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SXSW Interview: Colin Gilmore

Austin’s Flatlanders scion grew up with the right mentors

By William Harries Graham, 1:00PM, Sat. Mar. 15

SXSW Interview: Colin Gilmore

Colin Gilmore is a second generation Austin musician, son of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The scion grew up in Lubbock and moved here when he was 14 to live with his father. Gilmore’s been gaining traction with his songwriting to the point that even his dad’s band the Flatlanders have recorded some of his songs.

Gilmore’s about as nice and genuine as a true Texan comes. He loves his Austin life: “I like to be social. I seek inspiration wherever I am. Sometimes it’s going to a show, or seeing a movie, reading a good book, or just going and having a good talk with somebody.”

Gilmore plays his third and final SXSW showcase tonight, Saturday, at Shotguns, 9pm.

Austin Chronicle: What were your early musical influences?

Colin Gilmore: When I was really young I always liked my dad Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock. That were playing in Lubbock in people’s backyards at the time. Then I loved Michael Jackson, the Cars, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and a lot of bands I was trying to make my parents mad with.

AC: How has Jimmie Dale influenced your music?

CG: In about every way possible. I remember hearing him on tape when I was a little kid and not even knowing it was my dad. I was enthralled by it. When my mom told me it was my dad, I couldn’t believe it. There’s something about his voice. And I saw through him how someone can create this whole world just by singing a song.

AC: When did music choose you?

CG: Ever since I could walk and talk I knew that I wanted to play. All through high school and college I dabbled. I was in punk rock bands, I was in choir, but then right after college I decided to pursue it as a career. I’ve always loved how powerful lyrics and a simple melody can be. There’s stuff that someone with a whole band can do that one person can’t, but the reverse is also true. Somebody sitting there with a guitar, just getting a simple melody and point across, there’s power to that.

AC: What was it like making the change from punk to country?

CG: It was kinda seamless. Instead of playing loud stuff, the friends that I had punk bands with just sat down with acoustic guitars. I realized at a certain point that the musical intensity could be greater than a really loud band.

AC: What would you consider your musical break?

CG: There have been a whole bunch of smaller breaks, but one of my first shows under my name was at Threadgill’s North and it sold out. Another was when the Flatlanders covered my songs and would use one of my songs as a closer for their shows. I don’t know if there has ever really been a break, just a lot of things that just keep me going.

AC: Favorite moments onstage?

CG: I got to sing the national anthem at a White Sox game in Chicago recently and that was really cool. And one time, I/we opened for Monsters of Folk and M. Ward came up and sang with us. That was amazing.

AC: What’s the process of songwriting like for you?

CG: For me it almost always starts with a melody, a feeling of a song that I get in my head. And then I find the words for it. Sometimes I’ll start writing funny poetry and then think, “What would this sound like?”

AC: If you had to categorize your music, what genre would you choose?

CG: I would say roots rock & roll. That’s not a genre that you can usually select when you are entering into something, but to me it gets to the point a little better than ‘Americana’ does.

AC: What do you think about the music industry?

CG: Everybody is just trying to figure it out as they go along. I’ve learned not to depend on CD sales to make money. CDs are more like a calling card and about getting your name out. Live show are where it’s at I think.

AC: How would you describe your trajectory so far.

CG: Well, it’s been a bumpy ride, but I can say I’ve gotten a good fan base across the nation in pockets everywhere. There’s a growing fan base and there’s still interest in what I’m doing. And I do really have to work for it, like I can’t play a show every week in Austin and expect people to come out to it.

AC: Who are your heroes?

CG: My mom and dad, Buddy Holly, Joe Strummer, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, and Wendy O. Williams.

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