Celebrity Health - Thea Gilmore

A photo of Thea Gilmore

“Staying healthy on tour is a challenge”

Singer Thea Gilmore speaks to Liz Parry about her love of healthy eating and how she reinvented her diet

Singer Thea Gilmore has enjoyed a 17-year career in the music business ever since she released her debut album, Burning Dorothy, in 1999. The 35-year-old mum-of-two is perhaps most well known for her 2012 album, Don’t Stop Singing, which was a reworking of the late Sandy Denny’s unfinished works. This included the single London which was used extensively in the BBC TV coverage of the Olympic Games. Thea is about to release her fifteenth album, Ghosts and Graffiti, on 1 June and will embark on a UK tour in May.

Q: How do you ensure you lead a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are on tour?

Thea: "It can be quite a challenge. We’re very much a self-contained unit; we don’t have caterers so we have to make sure that we look after ourselves. Eating a healthy diet is really important to me – I hate refined sugar and processed food – so I prefer to make up my own stuff to bring with me. I’ll make up a batch of quinoa and a veggie dish that I can eat on the tour bus and I make sure I have plenty of healthy snacks on me too."

Q: Do you enjoy cooking for yourself?

Thea: "I absolutely used to hate it and found it to be a complete chore but I’ve had a bit of a revelation over the last few years. I started looking at what I was putting into my body and realising that that’s what I was getting out – rubbish basically. So I completely reinvented my eating habits and now I love to cook. I’ve got into healthy food blogs recently like Deliciously Ella and Naturally Sassy – they’re great for coming up with ideas for energy bars and things like that. I love finding healthy ways of making dishes I used to love. It’s a bit of a cliché now but I make courgette noodles instead of eating pasta – that’s one of my favourites at the moment. I made some carrot noodles with pea pesto the other day and it was absolutely fantastic. I love surprising people with how great healthy food can taste."

Q: So what kinds of food do you eat on a daily basis?

Thea: "I like quinoa a lot because I’m a vegetarian and it’s a good source of protein. I love tofu, as long as it’s the right sort of tofu. I try to stay away from dairy as much as possible but I wouldn’t call myself vegan. I love spice – I eat lots of foods with garlic and chilli in which makes me a bit unpleasant to go on tour with! I love to juice as well, so I’ll start the day with a ginger shot or a green smoothie. I can’t do caffeine because it makes me shake, but a green smoothie will really set me up for the day."

Q: Do you tend to go for organic produce?

Thea: "As much as possible, yes, but it can be difficult when you’re travelling a lot. When I’m at home and I’m feeding my children, I’ll always go for organic but on the road I tend to think that getting any fresh produce into me is better than nothing."

Q: Do you take any supplements?

Thea: "Not really. I try to cover everything I need in my diet. I’m very prone to anaemia so occasionally I’ll take an iron supplement but I've yet to find one that really does the job for me."

Q: Do you encourage your children to eat healthily and avoid things like sugar and processed foods?

Thea: "Absolutely. Children are naturally drawn to sweet things; I think it’s an instinctive thing so you have to work at getting them to eat healthily. My eldest son, Egan, who is eight, has got the healthiest diet and he’s so good. He loves avocado and broccoli – he’s massively into green vegetables. But my littlest, Asher, who is three, is a bit more of a challenge!"

Q: So how do you balance motherhood with life as a working, touring musician?

Thea: "It’s hard work but I think any mother with a career finds it challenging. People ask me this a lot and I suppose it’s quite different with me because I don’t have a nine-to-five job, but I don’t think the challenges are that different really. In some respects I think I’m quite lucky because I can take my kids with me on tour. Obviously I’ve got school to think about with the older one, so he comes with me when he can."

Q: How do you relax and deal with stress?

Thea: "I find yoga to be very helpful. It’s been a part of my life since I was about 19. I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve not done it as much but whenever I come back to it I wonder why I went away from it for so long. It’s more than just a form of exercise; it completely quietens my mind. Most of my work is in my head – I think a lot of creative jobs are like that – so I really need something like yoga to help calm my thoughts."

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your new album, Ghosts and Graffiti?

Thea: "It’s part new album, part retrospective. People have asked me many times about doing a compilation but I’ve always said no, I’m a bit of a 'best of" skeptic and also I’ve never felt it was time to look back. I always had new stuff I passionately wanted to get out there. Then I realised last year that I wanted to bring new light to some older songs – colour, and the perspective that just living for a while affords. I was so young when I wrote many of them. The album features collaborations with some amazing people, like Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, The Waterboys and John Cooper Clarke. I particularly enjoyed working with Billy Bragg as I've been a massive fan of his for years. It's not often that people live up to your expectations but he very definitely did. He doesn't put himself on a pedestal in any way and I love that about him."

Q: Has music always been a love of yours? How did you first get into it?

Thea: "I was always surrounded by music when I was growing up. My dad was a first generation hippie who loved things like the Beatles, and so even though I was growing up in the eighties I heard a lot of his music from the sixties and seventies. Lyrics and poetry were always important to me and I think that was how I got into music. I wanted to write poetry but you couldn’t really make much of a living being a poet so music seemed like the obvious way to get out there and do something different."

Thea Gilmore’s latest album, Ghosts and Graffiti, will be released on 1 June through Fullfill Records. Her new single Coming Back to You is out on 18 May and she will be embarking on a UK tour that same month. For more details visit www.theagilmore.net

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