She’s worked with Christina Aguilera, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Lopez, but the kindness of two strangers on a train means far more to New Zealand singer-songwriter Ginny Blackmore than the trappings of stardom.
The Auckland-born 27-year-old is now based in LA, where she recorded her number-one hit Bones, but Ginny says success has only come from paying her dues in a tough industry that pushed her to breaking point.
After quitting school at 16 to follow her musical passion, she travelled to London at 18 years old with a dream to make it as a songwriter.
But after five years of striving for the top, the singer found herself desperate and alone on the London Tube.
“I couldn’t stop crying. I was bawling my eyes out. I was just breaking,” says Ginny, whose sea-green eyes well up as she recalls the moment.
“These two strangers, two women, saw me crying and came up to me with tissue and said, ‘Are you okay?’
“I told them, ‘I’m a Kiwi girl and I’m having a really tough time overseas by myself, trying to make my dreams happen.’
“They stayed with me until I got off the train. It meant so much. That was the moment I knew I wasn’t giving up.”
Ginny still thinks about that day and is not the sort of person who forgets where she’s come from – she meets with the Weekly while visiting her family for Christmas.
There are no airs and graces for the recording artist who signed with Epic Records music mogul and former The X Factor USA judge L.A. Reid last year. In fact, when she first met him to perform Bones, her “Kiwiness” almost cost her a record deal.
“He said I seemed very shy and timid,” says Ginny.
“I said, ‘But I’m a New Zealander, this is what we do. We don’t walk into the room like we are the next big thing.
“He said, ‘I have a problem with that because you have to walk into a room like you are a superstar.’ I understand what he means now. It’s a confidence thing and is about physically manifesting self-belief.
“But I still don’t [buy into] the Hollywood thing... Kanye West walked into the studio once and said ‘Hey I’m Kanye.’ I said ‘Kanye [who?].’ I just pretended I didn’t know who he was. I can’t believe I did that!” she exclaims.
Ginny has come a long way from the painfully shy girl who says high school was hell.
She was the “weird girl” that used to sing in class and whose acne and eczema was so bad, she would pretend to be sick to hide from the world. Performing was where she came to life.
“I was so much like myself on stage, then I would step off and I felt like I was in a cage.”
Her writing comes from a deeply personal place – the hit single talks about an “unkind man” who broke a girl’s heart, but the song doesn’t relate to a specific person.
“This song is about wanting someone to completely adore me – and it was painful nobody did,” says Ginny, who is still “searching for my Superman”.
When working as a songwriter, Ginny’s tunes were pitched to record labels who find tracks for artists who don’t write their own music. Her lyrics are often altered in the process.
“They say things like ‘Could you change the mountains and streams lyrics because it doesn’t sound cool?’” she says.
Without Ginny’s knowledge, Bones was “given” to an A-list singer (who she can’t name). The artist got as far as recording their own version before Ginny found out and immediately stopped it from being released.
“My songs are my babies and I couldn’t give it up – it was like my heart on a plate.”
She had a similar experience with another single, Sing For Me, originally recorded by Christina Aguilera – it appears on the star’s album Lotus.
The song is about Ginny’s time as a struggling artist, but Christina changed the lyrics because she “couldn’t connect to it”.
Because she rearranged so many lyrics, Ginny could legally release her own version of the track under her own name – she wept when she heard the news.
“I missed performing and now I write songs for me.”
New Zealand is “super close to her heart”, and Ginny says LA won’t change her because she now knows who she is.
Currently in discussions with Jennifer Lopez over a new song and working on her first album, she’s come a long way from the girl crying on a train.
“I have been through trials and tribulations, but I love my life. I realise whatever I am trying to achieve is in me and there is beauty around every corner.”