Faith Gilmore and I both graduated from Mississippi College in 2000. I can still remember her sitting in the quad, strumming her guitar and singing the refrain from the Cranberries' "Dreams"—I was always struck by her amazing voice and the confidence with which she sang. And then there was graduation day, when she wore flip-flops and exited the platform dancing and twirling with her degree in hand. Needless to say, she has always been a free spirit, and it is no surprise to see her musical success today.
A native of New Orleans, Gilmore has been singing and dancing from a young age. She credits her mother with teaching her and her siblings to sing gospel songs and to harmonize with Carole King and Stevie Wonder on the radio.
Her talent for singing and songwriting shines through on her debut album, "Trip the Light." The album is full of soulful vocals, catchy hooks and encouraging messages. Gilmore often takes the narrative voice as a poignant observer of life and the way people react to it. "Intervention," for example, describes a woman who is in trouble and needs help from a higher power, or possibly just a friend. A few songs, such as "The Way You Love Me," are upbeat and could rival any current "pop princess." But Gilmore is far more authentic than any American Idol product—probably because she writes these songs herself. She did do some co-writing with Billy Buchanan, but the majority of the songs on the album are all her own. Gilmore was backed by able Nashville musicians, most notably renowned guitarist Phil Keaggy. Keaggy accompanies her on "Pearl," a beautiful song about how unique and valuable each of us is.
I caught up with Faith recently as she was about to hit the road:
What's been going on since we left MC?
That summer of 2000, I went on a two-month backpacking excursion through six countries in Europe, worked in New Orleans for a year to be near my sister for her senior year in high school, traveled to New York, Boston, D.C. and Nashville, and decided to move to Nashville and land a social work job. I always knew I wanted to start pursuing a music career in Nashville. In my off hours, I was writing songs and meeting people to co-write with. Within four years, I had saved enough money to independently fund the recording of my album and met the right people to do so. Since then, I've been learning about booking and promoting as an independent musician.
How did "Trip the Light" come to be?
"Trip the Light" is a line in my song about New Orleans, called "Keep on Moving." I initially wrote it to describe what the Canal Street/French Quarter areas are like at night. Now, I think of all the neighborhoods with sheetrock on the ground and walls caved in, and I want to sing to my people, "Keep on keeping on!!"
Tell me a bit about your day job.
I'm a residential supervisor of 40 women who come to Mercy Ministries to live for six months while they receive counseling for life-controlling problems like eating disorders, self-mutilation, drug addiction, unwed pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse and addiction, and sexual identity/gender-role problems. If I've written songs based on these women's lives, it is subconscious. What tends to inspire my songs most is people-watching. I go to coffee shops and just write and write.
How does your spirituality affect your music?
That, also, is something that may be infused into the music without me being aware of it. Knowing and communicating with Jesus has been a part of my being since I was very young, so whatever effect it has on my music is just like breathing affects my livelihood.
What was it like working with Phil Keaggy?
I was so moved that Phil would even do the honor of playing on my album that I cried when he came into the recording room. I watched him play three different guitars, and his fingers steadily and rapidly moved across the guitar as if he was having a conversation with it.
Is this your first time out on the road?
This is my first time on tour, and I'm learning so much about what it's like to book it yourself. It makes me appreciate those who do the behind-the-scenes work so much more.
What's next for you?
What I would hope for is that I continue to tour to different cities in a repetitive fashion so that people become more familiar with the music. I'd like to have steady players that consistently travel with me, as well as a new car that is road trip savvy.