We can't get enough of this New Zealander...
Gin, full name Virginia Wigmore, is a New Zealand-born, LA based singer-songwriter, whose music you may have heard on the soundtrack to Pretty Little Liars or Grey’s Anatomy. Straight-talking and full of sharp observations, Marie Claire caught up with her to hear about her creative process, wild child days and the launch of her third studio album.
So let’s start from the beginning. Is it true your career took off after winning a songwriting competition?
Yeah! When I was 17 I wrote a couple of songs and my sister entered them into this competition based in Nashville. I wasn’t that interested because I never win anything, however 6 months later I got a phone call and I’d won the whole thing! Next thing you know, I was off to the States to record some demos.
That must have been exciting.
It was, but I soon began to realise I didn’t want to be there. I was homesick and wanted to go back to New Zealand, and to my family and my boyfriend at the time. That was all done and dusted by the time I was 19. However I then got a call from Universal and they asked me what I was doing with my life. (To be honest, I wasn’t doing a lot – just being a failing waitress in Australia, living on the beach and partying all the time.) They invited me to meet George Ash [the current President of Universal Music Australasia], and I was signed. So yeah, from there I was making an EP, playing and singing whenever I could and I haven’t looked back since I was about 21.
For all that to happen between the ages of 17 and 21 must have been daunting.
It totally was, especially going to the US when I was a teenager. It was so overwhelming heading to New York City for the first time, and staying in this awful hostel with my sister. We met this guy from a record label and he took us out for mojitos – I didn’t even know what a mojito was! At the end of the day I was just a kid from New Zealand.
How long did it take to write and record your third album?
I had to get some life experience so it took a while. After my second album Gravel and Wine, I wasn’t really happy with my life, I was going through a big break up, so I decided to make drastic changes by moving to LA. Writing this album was a bit like therapy. Before I knew it, I had a few songs written and I knew that was when it was time to lay down a record. Life takes time sometimes, and that’s a good thing. I’m not in a rush and I think you should never put something out that you’re not happy with. My music has to be at the point that I’m happy enough to share it with people, even it take 10 years – luckily it only took four.
So you wrote all the lyrics yourself and had no other input?
Some of the music is co-written, but I’m the only one who touches the lyrics. For me the words are sacred.
Your voice has a distinctive, raw quality. Who are your influences?
I’ve always listened to a lot of Edith Piaf, however a really prominent moment for me was when I was about 14 and my older sister bought David Gray’s White Ladder album for me when she visited the UK. That album did things to me, it’s so magical and poetic and it resonated. Now I listen to bands like Band of Skulls and always revert back to people like Carrie Elkin. It’s never one specific genre.
I bet a lot of people will actually recognise your music because it has been the soundtrack on shows like Pretty Little Liars and Grey’s Anatomy. Do you find that people find you through these different avenues?
Yeah I think so. It’s really interesting actually because there’s a big difference between knowing who an artist is, and knowing their music. And that’s what I love about opportunities like TV soundtracks; it means you can separate the person and the music. I wouldn’t care if anyone didn’t know who I was, as long as they knew my music.
What artists do you love at the moment then?
Alt-J are doing really cool things right now. They’re experimenting with their sound and I feel like you can hear that in their music, they’re doing whatever they want. There’s that great sense of freedom in their music. Also, being married to my husband [Jason Butler, lead singer of post-hardcore band Letlive], I’ve been introduced to a different genre, especially their live shows in particular. You see these guys on stage just going for it, and you’re like … “Women can be like that too!”
You also have loads of support from your home country of New Zealand with your previous two albums going four times and twice platinum.
The support has been great, but nothing’s as good as that moment when your mum turns around and goes, “I’m really proud of you.”
Gin Wigmore’s new single ‘Written in the Water’ is out on 11th September, and her album ‘Blood to Bone’ on 3rd October in the UK.