“I’m getting out there and doing it,” says Gilmore, who was invited last year to open for pals Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, two Grammy-winning members of Austin’s musical royalty, at the Columbus (Ohio) Performing Arts Center. He was particularly thrilled with the reception he got at a song swap with a few other Austin notables: Ruthie Foster and Grammy winners Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel) and Joel Guzman (Los Super Seven, etc.). “I felt like I was in my element and made a real connection with the crowd,” he recalls.
Gilmore’s self-described blend of “West Texas-style rock, with a country/punk/psychedelic/pop edge,” is also earning him a fan base – and airplay – nationally (including sations like KPIG-FM, no less). In California he played camp ground radio broadcasts at the Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite and made more than 15,000 new fans at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco (they loved “The You That I Knew”). He played at that event – and toured the country – with yet another Austin musical blueblood: his father, Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
“I don’t capitalize on his name, but he is my dad,” says Gilmore. “I’m happy to be his son and I feel very fortunate. But fans won’t stick around for music that doesn’t speak to them. You have to earn it every day. “
Gilmore was raised in the musically rich town of Lubbock, where he was influenced by family friends Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, as well as Terry Allen and the late Jesse Taylor. (Allen’s son, Bukka, played on Gilmore’s debut album, The Day the World Stopped and Spun the Other Way.) But it was his mother, singer Debbie Fields, who really encouraged his early musical development. His step-dad, fiddler Richard Bowden, also had an influence. And so, of course, did Buddy Holly, the Lubbock legend whose rockabilly spirit has infused Gilmore’s sound. You can hear Holly’s impact (and that of other Texas troubadours – and Tornadoes) in Gilmore’s “Laughing Hard or Crying?” and “Time to Fly Away Again.”
But that aforementioned edge was sharpened by other influences: the Clash, the Ramones, the Pogues, the Sex Pistols. (You could easily pick him out in his high school choir photo. Just look for the Mohawk.) Somewhere along the way, he also discovered Lucinda Williams. And Johnny Cash. And Leonard Cohen. Not to mention Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, the guys Gilmore studied while minoring in classical music (and majoring in anthropology) at Texas State University.
A more recent influence is Bay Area producer Scott Mathews, an industry legend whose resume includes the names Clapton, Jagger, Richards, Orbison, Costello, Hiatt, Santana, Joey Ramone and Brian Wilson. After a phone conversation, Gilmore sent Mathews his first recording, an EP titled Four of No Kind. Mathews liked what he heard and invited Gilmore to visit so they could try writing and recording together.
“I flew up there and in three working days we co-wrote and recorded three songs, playing everything ourselves,” Gilmore says. They co-produced an EP, Black Wine, for the Japan tour, and plan to work together again soon. (Raves Mathews: “The world doesn’t need yet another singer-songwriter – it needs Colin Gilmore. In my world, he’s the one.”)
Gilmore has also written with Nashville’s Jon Tiven, who has produced Wilson Pickett, B.B. King and the Pixies’ Frank Black; and has written hits for Robert Cray and Buddy Guy. Gilmore’s song, an homage to his uncle Allen, who died the same day as Johnny Cash, is titled “Raindrops in July.” Willie Nelson’s A&R rep thought it would be perfect for him (So do we. Are you listening, Willie?).
But, hey, he knows better than to be in a hurry.
“I’m not set on instant success,” says Gilmore. “I’m in it for the long haul. I’m fortunate I got to hear from a very early age what real, heartfelt, good music was.”
Fortunately for us, Colin’s now making his own.