Gin Wigmore: The Culture Brats Interview

The first time I heard Gin Wigmore, her voice woke every nerve in my body. I cannot remember the last time I was so affected by music. On October 30th, she released her Man Like That EP in the United States. Consisting of four songs, three from the upcoming Gravel & Wine ("Man Like That," "Black Sheep," and "Kill Of The Night") and one from 2009's Holy Smoke ("Don't Stop"), Man Like That serves as a great introduction to this amazing artist, one that will make you fall in love with her raspy and sultry voice with just one listen and leave you desperately wanting more. I recently spoke with Gin about her voice, her recent swing through the U.S., Daniel Craig, the EP, the upcoming album, Butch Walker, and her dream music festival.

How are you doing today?
Doing really well! Nice to be back in Sydney and having a bit of a chill out for a minute.

At the risk of making the rest of this interview awkward, I've just got to tell you that I love your voice and I think it's one of the most unique voices I've ever heard.
Oh wow.

When did you first realize that you had something different from everyone else?
Probably about fourteen, actually. I was writing these songs to get out my angsty teenage youth and put it onto paper. I think my mom was sick of me whinging about how horrible my life was that she bought me this notebook. I was putting simple chords, C and D chords, to these lyrics. I was singing, and I think it was then that people starting coming up, "Wow, that's kind of a weird voice. That's so weird." When I tried out for the school shows and things like that, I'd never get in. I always blamed it on my weirdo voice. I think I'd always kind of known that it wasn't your regular lovely trained beautiful voice.

You've had a busy past few months here in the U.S. You've done tons of publicity, touring, a guest spot on Revenge, and a live performance on Leno. What was your favorite moment?
I think Leno was pretty cool. Maybe it was because it was right at the end and I knew I was going home so I could relax afterward, but it was also quite a high to me, playing something that is going to reach so many people that you feel, "Whoa. This is just the icing on the cake."

We'd worked so hard to become so tight as a band. Playing together constantly, you get so in tune with each other. I think the final shows together, where we were all looking, we knew what we were doing, we could feel each other playing, it was really good. That was quite a highlight. The other highlights have been playing to all these brand new people every time. Playing for the first time in Canada. It's that kind of buzz that's still very cool.

What was your strangest moment?
Strangest? Probably being on set on that Revenge episode. I had my first speaking role. I thought that was hilarious, it was so strange. All I had to say was one line like, "Good evening." I couldn't remember it. I was like, "Ugh, what do I say?" I'd keep asking the band, "What's my line? What's my line?" I mean, I can remember a whole song but as soon as you go into acting world, you've just totally lost it. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, that's for sure.

You just released your Man Like That EP here on the 30th. Have you been happy with the reception so far?
Yeah, I have! It's even quite overwhelming for the first time to have people looking at YouTube. I'm going, "Oh my God. There's more than nineteen people looking at this. This is remarkable." So it's kind of been blowing my mind a little bit. It's cool to have people genuinely psyched about it. You often write songs in a small, low-key space and then to hear these stories about how people have played it and what they've gotten from it, it's like wow! It's so cool that it brings about such love.

"Man Like That," the lead single from the EP, is in a Skyfall Heineken commercial right now. How did that happen?
My music publishers! They're this wonderful company based out of Australia but founded by a Kiwi guy. They were pitching for this. The ad agency for Heineken picked it up and said, "Look, we're going to use 'Man Like That' as a placeholder. We're going to build things around it. But we're going to look at a bunch of other songs, so don't get your hopes up." So we sat there and we drank Heineken for about a month straight, trying to put out good juju, going "Come on, come on, come on!" About a month later, we heard they couldn't live without it and it was no longer the placeholder, it was actually the song they were going to go with. We were very psyched. We were very happy that day.

Did you actually get to work with Daniel Craig on the commercial?
Yeah, well he was in the room, so that's about as close as I got to Daniel Craig. I think I was giddily breathing from five minutes away, trying to make my move. Yeah, he was doing his thing. I think he's got a bit of a zone, he gets into a zone by the looks of it. He needs his space to do his thing. He's Mr. Bond, that's so cool.

Do you know when the full Gravel & Wine CD will be released in the U.S.?
It's looking like early February, end of January. That's what we're trying to aim for at the moment, but things can always change. It was supposed to be this year, so it's now been pushed out until then, so we'll see.

A lot of the songs on the album sound like something you'd hear in an old shack in the deep South. How did that direction come about?
After Holy Smoke was done, I didn't know what I wanted to do. You get asked all these questions, "What record are you gonna make? What are you gonna do? What are you gonna write?" Bah! A million questions by a million people. To just shut everyone up, I said, "I'm going to make a blues record." And I got advised by my management, "Gin, you really don't know much about blues at all. You're from New Zealand. You clearly don't know much. So go to the States where it all began and go and see where Muddy Waters was and Robert Johnson and learn about all the roots of that music." So that's exactly what I did, started in Nashville and drove for about a month and a half by myself, closing all around it, all that Ghost Trail. Became obsessed with Elvis. We went to some studios and really explored a lot of Johnny Cash and all that kind of stuff and writing with various people along the way. I got to write with William Bell from Stax Records and Charlie Sexton from Bob Dylan's world. Writing with all these people along the way was such a life-changing trip. I know that sounds so cheesy, but it totally opened a whole new music side to me. It felt so right to be singing this.

So how autobiographical are the lyrics?
Quite a bit. I use a lot of creative license as well. I love making things up as it applies to my life and make things a little more dramatic than they need to be, but it's all kind of the fun of it really. You can apply that on stage as well. When you've got a strong character that's a bit over the top like my character in "Kill Of The Night" or something like that, it's fun to be that on stage! It's fun to play that role and get in that zone. The seed of it comes from experiences I've had most of the time and then I kind of juice it up a little bit.

My favorite track is "Devil In Me" because I love that hook in the chorus. I can listen to it for days.
Oh, wicked!

What's your favorite track on the album?
That's tough. It's kind of cool because it changes a lot. It changes from month to month, week to week, depending on how I'm feeling or who fucked me off that week. It's probably "If Only." It's always been a bit of a strong one for me. It felt so good to write that song. Often on a record, you have one song where you're like, "Oh, man. Total sigh of relief. I'm so glad I wrote that for my peace of mind." "If Only," for sure.

Butch Walker duets with you on "Sweet Hell" and he also produced the album. What was it like working with him?
Awesome. He is so cool. The coolest thing I like about Butch is when he produces a record, because he's an artist first and foremost and he's self-professed to that as well, he approaches everything with such an artistry. He makes sure that I'm feeling good and right. He thinks about things musically. He would sacrifice the song for what might be the right thing to do in the commercial world or for the label. It's always about how you feel as an artist and could you sing this for the rest of your life. I think Butch is kind of a genius, such a sweet man. It was truly the biggest blessing I could've had, getting into Butch Walker's life, for sure.

Cool. We've got two questions left that we ask everybody. What was the first album, cassette, or CD you purchased with your own money?
It was a cassette tape of Oasis. It was Morning Glory? That record with "Wonderwall." It was good. It was great.

Finally, you're performing in a music festival with any five acts, living or dead. Who do you get to perform on the bill with you?
Ooh! Pat Benatar. Joe Walsh. Heart. Maybe Lucinda Williams. And Nick Cave.

What song do you all perform as the final jam?
Oh, cool! Okay. Can it be any song?

Any song anyone's ever written.
"Eye Of The Tiger?"

That would be quite fun.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
You're very welcome. Thank you. You're lovely.

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