce as far as this album is concerned?
GW: I think it had a lot to do with the changes occurring in my own life. I moved away – I was living in Sydney for ages – and I ended a long-term relationship. These were big changes for me – it kind of forced me to really take stock for a minute, because I really wasn’t happy with where I was both literally and personally. It was a massive, conscious decision to do a complete 180 on my situation.
Six months after it all went down, I kind of thought to myself that I needed to write about what had happened. I needed to process what I’d done. It went from being a few thoughts and a couple of lines scribbled down here and there to a fully-formed song… and it became 20 songs after that. That’s when I knew I had an album somewhere in there.
MF: The change came with the music itself, too – New Rush was the first thing people heard from the album, and it’s probably one of your biggest stylistic departures to date.
GW: Totally! The music was a direct reflection of what I was doing in my life. There was a direct correlation. I wanted to see what I was capable of and what I could do to challenge myself. I’ve got this innate fear of being bored with myself and bored with my life. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t bored with music just yet, and that meant challenging myself by incorporating the more electronic elements and working with pop producers.
It was something that I’d never done before – something that I’d never even thought about doing before – and I wanted to make it a sink or swim moment for me.
MF: So, what’s the verdict? Did you sink or are you swimming?
GW: [laughs] I think I’m doing a light freestyle right now! Not doing the butterfly just yet… how about an advanced doggy-paddle?
MF: It’s a start, that’s for sure. Is that side of your sound something you’re hoping to explore further as you make more music? One would suppose that one of the benefits of being a solo artist is that you’re not tied to a particular sound or idea of what you’re supposed to be.
GW: Totally. You’re allowed a lot more freedom, if you think about it. You’re given a little more room to head in the direction that you want to go. I think we can all relate, as humans, to growing as individuals. You’re going to be different at 30 than you are at 15. That’s just a fact of life. You’ve got to constantly want for change – I think that if I didn’t have any interest in changing or progressing, I’d be dead by now. I need to be inquisitive. I need to find out new things about music, about the world, about myself.
MF: Recently, the issue of tall poppy syndrome has come up – pardon the pun – in Australia once again with the online slander and abuse of Courtney Barnett following her recent successes. Has that ever been the case with you as far as New Zealand is concerned? After leaving there and finding success overseas, do you feel as though there was any sort of backlash from people who came to the conclusion that you thought you were “too good” for New Zealand?
GW: It’s so funny… a friend of mine is doing a documentary piece on this exact subject. I was one of the people that she interviewed, and she found it incredibly surprising that I hadn’t experienced that at all. I have very supported from New Zealand’s music community for as long as I’ve been involved with making music. When I moved away, the response was really positive. “Yes! That’s awesome! Go!”
When I came back, it was always with open arms. I’ve never forgotten them, and they’ve never forgotten me. They know that I’ll always be a Kiwi, but they know that a bigger world was waiting for me out there and there was a lot of cool shit to do outside of New Zealand as well. I think the overarching consensus on the matter has been all love.
I think it boils down to how to treat the situation – I never thought that I was better because I moved away or got out or whatever have you. I think that we’re all just people, no matter where the fuck you live. I like to think that we’re all equal – probably a bit of a fantasy, right? [laughs] I guess my point is that locations can change, but you don’t forget your roots. You have dreams, hopes and aspirations, and you should try for them. If that means Los Angeles, then Los Angeles it is. Just don’t forget who you are, and come back to the places that made you. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
MF: Do you think your case differs on account of the more close-knit nature of New Zealand’s musical community than that of Australia’s?
GW: I think so. Purely from a statistical standpoint, it’s so much smaller. Having been someone who’s lived in both places and been a part of both in terms of being a music scene, I definitely felt a lot more love and support in New Zealand. That could well be because I’m not from Australia, but there’s also the matter of Australian musicians that I’ve come across who have felt like they haven’t gotten the leg-up that they felt they deserved. It’s tough, y’know.
I think that, no matter what country you come from, you should always have a little local love. It’s nice to have some wind beneath your wings as you embark on what’s always going to be a fucking hard job.
MF: As an outsider of sorts, what was your experience like touring through Australia for the first time?
GW: Touring-wise, it can be quite similar. The thing that everyone’s got in common is the music, so there’s that relationship no matter where you are. Your shows, by and large, are generally pretty positive as long as you have the right crowds. The one thing that’s been a problem – if at all – in Australia has been finding venues.
Some of the places are over so quick – you’ll do a tour, go away for awhile and come back thinking “I’d love to play that venue again!” Then, you ask after it and it’s been closed or the management has changed. It’s starting to happen more in New Zealand, too. It’d be nicer if they lasted a little longer.
MF: The lockout laws in Sydney aren’t helping, either…
GW: Are you serious? Lockout laws? That sucks. How long’s that been going on?
MF: Nearly two years now. No patrons in after 1:30, no serving after 3am.
GW: Yeah, wow. That’s getting like London, isn’t it?
MF: It’s especially tough for pubs and venues in the inner-west, as the people either not getting allowed in or knowing that they won’t be allowed in are migrating to Newtown and Marrickville and bringing drunken violence there.
GW: That sounds about right. Drunken idiots ending up at gigs and being completely obnoxious because they have nowhere else to go. Then, because of their actions, the venues won’t have bands anymore. It just gets harder and harder.
MF: At least there were enough venues for you to return to when you come to play this week…
GW: [laughs] Thankfully! I’m playing the Factory in Marrickville, just on the topic of Sydney, and that’s a venue I actually used to live just down the road from. I used to go to so many shows there, and it’s very exciting that the time has come to finally play. This should be a good little run, I think.
MF: You’re also touring on the back of a brand new single, Willing to Die, which features our very own Suffa from Hilltop Hoods as well as US rapper Logic; and it’s a song that wasn’t featured on Blood to Bone.
GW: It actually is on there, but it’s hidden! If you wait for 66 seconds after the last song on the record [I Will Love You], it starts playing. The super-fans have already heard it!
MF: Why would you release a hidden track? It’s not hidden anymore!
GW: Fuck, I dunno! [laughs] There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Things just work out like that, right? I think radio got a hold of it, to be honest; and it kind of came out of nowhere. I’m glad people have gotten on board with the song – I’m really into it.
MF: Maybe you can do a limited-release seven-inch and have the first 66 seconds of the vinyl be silence…
GW: That’s fantastic! You’re an ideas man!
Gin Wigmore’s Australian tour kicks off in Brissie tonight, grab all the dates and deets below!
Gin Wigmore Blood To Bone Tour
Wednesday Dec 9th
The Foundry, Brisbane
Friday December 11th
The Factory, Sydney
Saturday December 12th