GIN WIG­MORE

THE KIWI TAK­ING THE STATES BY STORM RM

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Front Page - Iain Shed­den

She’s not your ar­che­typal Bond girl, but play­ing foil to Daniel Craig is some­thing Gin Wig­more took in her stride when the movie Sky­fall came out two years ago. The Kiwi singer didn’t have much act­ing to do. She wasn’t even in the film, but she was in an ad­ver­tise­ment for it on tele­vi­sion, a crosspro­mo­tion for the movie and Heineken beer. As Craig pon­ders po­ten­tial as­sas­sins on a mov­ing train on screen, Wig­more can be seen in the back­ground per­form­ing her song Man Like That.

It’s just one pub­lish­ing suc­cess among many in the past few years where Wig­more’s mu­sic has been the sound­track to an ad. John­nie Walker whisky, Na­tion­wide In­sur­ance and Alfa Romeo are just some of the brands that have in­cor­po­rated her mu­sic into their cam­paigns. Just what it is that makes her stri­dent pop such a mar­ket­ing win­ner she’s not quite sure.

“Prob­a­bly my voice is dif­fer­ent,” she says in her throaty rasp, “which pricks your ear up when you’re watch­ing an ad. And then be­cause I’m very song-fo­cused and I like a good cho­rus, I love all that stuff. It’s not com­pletely left field, but it’s catchy.”

There’s no dis­put­ing Wig­more’s voice is dis­tinc­tive: a men­ac­ing soul-pop wail that sits some­where be­tween Amy Wine­house and Ja­nis Jo­plin. Flirt­ing on the out­skirts of her songs are also el­e­ments of coun­try, jazz and blues. She likes the fact her style is hard to pin down.

“I don’t set­tle on one par­tic­u­lar style genre,” she says. “I don’t want to be bored.”

The 29-year-old from Auck­land hasn’t al­lowed her­self much time for bore­dom. Since win­ning the In­ter­na­tional Song­writ­ing Com­pe­ti­tion at 18 with Hallelujah, a song about her fa­ther, who died of can­cer, Wig­more has plot­ted a steady but con­stantly evolv­ing ca­reer.

Since mov­ing to Australia eight years ago the singer has re­leased two crit­i­cally ac­claimed al­bums: Holy Smoke (2009), which she recorded in the US with Ryan Adams’s band the Car­di­nals; and Gravel & Wine (2011), pro­duced by Amer­i­can singer Butch Walker. Both al­bums boast overtly poppy sin­gles, in­clud­ing Oh My and Hey Ho on the for­mer and Black Sheep and Man Like That on the lat­ter. She also had a No 1 in New Zealand in 2009 with Auck­land hip-hop out­fit Smash­proof, lend­ing her vo­cals to the song Brother.

Much has changed in Wig­more’s life and ca­reer in the past few years. Now based in Los An­ge­les af­ter a long stint in Syd­ney, the singer has spent most of her time tour­ing and record-

or ing in the US since those al­bums were re­leased. Now she’s about to re­lease a new one, Blood to Bone, which was con­ceived and recorded in her adopted home­land. She also got mar­ried last year to Ja­son But­ler, singer in Amer­i­can posthard­core rock band Letlive.

“He’s in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent realm of mu­sic,” she says, “but it’s sur­pris­ing how much it crosses over.”

Wig­more, who un­til meet­ing But­ler had been in a re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralian drum­mer Andy Cook, met her fu­ture hus­band when she trav­elled across the US as a per­former on the Vans Warped tour, an an­nual event that fea­tures pre­dom­i­nantly punk and hard­core acts.

“I was such a fish out of wa­ter on that tour,” she says, “be­cause there was all of th­ese es­tab­lished punk bands and then lit­tle old me with my spaghetti west­ern-dressed band and Gretsch gui­tars.”

How­ever alien she might have felt, Wig­more warmed to the en­ergy of the mu­sic around her and to Letlive in par­tic­u­lar. “I didn’t re­alise how dis­ci­plined that mu­sic was,” she says, “and how po­lit­i­cal in the lyrics. It’s in­tel­li­gent mu­sic. I didn’t un­der­stand it ini­tially I guess be­cause I wasn’t part of it.”

Aside from meet­ing But­ler, be­ing out of her com­fort zone also had mu­si­cal benefits. The tour, she says, “gave me con­fi­dence to try a whole bunch of things with my voice. That’s where the courage came from. That’s where I got the falsetto from.”

This is a ref­er­ence to push­ing her voice into new ter­ri­tory on sev­eral songs on Blood to Bone, in­clud­ing This Old Heart and In My Way. While her pre­vi­ous al­bum com­bined pop hooks with a blues in­flu­ence, gar­nered from a trip around the south­ern states of the US, soak­ing her­self in the roots of that mu­sic, there’s an elec­tronic edge to the new one, most ap­par­ent on the first sin­gle, New Rush. The punchy cho­rus of “I have this feel­ing that I can’t go back” re­flects also the singer’s de­sire to keep ex­plor­ing new styles.

New Rush was co-writ­ten and recorded with pro­ducer Char­lie An­drew in Lon­don, but for the bulk of the al­bum Wig­more worked with Stu­art Crich­ton, whose cred­its in­clude Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys. She co-wrote and co­pro­duced with him, de­spite ini­tially hav­ing reser­va­tions about whether she would have much in com­mon with some­one whose re­sume in­cluded a wealth of main­stream pop acts.

“I saw his cat­a­logue and I judged him on that,” she says. “The sort of work he was do­ing I didn’t see my­self align­ing with; that style of mu­sic. It was an in­ter­est­ing point in both our lives. We were both bored. He wasn’t happy with what he was do­ing. It was kin­dred spirit time.”

She says the al­bum feels like “a huge jump for me be­cause I’ve been so in­volved. Be­fore I would write the songs and then hand ev­ery­thing over to a pro­ducer. It’s a mas­sive jump for me be­cause the buck stops with me this time.”

Crich­ton, as a song­writer, is part of the same small New Zealand pub­lish­ing sta­ble, Na­tive Tongue, that has served Wig­more so well in re­cent years by get­ting her mu­sic into ad­ver­tis­ing. That rev­enue stream has al­lowed her free­dom to spend time writ­ing rather than al­ways be­ing on the road.

“That has given me a year and a half to work on writ­ing the songs for this record,” she says, “which is dif­fer­ent to not be­ing able to pay your rent.”

With her star ris­ing in the US and Europe, par­tic­u­larly in Ger­many, it seems un­likely Wig­more will have money con­cerns in the near fu­ture, but she’s not con­tent to rest on her lau­rels.

“The plan is just get­ting my mu­sic on as many plat­forms and as many stages as I can to present it to the world.”

She’ll be here to do that on a short tour next month. Home, for the fore­see­able fu­ture, though, will be in the US.

“It’s the peak out there,” she says. “It’s as big as you can go. Even if you chip away at the lower lev­els in the States there are still a lot of peo­ple to play to. It’s cool to be opened up to that. I’m thriv­ing a lot in the States and be­ing around Amer­i­cans.” She’s tak­ing noth­ing for granted, how­ever. “I’m a very dif­fer­ent per­son now to when I was 18 and knock­ing on record com­pany doors,” she says, “but the idea of why I got into mu­sic is still the same.

“I have the same fire.”

Blood to Bone is re­leased through Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Australia on June 26.

Gin Wig­more

will tour Australia next

month

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