Colin Gilmore: Hello, Goodnight Lane

Sam Gazdziak | October 18th, 2010

Colin Gilmore

Goodnight Lane marks Colin Gilmore’s first album in about five years, but it’s hard to say that he hasn’t been keeping himself busy in the interim. Between touring on his own and opening for the likes of Alejandro Escovedo, Mason Jennings and The Flatlanders (featuring his dad, Jimmie Dale Gilmore), Gilmore spent the last year or so recording his latest collection of songs.

“I had written some songs quite a ways back and had even put a couple of them out on an EP,” he says while taking a break from rehearsals. “I kind of had to breathe life into them again and figure out what they were all about again.”

The songs on his latest album are indeed lively, combining various elements of Gilmore’s musical upbringing (country, folk, pop, punk) into a blend that he calls West Texas rock & roll. At times poppy and energetic or slow and reflective, practically every song is catchy enough to hook the listener in before the first verse ends.

Between tours and travels, Gilmore has spent a lot of time on the road, both here and overseas. Fortunately for him, he says he writes better while on the road, and many of these songs come from his recent journeys.

“’Raindrops in July’ I wrote with Jon Tiven in Nashville,” he says. “’Hand Close to Mind’ I wrote mostly while I was driving a car through California. ‘Abigail’ I wrote in California with Scott Matthews.”

Once Gilmore got back home to Texas and got ready to get into the studio, he still wasn’t sure how they all tied together. The album started taking shape as he went on walks around his Austin neighborhood.

Colin Gilmore - Goodnight Lane“Every time I’d go on a walk, I’d hear these songs, and it would bring me right back to the place that I had written or thought of them,” he explains. “One street in my neighborhood in particular caught my eye, called Goodnight Lane, and I just sort of fell in love with it.” That song was the last one he wrote for the album and the one that ended up tying everything together.

Gilmore says that most of his songs come from one line and a melody. The songs may not directly tell a story about a particular person or event, but many of his past experiences work their way into the music.

“Like the song ‘Black Vines,’” he explains. “I heard the line in my head, ‘Tonight my arms are turning to black vines.’ From then, all these memories started popping up, and it all made sense.”

A verse in the album’s opener, “Circles in the Yard,” tells a cautionary tale about anyone thinking to head to New York City for their music: “But I turn down Lorimer, what do I see/Someone from home begging change from me/He came for the music, the milk and honey/He ran out of friends when he ran out of money/Another songwriter in the belly of the whale.”

“I was thinking about moving up there, and I think about it from time to time, but at that point, I think I had set my sights too high,” he recalls. “I hadn’t fully factored in, how do I go there and make a living and pay the rent there. I was just thinking that I’d go up there and play my music.”

That plan lasted until he was walking in Brooklyn and had someone who looked homeless ask him for spare change. A friend of his told him that the homeless man was a former Austin resident who moved to New York to play in bands.

Lubbock or Leave It

Gilmore grew up in Lubbock, Texas listening to his parents sing and play music by Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt. Naturally, Buddy Holly, Lubbock’s most famous resident, was frequently heard as well. He eventually turned away from that music and got into punk music like The Clash and The Pogues, as well as pop music from MTV videos (back when MTV was a music station). Music was part of his life growing up, to the point that he was in a punk band in Austin, but it wasn’t until later in life that it became more than a hobby.

“From the time I was little, I had a feeling that it’s what I would end up doing someday,” he says. “It was an off-and-on path for a long time. I’d take guitar lessons, and then I’d put it down. I joined the choir in high school, and then I put that down.”

It wasn’t until he graduated from college that he decided to play his own songs. By then, he was turning back to the music that he heard from his childhood–Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine, etc.

“It feels to me like the tradition I grew up with from an early age kind of stuck with me and grabbed hold of me,” Gilmore says. While the songs on Goodnight Lane incorporate a wide range of elements, from folk to country to rock to a surf instrumental, everything is firmly rooted in that family tradition.

Career-wise, Gilmore has gone from acting as his father’s roadie to having The Flatlanders (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock) record one of his songs on its most recent album. In fact, the band’s take on his own “The Way We Are” was one of the real highlights of that album.

Unlike other second-generation singers who sometimes struggle with a famous last name, Gilmore says that being his father’s son is a blessing. He says he’s gotten some very useful advice from Jimmie Dale over the years.

“One was something that a guy gave him early on when he was just starting out,” Gilmore says. “It was ‘Always have something going in your life besides your music career.’ Another piece of advice was ‘Don’t use music as a social crutch.’ It seemed like good advice to me.”

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