by: Thomas D. Mooney
There’s something really familiar in Colin Gilmore’s songs. It’s as though he’s been singing them his whole life–and that we’ve been listening to them just as long–even when, for the most part, they’ve only been written this past decade.
The Lubbock native in the past decade has released two studio albums, 2004’s “The Day the World Stopped and Spun The Other Way” and 2010’s “Goodnight Lane” with a few EPs sprinkled between. It’s apparent that Gilmore, son of legendary Lubbock singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore, did more than just casually listen to his father’s songs while growing up.
There’s plenty of similarities between the father and son songwriters, but Colin has assured us all through his songs that he’s not a carbon copy of his father. Their voices-well, let’s just say, it’s undeniable that they’re father and son. They share that airy, sweet, and smooth West Texas croon.
It’s songs such as “Circles in the Yard,” “Black Vines,” and “Laughing Hard or Crying” off his last album “Goodnight Lane” where Gilmore shows exactly what he brings to the table as a songwriter and singer: a balance of intimate lyrics, solid pop melodies, and a subtle (but certainly there) punk rock nod (He even covered The Clash’s White Man in Hammersmith Palais” on his debut).
And it certainly doesn’t feel as though Gilmore is anywhere near the songwriter he’ll eventually become either. In the modern Americana singer-songwriter landscape, it feels as if Gilmore is just under the radar of the “mainstream” (if Americana has a mainstream), but given his talents and maybe more importantly, his modest, humble presence and attitude towards those talents. When I spoke with Gilmore earlier this week, that notion came easily across.
It’s not just that Gilmore is a great singer-songwriter, it’s that he knows he’s still a work-in-progress–and will always be maturing as one. Like he said during our conversation, “I feel like now, I’m getting to more to where–and I’m not there yet–but I’m getting more and more to the point where I can draw from many different experiences in life and get it all in one song that brings those alive.”
Colin Gilmore is playing The Buddy Holly Center Thursday (August 2) as part of the Summer Showcase series. Admission is free and music starts around 5:30 pm.
New Slang: I guess I’m going to start off with you playing Viva Big Bend this past weekend. How was that experience?
Colin Gilmore: It was really great. I knew Marfa was going to be a blast and I really like Stewart Ramser and the people putting it on. With a lot of big festivals that start up and are in the middle of no where, the big concern is if anybody is going to be there. Are people going to go there. And they did. I think they sold out. Our show was really well attended. We had a really good time.
NS: Yeah. The area is just so great.
CG: Yeah. The area just begs to have something going on. Maybe because it is in the middle of no where [laughs].
NS: Definitely. What else did you do while you were down there, other than perform?
CG: It was a pretty quick trip. The night before, we had played in Big Spring with some old friends of ours. First time to play there, had a good show. And the next day, we just traveled down there. We got to see Patrice Pike. The band who played after us was absolutely amazing. I can’t remember their name, but they’re from Denton, TX. They were a fairly young band, but were just really incredible (The band he’s referring to is Seryn). So we didn’t get to go and see a whole lot of what was going on, unfortunately since our trip was so quick, but we liked what we saw.
NS: Moving forward, are you currently working on a third album?
CG: Yes, I am. I’m recording it in Austin and Chicago. Kind of going back and forth between two studios. I started working with a guy named Rob Steidenberg in Austin. He had me play a Nick Lowe song on a Nick Lowe compilation that he’s releasing in September. We got Hayes Carll, Amanda Shires, Caitlin Rose, and a whole bunch of other people on it. So Rob and I decided to keep going and to make an album. I’ve got a Chicago-based band in Evanston, just north of Chicago. The drummer, Tim Bennett has a studio, so I’m recording a lot with him. We’re about half way through it and aiming to have it released early next year.
NS: As an artist and songwriter, how do you compare it to your previous two albums?
CG: This one, I’ve got more collaboration on. I’ve got one song, the band is Chicago came up with the riff and I wrote the song around it. One song, my friend John Walker and I wrote about 12 years ago. And one song that John wrote–that one, I’ve got Amanda Shires singing and playing on. Really pretty excited about that. In a lot of ways, on this album, we’re really paying attention to the overall sound of it. The last two albums, I focused on the parts. You know, scraping together the songs and figuring out who I’m going to have play on it. This album, I’m doing all that, but I’m trying to make it something where you pop it in and it gives you that good feeling of albums that you love.
NS: As a singer-songwriter, you’ve got a real talent to write strong melodies and lyrics that are just as, if not stronger. Where do you think you’ve grown most as a songwriter since you began?
CG: Well, I think I’ve just had more experiences to draw from. Not only that, I’ve remembered a lot of things that I’ve gone through. Before, it was more whatever I was thinking about at the time or a basic love song or whatnot. And I feel like now, I’m getting to more to where–and I’m not there yet–but I’m getting more and more to the point where I can draw from many different experiences in life and get it all in one song that brings those alive. I feel like I’m getting better at that.
NS: Something that’s always really important to writers–and artists in general–is having those people around you who can listen to your songs and give you feedback. You’ve obviously been surrounded by great singer-songwriters and musicians. How has that helped you?
CG: That has helped me immensely. Getting to hear The Flatlanders play, or Terry Allen play, or anybody like that, it’s really–well, I remember growing up and getting that feeling that I’d get whenever I’d go to a show or hear lyrics to a song, I’d be like, these guys know how to bring out that whole other universe and bring it back to earth. You don’t come across that very often. It’s a rare gift in life and it’s a blessing to be close to that. Also, the well of music that my dad draws from, he’s like a dictionary or jukebox in some ways. He can remember a lot of obscure songs that he’s learned through his life. A lot of them real old.
NS: How was growing up as Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s son? I’d think that there’s a certain amount of awareness of your father being one of Lubbock’s best songwriters and important to the whole Lubbock sound.
CG: You know, it’s funny. For one thing, I really didn’t grow up with him. He and my mom split when I was young and he moved to Austin. We were really close, but we didn’t spend a lot of time together. At the time, me and my family loved my dad’s music, but there was no sense of him being a legend or anything. It did take him a long time to be recognized, and by that time, I was already a fan of his. When he was getting famous, I had just started to live with him. So the idea of him being a legend, it was very much secondary to me.
NS: How did growing up in Lubbock affect your music style and writing you think? To me, Lubbock has always in some way, always affected people’s music who have either been born here or lived here any amount of time.
CG: Yeah, I think so. I’m definitely no exception. It becomes most apparent to me when I go and visit. I remember what it felt like to live there. I never can put my finger on it, but there’s something about the place itself and the people who–and it might just be the big open sky and the cotton fields–but it just has a certain feeling there. You look out and you feel something that’s eternal and something really huge. That’s really effected the feeling of my songwriting. Sometimes I hit the mark and sometimes I don’t, but it’s always there and I feel thankful for it.
NS: You say you get the feeling when you come visit. How’s Lubbock changed since you were growing up here you think the most?
CG: Well, the roads are more complicated now [laughs]. The loop is more complicated. But compared to Austin, Lubbock’s not changed at all. And, you know, The Cotton Club isn’t there. And there’s a lot of things I miss about Lubbock, but there’s still a feeling when I go back that it feels like home. Still get a good feeling there.