Every now and then a song comes along that is so intriguing, it captures the heart of everyone who hears it. "Bones," the debut single from Ginny Blackmore, is one of those songs. It's a heartwrenching story of unrequited love, uniquely told by Blackmore's vulnerable yet powerful vocals and producer Step Manahan's minimalist electronic beats. Written in a painful moment of her love life, "Bones" has drastically altered Blackmore's life, transforming a struggling singer and songwriter from Auckland, New Zealand, into one of Epic Records' most captivating pop newcomers.
With "Bones" and another deeply personal ballad "Sing For Me" as her calling cards, Blackmore impressed veteran music manager Mark Sudack (Mariah Carey) who signed her on the spot. Sudack brought her in to songwriter-producer and A&R executive Tricky Stewart (Beyoncé, Rihanna) and Epic Records Chairman & CEO L.A. Reid in November 2011. "That was the most magical day of my life," says Blackmore, a green-eyed, fair skinned, brunette who speaks about her obstacle-ridden path to becoming an artist with palpable excitement and intensity. "I had to sing 'Bones' for L.A. twice, because the first time I was so nervous about the gravity of the moment that I choked. He said, 'You have one of the best voices I've ever heard, and that's one of the best songs I've ever heard, so why are you shy? I need you to come out of yourself and sing it again. I never give anyone a second chance, but clearly you're a star.'"
Reid then stuck his head out into the hall and called his staff in to listen to Blackmore sing. She nailed it the second time, reducing everyone in the room to tears and landing herself a deal with Epic, which will release her debut album in 2013. The album is shaping up to be an emotional, statement-making pop affair that combines the ultramodern feel of down-tempo R&B which Blackmore loves so much, with her painstaking approach to pop songwriting. It is also a showcase for her powerhouse voice, which she pushes to its limits as Blackmore confides her hopes and heartbreaks with a vulnerability that's unmatched.
Signing with Epic and finally stepping into the recording artist shoes is a perfect outcome for Blackmore, who has wanted to be a performer ever since her 9-year-old mind was blown by Lauryn Hill in Sister Act 2. Raised by a singer-musician father who ran her childhood church's worship services, Blackmore wasn't often exposed to secular music, "so watching Lauryn Hill was the first time I heard hip-hop, R&B, and soul. I remember so clearly how excited I was. I came out of the theater and was like, 'Dad, what was that?' I was so impacted by it, I said to him, 'That's what I want to do", "I chose music that day.' My dad bought me the Fugees album, but it got quote "lost" after he realized it had cussing in it," Blackmore says with a laugh.
By age 15, Blackmore had fallen deeply in love with pop and R&B artists like Destiny's Child, Usher, Pink, Mariah Carey, and Michael Jackson. She began to write her own songs and made beats on equipment her parents bought her. She left school at age 16 at the principles suggestion. "The teachers complained about me singing in class, and I missed so much school for my musical theatre and dance crew. He literally told me to just go and follow my dreams!" I was allowed to leave school provided I treated songwriting like a job," Blackmore says. "I had to work from nine to five, five days a week. My parents were kinda strict about it. Dad worked at home so he was able to keep an eye on me. If there wasn't music coming out of the room for longer than half an hour, he'd knock on the door. I remember one time I was watching Dr. Phil, having my lunch break, and as soon as I took my last bite he came and turned the TV off. In hindsight, I'm like....wow, what amazing parents."
At 20, Blackmore moved to London armed with a self-produced demo she had recorded using equipment purchased for her generously by her friend, artist and songwriter Daniel Bedingfield. Within six months, she had signed with Bedingfield's management, which led to a publishing deal with Sony/ATV. The plan was to earn a living writing songs for other people while plotting her own path to becoming an artist. "The problem was that I found it really hard to write for other people. Because I wanted to sing my own songs so badly, my heart wasn't really in it. And I was struggling to get record labels to believe in me. So my time in London was really tough. My songwriting wasn't taking off, my personal life was painful, nothing was as planned so my bubble literally burst. Something in me cracked, and my songwriting dramatically changed.
Blackmore stopped taking writing sessions with other people. "I stayed at home all day on my own and wrote and sang whatever I wanted, it was my therapy," she says. "And out of that came songs like 'Bones' and 'Sing for Me.' Then I was invited to America to meet Christina Aguilera who wanted to record 'Sing For Me.'" (A version of the song with altered lyrics appeared on Aguilera's upcoming album Lotus, as well as on Blackmore's debut.) "And that's when I met Tricky. He kind of saved me. I was definitely feeling tired and worn out, so to have a creative executive like him, believe in me enough to walk me into L.A. Reid's office proudly, was amazing. It brought me back to life."
From New Zealand to London, and now London to Los Angeles, Blackmore is finally where she wants to be: in the studio recording her debut album, with the same process that she wrote it in. In a small room, engineering her own vocals on her laptop, with British producer Step who has also worked with Adam Lambert and Pixie Lott, as well as Alan Nglish, Rob Wells, and Tricky Stewart to craft songs including the otherworldly love song "Over The Moon," and the Stewart-produced "Louder Than The Rain," which Blackmore says is about leaving the selfish drama behind in a relationship and just enjoying the other person. "The music is as honest as I could make it," she says. "It's my perspective on life. I really hope people can hear themselves in it somewhere. That's what I care about. It's an album for humans."