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Thea Gilmore - The IndieLondon interview

Thea Gilmore

Interview by Rob Carnevale

THEA Gilmore talks exclusively to IndieLondon about her new album, Murphy’s Heart, some of the inspirations behind the songs and being described as the greatest singer-songwriter of her generation.

She also talks about her career to date, some of the things she’s learned, getting to meet Bruce Springsteen and Martha Wainwright and why Lady Gaga might be ripe for a new cover version from her!

Q. Hi Thea, we think your latest album, Murphy’s Heart, is a masterpiece. How do you feel about it? Is it your proudest work yet?
Thea Gilmore: That’s very kind. I love the album for many reasons but mostly because I’ve put so much more of me in. It’s a less guarded album in many ways and being something of a veiled control freak, I’m very proud of that.

Q. The themes behind it all resonate in some way… whether being playful, honest, happy or reflective. How long did it take to write? And which songs came easiest or proved most challenging?
Thea Gilmore: It didn’t take too long actually. A period of a few months really. Songs like Mexico were the fastest. Songs like Due South were more challenging because of the musical content.

Q. Can you tell us a little about what prompted you to write Teach Me To Be Bad?
Thea Gilmore: Well.. you know it’s a song that celebrates the little devil in all of us. Its about reveling in sex and all of its lessons!

Q4 And likewise, what inspired you to write the deeply romantic How The Love Gets In?
Thea Gilmore: I guess it’s a kind of ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’. I think it’s the time that you stop looking, wanting, that the greatest things in life come to you.

Q. God’s Got Nothing on You is another one of our favourites, can you talk a little about that?
Thea Gilmore: Well… its a song about arrogance. A journalist once said in the press that it was about Tony Blair… I couldn’t possibly comment!!

Q. And what made you decide to explore the themes of parenthood on songs like Mexico and Wondrous Things?
Thea Gilmore: Parenthood influences every song I write really, but I was aware that I hadn’t written directly about it. It’s a process of growing up really… feeling able to celebrate and examine such a happy and complex subject.

Q. How do you find balancing a music career with being a mother and wife? Is it a work in progress?
Thea Gilmore: Everything is a work in progress. I’m just like any working mother really. I get the same guilt and the same joy.

Q. How does it feel to have reached a 10th album landmark, all before 30?
Thea Gilmore: Technically not before 30… I’m already 30! I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel like a landmark. When I started out, my aim was to keep making records. Just because I’ve reached the 10th doesn’t mean I’m going to rest on my laurels now!

Q. You’ve had an amazing career, so what have been your highlights over that time?
Thea Gilmore: I think the writing will always be my highlight. But singing with Joan Baez was a major moment. And meeting Bruce Springsteen…

Q. And what’s been the greatest piece of advice you’ve received?
Thea Gilmore: Shit… I’m not very good at listening to advice. Don’t trust anyone who tries to make you lie in your art I guess.

Q. And the hardest lesson learned?
Thea Gilmore: Trusting someone who tried to make me lie in my art.

Q. Do you feel more confident in yourself as an artist now than when you did in your early 20s?
Thea Gilmore: Yes and no. In your 20’s you’re full of bravado and agression, but also full of anxiety and less sure of yourself personally. I’ve lost the bravado… but I’m far more assertive.

Thea Gilmore

Q. Does being described as, variously, ‘the best British singer-songwriter of the last 10 years’ and ‘the best wordsmith of her generation’ bring any added pressure?
Thea Gilmore: No. I’m just me, it’s a lovely thing to read about yourself, but it can’t change how you work.

Q. What does it feel like to count Bruce Springsteen and Martha Wainwright among your fans? Have you had the chance to meet or play with either of them?
Thea Gilmore: Yes to both. Bruce is an incredible guy… just so amazingly down to earth and genuine. His whole team give me faith that it is possible to be a top level artist and still be nice. Martha is an extraordinary artist… musically incredible and a lovely person. I have huge respect for her.

Q. How has the music industry changed in the years since you started out? And is it for better or worse?
Thea Gilmore: A bit of both. It’s far easier for me, as someone who spent a long time building a grass roots fan base, to stay in touch with them through the internet… but far harder for new artists to get that grass roots following in the first place and so the industry is somewhat stagnant.

Q. What’s the best advice you could offer anyone who wanted to follow in your footsteps, especially in terms of how you approach songwriting?
Thea Gilmore: Primarily, don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps. One of the joys of writing music is making your own mark. Study other stuff, immerse yourself in music and then tell your own truth.

Q. You covered a few songs on your brilliant Christmas album, Strange Communion? Are there any others you’d like to take a shot at?
Thea Gilmore: There are always songs I want to cover. I’d like to have a pop at Lady Gaga’s Poker Face!

Q. Were you pleased with the reaction to that album?
Thea Gilmore: Of course, it’s a lovely thing to feel that people are enjoying the music you make. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to keep making it at this level.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod players at the moment?
Thea Gilmore: Hmm..
Love And Doubt – Slow Runner
Ohio – The Low Anthem
I Want You – Rodney Crowell
Blue Caravan – Vienna Teng
The Point Of It All – Amanda Palmer
The Blues Run The Game – Jackson C Frank
Bad News From Home – Randy Newman
The Age Of Revolution- The Duckworth Lewis Method
Democracy – Leonard Cohen
Nellie The Elephant

Read our review of Murphy’s Heart or view photos of Thea Gilmore