Gin Wigmore's new album comes after plenty of personal and professional upheavals and an urge to step out in new musical directions. She explains it all to Lydia Jenkin.

Gin Wigmore is a riot to talk to because she's always got a story to tell. Usually several.

This occasion is no different. Sitting near a window with the sun streaming across her tattooed arms and heavily adorned fingers in an Auckland cafe, she looks great - happy, healthy, strong, lively.

But that calm belies the events that have sent her life through a bit of a spin cycle since she released Gravel & Wine in 2011.

Tumultuous events, that were instigated by her of course, because that's who Wigmore is - headstrong, up for anything and always looking forward. In fact, talking to her will make you want to turn your own apple cart over. Just because she makes change, challenge and throwing caution to the wind sound pretty exciting.


"Yeah, just totally just off the cuff, I decided to make this massive life change," she laughs. "I was engaged to this guy I was living with in Australia, and then I met this new guy on the Warped tour that I did in 2013, and it was all quite scandalous," she explains.

"No, it was actually so weird,. First of all, I was like, 'What the f*** am I doing on this massive punk tour?' But it's amazing how beautiful things come out of the strangest places sometimes.

"Jay [Butler] is the frontman for this hardcore punk band [Letlive] and I met him on the last two days of the tour, and honestly it was like that cliched story - the first few words he spoke, I was just like, 'Wow, where have you been all my life, you're meant to always be by my side!' So yeah, we kinda just shot through love together and worked it out all very quickly. And I'm super-happy. And I'm content - and I've hardly ever been able to say I'm content."

She wasn't looking for a new man obviously, and she wasn't even particularly into punk rock ("The Clash and The Ramones would have been about as punk as I'd go").

But somehow it all just fell into place, despite the complications. They got married last year, have a home together in Los Angeles with a couple of dogs, and surprising as it may sound, Wigmore's found a lot of inspiration in Butler's own approach to music.

"He's the crazy frontman, back flipping, stage diving, hanging off shit, generally f***ing himself up. A really old-school kind of frontman that you hope you'll see in your life time. It's really nice to be with someone like that because he's so driven and I'm learning how to do stuff so much more cost-effectively, and I really admire their forward, confrontational, honest approach."

Gin Wigmore album cover for Blood To Bone. Photo / Supplied
Gin Wigmore album cover for Blood To Bone. Photo / Supplied

As she chats about his lyrics, the prospect of some serious arthritis in old age due to all that extra pressure on his limbs, and his straight edge, clean-living ways, you can tell she feels genuinely enthused with this new world she's discovered. Not that she's given up drinking herself though.

"Oh no, could never pass up a glass of Kiwi sauv. I love it. I think if he told me to give that up it might be cause for divorce," she hoots.


And she hasn't gone and a made a punk album either.

Blood To Bone still sounds like the Gin we all know and love, albeit with a few new musical twists, and of course inspired by her life.

When she finished the Warped tour in August 2013, she returned to Sydney, broke up with her fiance, moved to LA, settled down with Butler, and started writing in December 2013.

And of course by that point there was plenty of whirlwind stuff going on in her head that she was ready to unpack.

"Honestly, when all this went down, and leaving my ex, and everything that happened, I felt like I was free-falling, not having any idea where or how I'd land, but there's something about that that makes you feel really alive.

"I really wanted to write, I was in a really good headspace, I was willing and ready to look inside myself and start confronting my own issues and shit.


"But it took a few months to figure out what I wanted to say, how to approach everything."

One song that came out pretty early on was her first single New Rush - a track that has the intriguing line "I'll step on you to sip on fire" as the chorus.

"I guess it's kind of shitty really," she laughs. "It's mean, it's not nice. It's saying, 'I'm going to step on you to get that new rush.' The whole idea behind it was that I wanted a new rush. I was sick of my life, I almost saw what was to come, and I didn't like it, and I didn't want to be in it, and I really wanted that to change.

"And you're reminded of that every day when you're waking up next to someone and you're not happy. So the song was about stepping on anything to sip on that fire. And I know it's going to burn me, and it's going to be really hard to swallow, but it's going to be amazing and it's worth it. When you make the decision to get out of a rut, you have to be ready for anything really. To make that jump."

The heavy drumming and bassline and electronic elements of New Rush are indicative of her new musical approach to the album - she wanted it to be dark and aggressive, and to try dipping her toes in genres she hadn't explored before.

"Growing up, a lot of my friends were into hip-hop and R&B, and being a silly little white girl from the Shore I was like, 'Oh no, I don't understand that.' I felt like a 50-year-old trying to understand 'all that rap stuff', but I really got into it. And I was listening to Lil Wayne and Portishead and old Eminem, but then I was listening to Gerry Rafferty too. It was right across the board."


The groove was her primary concern this time, and she was willing to employ some electronic wizardry to get what she wanted.

"Before I'd always been adamant about only using live band sound, and playing instruments live. But working with a guy called Charlie Andrew - he's a young dude who's produced all of Alt-J's stuff, grew up with them and so on - he convinced me that you could still feel really true and organic but also take it to a whole different level, and that really set my head on the trajectory for this album."

Watch: Gin Wigmore - New Rush

It's still Wigmore standing in front of a band and singing her songs though, and the album is a genre grab-bag, with elements of rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, soul and pop, with her distinctive voice linking it all together while also exploring falsetto and her lower register more fully. Plus it's united by an overall aesthetic Wigmore had in mind right from the beginning.

"I knew I wanted it to be dark and strong. Really focused, and clear and honest. So I was on Pinterest, and I think I probably just typed in something like black and white portrait, and I came across this really stunning image of this homeless man in Los Angeles, taken by this guy called Lee Jeffries."

She went searching for more information about the now internationally lauded amateur photographer who's made it a mission to try to help homeless communities through his powerful portraits.

"His images are so raw and powerful and they look right through you. How he does that, how he sees inside these people's souls, is remarkable. I felt like I needed to get in front of him and be photographed by him, and so I made it my mission."


Jeffries doesn't do commercial photography and was reluctant to get involved, but Wigmore convinced him to meet her, so she flew to London, took him out to dinner, and agreed to follow his rules.

"He went, 'Okay, I'm going to try and take your picture tomorrow, but if I don't see anything through your eyes, I'm not going to take a photo. So you've got to prove to me that there's emotion there, because all the photos I've seen of you so far are dead.'

"And then he was like, 'You're not wearing makeup, you're not doing any of that shit, I'm turning up at 8am tomorrow, you're gonna roll out of bed, I'll walk around with you for two hours, and I'll try and get a photograph for you.'"

It was a challenging photoshoot, which eventually ended with Jeffries throwing a bottle of ice-cold water in Wigmore's face in an alley behind a supermarket, in an effort to get the intensity he was looking for. But she got three precious photos out of it - one of which is the album cover.

"He was just brilliant. He's a true artist, a purist. And he's an accountant by day. Photography is his hobby. But the way he approaches his work and won't compromise and is so true, that seeped into my thinking too."

Warning: Video contains some coarse language. Viewer discretion advised. Anika Moa sits down with Gin Wigmore, who reveals a surprise baby bombshell and explains why she decided to fight back against a social media troll.

She also liked the idea of stripping away everything unnecessary, and being unflinching in her music.


"There's one photo he took, a real close-up, and you can see every little pore, every wrinkle, every line and mark, and it's like a road map of your life on your face. So I saw that rawness in my face and I wanted to spread that across the music. I think with the music I was sick of having things in there that were covered up. So if it was trying to be hidden in the track, then take it out. It was about getting rid of any bullshit."

It's an idea that is, of course, echoed in her album title.

"My manager said something to me when we were making the last album, Gravel & Wine, which stayed with me. Before I'd finished it, we were talking about the album, and he said he didn't hear anything that sounded like I'd really bled for the album. Sweated maybe, but you needed to hear me bleed. So I went and wrote If Only, which felt like bleeding to me.

"But with this album I felt like I went deeper again, I went to the bone. So this album is going right to the bone for me. Blood to bone."

Who: Gin Wigmore
What: New album Blood To Bone, out June 26
Where and when: Auckland, at the Powerstation on Wednesday July 1.

- TimeOut