Moving On

Editor’s note: Since 2004 when this interview was completed, Gilmore has gone on to release a second album titled Goodnight Lane with producer and Grammy winner Lloyd Maines (The Flatlanders, Terri Hendrix and Robert Earl Keen). Gilmore has also toured across America.

Colin Gilmore released his first full-length album, “The Day The World Stopped And Spun The Other Way.” Composed primarily of his own songwriting efforts, the album also includes a cover of The Clash's "White Man in the Hammersmith Palais" and Terry Allen's "The Beautiful Waitress." It was produced by Mark Hallman (Ani DiFranco, Tom Russell, Eliza Gilkyson) and features guitarist Rob Gjersoe, bassist Kris Nelson and drummer Rob Hooper.

Son of country legend Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Colin Gilmore grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and, at age 14, moved to Austin, Texas, where, in his sophomore year of high school, he started a punk band, called the Sweat Lodge. But in time he tired of that scene, and his work shifted toward the more country-inflected styles heard on the album. He plays regularly in Austin and throughout Texas.

Dan Keegan: Much has been made of your genetic connection to country music. Given that background, was there ever a moment when you made a conscious decision to become a musician?
Colin Gilmore: It must have been before I could even talk or anything. At one point, when I was young, I wanted to be a pop star or a rock ‘n’ roll star or whatever. It kind of progressed from there. I'd take lessons and I'd put it down and I'd pick it back up. I did everything from a little bit of orchestra when I was in sixth grade. I was simultaneously in choir and in a punk rock band in high school. College, I did classical guitar and started whatever projects I could. I never doubted that I would play music in one form or another. There was one point I thought I might be an archeologist. When I was real young, I thought I was going to be a brain surgeon one day. Neither one of those happened, obviously. Music is more what I've fallen back on, but it's been the real thing for me all along.

You spent the early years of your life in Lubbock, Texas. How have your views changed?
The last years that I lived there I just got miserably depressed. I was in junior high and I just decided I hated the place. Whenever I'd go there, everywhere I looked, every street corner and every house I went to just looked like a dark black hole. Just full of misery. And for several years after I moved from there, even when I'd visit, I'd be there for one weekend and I'd walk in feeling fine and go out feeling miserable and I didn't know why. I guess some time late in high school or right after high school also, I'd go there and all of a sudden I remembered the way I saw it when I was younger, which was in a good way. It's not something that made me want to move back there or anything. The magical aspect of it came back and what made the city so different from any other city. It feels to me like it's got some sort of power or something. I don't know exactly what it is, but that's how I feel when I think about the place and when I go to visit.

You've been described as part of a "Second Generation" of Austin singer-songwriters. Do you feel proud or pressured to be part of such a group?
I feel proud to be a part of it. It's only one part of me. To me it's not a second generation, it's probably a fourth or fifth generation. It's the second generation of the wave of guys who came to Austin. Even that's probably a third generation, because the Tejana Dames and Tommy Hancock came and the Supernatural Family Band came over here and started shaking things up before Joe Ely and my dad and them. So, it's good. [These days,] we've all got a different take on our music and everything. But I think the thing that runs along the same lines is all of us, me and a lot of the people that came from Lubbock, feel like....You know, I don't know what ties us together that doesn't tie other musicians together but we all kind of banded together there and came out of the place with the feeling that we had to make noise elsewhere and had to carry what we'd been given.

You came to country music late in life after a flirtation with punk rock. You've described the punk world as cliquish. How does the country community differ?
In some ways it doesn't. Every subset of music is the same way in that way. Punk came around after rock ‘n’ roll had already started and, because of that, it's obvious the roots don't go as far back. I just got to a point where I felt like every band I saw or every band I formed was trying to base everything they did on what the person right before them had done. With country you see that also, you can hear that on the radio. I think one difference is that, with country music, you always keep finding an element of something that's going back to things you can listen to -- way before music was so easy to come by and so much an art of trying to stand way out. Almost like they were more innocent because everything they were coming across was something new. It's like, Hank Williams came by and nobody’s quite heard what he was doing before. But I know that one of the things that made people like him and made him so great is that he did stand out. He was firmly rooted in his own traditions and the lands he grew up in, but also, he had a new take on things that nobody’s ever seen or heard before.

Let's talk about your own attempt to stand out, you’re most recent album, “The Day The World Stopped And Spun The Other Way.” It's got quite the title, which comes from one of the lyrics. How did that become the title of your record?
It started out with me just like, "Hey, what about naming the album that?" And I was thinking, it's obnoxiously long, but, then again, maybe that's a good thing.

Tell us about the process of working on the record. What was it like being the main creative force behind an album?
I love doing it. I can't wait to make other ones. I really liked working with Mark and the other musicians. We had only little bits of time [in the studio]. [Mark would] only have a day here or a day there free because he was recording so many people, so we really had to make use of the time we had. I was very impressed at everyone, Mark and the other musicians, at how quickly they could pick the songs up. The day that we recorded, I went in there and Mark had barely heard the songs and some of the other musicians hadn't heard them at all. Rob Hooper, the drummer, he'd just started playing with me and [guitarist] Rob Gjersoe had played with me before, but not since I'd written a lot of the songs. Kris Nelson, the bass player, there were a few songs he'd never heard before. We basically walked in and were like, "Hey, we have to get these down pretty much today and tomorrow." A lot of them, Rob and Rob would lay down at one time. It's funny because, at first, I kind of felt that feeling of “it's all being rushed we're not getting it right,” but we would go back and listen and I was like "Oh, Yeah, that totally worked." One thing I liked about Mark was that he wanted to keep everything pretty fresh. He didn't want it all too polished or anything.

You worked with a producer and a group of musicians with very impressive credentials. Was that intimidating for you?
I've worked with them before, playing shows and stuff, and I knew that they liked the stuff. That's a big reason they were doing it, it wasn't just for getting paid. It wasn't intimidating. I felt excited about it and kind of safe that, no matter what we did, we were going to come out with something good.

Did this record come out of your first release [the four-song EP” Four of No Kind”], in any way? Was there any relationship between them in your mind.
Not really. Maybe in a way. We only put one song from that EP on [the new record]. The feel was quite a bit different, I thought. I think that a lot of people have listened to them both and said, "Whoa, I thought they'd be more alike being back-to-back like that." The first one I had just started playing under my name and just started songwriting right before that.

You have a couple of adaptations or covers on this record. How is that process of working on those different from working on your own songs?
The process is different because we've got our stuff here, we know what we're working with, how do we make it our own? I think, again, the thing that made it easy was working with musicians who weren't just good. They weren't studio musicians, they weren't musicians for hire, they were hip guys who had a deep appreciation for the music that we were playing. But they had very much their own background. We were doing Terry Allen and Rob and Rob and Kris, they all love Terry Allen, but they didn't grow up in West Texas and didn't grow up around the same music. Then, with The Clash, we love The Clash all of us but once again we're playing music that's quite a bit different. So, while I recorded it, I was looking forward to how much different it would be from the original.

Did you have any specific strategies or ideas for making those songs your own or did that come about organically?
It came around organically. It came around with the instruments we had. The Clash didn't have a steel guitar. Terry Allen didn't have an accordion on his original recording. My vocals are different and, really, when Mark and I would talk to the musicians about here's how we're going to do it, we basically said, here's what we're going for and here's what we want to avoid, but other than that, it's in your hands. We were working with guys we could do that with.

Now that you've released this record and had it out there for awhile, has this record changed your approach to making music?
Yeah, I think so. It kind of gave me a foothold where I wouldn't have had before. It's put me in a different place songwriting. I love the album. I like it a lot, but I always think how can I make the next one better and how can I make the live shows better?

Any specific plans to make the shows or albums better?
Part of it is just a matter of honing my own craft. It's just a matter of what arrangements can I put on these [songs], who else could I get playing up on stage? It's tough to pay everyone if you're going to add musicians but sometimes it's worth it. I mean, it's always worth it, it's just if it's possible it's a good thing.

Speaking of playing shows and making records, do you have a preference for one or the other?
I wouldn't want to live without either one. Making a record, it's like making a sculpture or something, and playing a live show, that's like hanging out with your friends or something, but making it a real special event. It's just like two sides of something.

by Dan Keegan © 2004