In the wake of her successful debut album Holy Smoke, New Zealand songstress Gin Wigmore was at a loss about where to next direct her musical inclinations.
Her initial indecision, however, has led to Gravel and Wine, a sophomore album high on sass with numbers such as the incendiary single Black Sheep and the soulful retro feel of If Only. In-between was a journey that took her to the heart of music and taught her to add some blood to the sweat in her songwriting.
"I really believe in honesty and authenticity and after Holy Smoke I kind of sat there going, 'What do I do for the second album,' " she recalls in a rare moment spent at her Sydney home.
"I knew that I loved the blues style of music and that I wanted to explore that avenue a little more. My management said, 'Gin, to be honest, you know nothing about the blues. You may have listened to a couple blues records but what you need to do is go down to Mississippi, Memphis, Georgia and Alabama and figure out where the blues has come from and see if you like it.'
"So that's what I did. I flew over to Nashville and I worked my way around the blues trail and met all these characters along the way. From there it seeped into my brain and my blood and I was able to write Gravel and Wine."
Wigmore found a kindred spirit in producer Butch Walker (Hot Hot Heat, Pete Yorn, Pink, The Academy Is . . .). He knew where she was coming from and she liked where he'd been - namely, the very places encountered on her blues mission.
Describing the US trip as a "two-month diploma", Wigmore says it was a revelatory experience.
"I think a little white girl from New Zealand really knows f all about the blues, that's what I came out thinking," she laughs. "I stayed in rundown motels, and going to juke joints and drinking moonshine and talking to the locals in these little bars till the early hours, finding out what's happened in their life. What's made them pissed off about stuff and does it relate to me? I got perspective that, actually, my life's pretty charmed and don't write about things that you don't know f all about.
"I was in a headspace where I believed in the songs that I'd written and how I feel in them. I think I got that through the people I met, they were the salt of the earth."
It also says something of Wigmore's warm nature and charm that these salt-of- the-earth folk could let their guard down to a friendly stranger, but a stranger nonetheless.
"Being from New Zealand, I probe probably a little too much for my own good," Wigmore says. "They probably found me a little bizarre bowling into these places and striking up a chat after asking for a cigarette. You just get talking, you know? And the power of buying someone a bourbon and Coke also works very well."
"I knew that I loved the blues style of music." <div class="endnote">