These Go To Eleven

31 March 2012 | 10:29 am | Michael Smith

More Gin Wigmore More Gin Wigmore

Last time we saw New Zealander Gin Wigmore, she was performing her debut album, Holy Smoke, with Ryan Adams' The Cardinals, the band with which she'd recorded it. That was more than two years ago and she's about to release her second album in Australia, Gravel And Wine, which was produced by ex- SouthGang and Marvellous 3 singer, songwriter and guitarist Butch Walker. It meant that, again, rather than a bunch of session musicians, she got to use a band – this time, Walker's band The Black Widows.

But we're getting ahead of the story a little here. Before making the album, Wigmore had to come up with a new set of songs. That first album had done some serious business for her, particularly in New Zealand where it went four-times platinum and won her five gongs at the 2010 New Zealand Music Awards. She needed some inspiration.

“So when I sat there and said, 'What do I write?'” Wigmore, in Sydney for a quick promo visit, admits, “I thought, 'Maybe I wanna do a little bluesy record.' Then the record [company] people said, 'Gin, you know nothing about the blues,' and I realised I probably had one blues record and didn't know fuck all about it. So on the advice of my manager – 'Go to the Southern states of America, go hang out in Mississippi and Alabama and Clarksdale and do the Blues Trail and go to Memphis and learn about Elvis and do all that stuff.' So I did that for two months and it got in my blood and the record kind of wrote itself after that trip.”

Now suitably inspired, it was a case of finding the right producer, studio and, if she was lucky, a band rather than session musicians to help her record it all. She was lucky – again. “My [A&R] guy at Universal, Michael Taylor, he'd heard this song on True Blood, which was by this artist called Cary Ann Hearst and I became obsessed with this girl who's this artist out of Atlanta, Georgia. Butch was the producer on that record and so I said to my label, 'If there's anything you can do for me, get me to America in front of Butch Walker and I'll charm him enough to get him to do my next record.' I got to LA and as soon as I met Butch it was just… You know those kind of people that you're just kindred spirits [with], you totally get each other? We got, musically, what we wanted – what I wanted – out of a record and [knew] that he could facilitate that.

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“From there I had about a year to write the songs, along with writing with Butch and doing this trip down to the south, and then we went into the studio – it took about a month to record in his studio in Santa Monica. And The Black Widows were the perfect choice – a bunch of dirty southern boys, what can go wrong with that? You might get pregnant, but other than that…” she laughs.

As for the songs themselves, it soon became obvious to Wigmore that they all had this “kind of dark, spooky kind of essence” to them, “and that fragility”. “The hardest thing was actually taking songs out,” Wigmore admits of the final selection. “I wanted a ten-song record – I've got this superstitious thing about having ten songs on an album – and I was, like, 'Fuck, I can't put an eleventh song on there,' but it just made sense to have [last track] Singing In My Soul in that record, so I put it in there and went against all my superstitious nature.”