Born November 25, 1979 in Oxfordshire Thea Gilmore was first introduced to music via her parents Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Beatles records, going on to write poetry as a way of coping with their divorce. She then found work in a studio near her hometown of Barford St. Micheal (home to the Fairport Convention fact fans), where, as she tells TM-O's Andy Basire, she was discovered by long-time collaborator, producer, occasional co-songwriter and now husband Nigel Stonier. Releasing her first album, entitled Burning Dorothy, as a precocious teenager in 1998 she has since gone on to record and release eight, increasingly critically well received albums, the latest being the excellent new release Liejacker
Total Music: You need a particularly strong relationship with someone if you are both going to live with and work with them, have you ever considered using another producer, or doing it yourself?
Thea: “The beginnings of this album were entirely produced by me in a small room at the top of my house. It was only when I had a good five songs in a semi-produced state that I allowed them to drift out into the wider world. Nige is an extraordinary producer who has the ability to hear fully finished tracks from the outset. He is totally connected with the music I make and I don’t see why I should forgo that connection just for the sake of it.”
Total Music: You have always stressed your distrust of major labels, was the deal with Sanctuary Records (for whom she released breakthrough albums Harpo's Ghost and Avalanche) a mistake in hindsight?
Thea: “No. Firstly Sanctuary was an independent.. albeit a big one, and secondly, it enabled me to make the record I wanted to make. I don’t really beleive in mistakes where music is concerned. It all adds to the bigger picture and gets re-cycled into the next lot of music you make one way or another. Where’s the mistake in that?”
Total Music: Are you a particularly difficult bugger to be around all the time? Only the last time we spoke I asked if you needed bad shit to be happening for your lyrics and your response was, ‘Absolutely’?
Thea: “I guess you’d be asking the wrong person. Ask my husband and my friends. I suspect the answer would be ‘she’s a pain in the arse but she’s worth it.. most of the time’ but that is purely conjecture!”
Total Music: Although both Avalanche and Harpos Ghost charted you’ve never had the major sales success admirers feel must eventually happen, is that frustrating, especially given the critical praise you regularly garner?
Thea: “I got over the not selling a million thing a fair while ago. I don’t lose sight of the fact that in a market that soaks up MOR pop and beige rock, selling someone who majors heavily on words and attempting to keep a listeners attention is going to be a trickier prospect. I’m very lucky to have a grass roots fanbase who totally understand what I do and don’t expect me to make washing-up music.”
Total Music: This album is more stripped down than Harpo..., is this a conscious return to a more self-contained, independent Thea Gilmore?
Thea: “Yes. After being pushed and pulled a little more than I would have liked by Sanctuary.. I decided to get back to the bones of what was important in my music. That inevitably led to me creating tracks that were much more centred around me.
Total Music: There are also shades of Tom Waits style experimentation with sounds and instruments, is this something we might hear more of?
Don Was: “Experimentation, by its nature, is a random beast. I’ll just have to see how the dog bites next time round.”
Total Music: Each album seems to be lyrically more revealing than the last, and in Liejacker's case is pretty bleak in places, are you not worried that digging around in your psyche may lead to further brushes with depression?
Thea: “Depression is a part of my phsyche, not an add-on. I’m fully expecting further brushes with it.. and singing about it kind of helps rather than hinders the process.”
Total Music: You cover the Dead Or Alive disco classic 'You Spin Me Right Round' on Liejacker, not perhaps the most obvious choice for a singer songwriter, what made you choose that song?
Thea: “As always with covers I choose.. I like the song. I’d been meaning to cover it for years and then the Liverpool capital of culture album happened which was a record covering the 56 number ones the city have had, and they asked me to contribute.. I chose the Dead Or Alive number with a happy heart.”
Total Music: How exciting was it to discover that a folk legend like Joan Beaz was a fan, and how was the tour you did together?
Thea: “Joan is an extraordinary woman and performer and I learned a lot from her. I’m so glad she’s on the album.. her vocals lend a timeless quality to a song which is essentially about time passing.”
Total Music: The way music reaches the end user is changing rapidly, in a perfect world how would you choose to deliver new songs to your fans?
Thea: “In a small, dark room. Maybe it is a perfect world after all!”
Liejacker the new album is released by Fruitcake/Universal and is available now