Interview with Will Kimbrough – Part 2 of 4

Will KimbroughDuring my interview with Will Kimbrough, one thing that really impressed me about him was this: Here is a man that is so extremely talented, and at the same time, so very unassuming.
Considering Will Kimbrough’s major involvement with and contributions to Jimmy Buffett’s latest album  – Buffet Hotel (released Dec. 8th, 2009) – I thought that it was only appropriate that I share with you the portion of the interview where Will talks about everything from his first encounter with Jimmy; and brings us all the way up to his current involvement with Buffett’s recordings.

Part Two

OKOM: I had read somewhere that Jimmy Buffett had taken you under his wing – you being a fellow son of Mobile, Alabama – and I thought it was interesting, even funny, that here you are co-writing a song called “Wings” with him. When was your very first contact with Buffett, and what were the circumstances around that?

WK: Well, I was playing with Todd Snider back in the 90s, and the first two Todd Snider records were on the Margaritaville records. So, there was a connection right there. We were touring the first album, and we were playing in New Orleans at Tipatina’s. Buffett was there. We were backstage – and backstage at Tipatina’s was not a big fancy affair at the time, and it probably isn’t now, it’s just basically kind of a rundown little room – and we were all crowded in back there with a bunch of people kind of having an after-show party – for some reason – in this dingy backroom. I ended up sort of pushed up against the wall by this crowd of people. I looked over to my right and there was Jimmy Buffett. I went over and introduced myself. I said, “Hey, I’m Will, and I’m in Todd’s band. I’m from Mobile as well.” He kind of looked at me and smiled. So, we met. Then we didn’t see a lot of each other, but years later, I’d say seven or eight years later, my wife and I had become friends with his niece. She called me up and said, “I had dinner with Jimmy last night. He was asking about you. Why don’t you send him some music?” So I sent him everything that I had at the time. A couple of months later I got a call from somebody in his office. They said that he may record a song called “Piece of Work” and he might record a song called “Champion of the World.” They asked if that would be OK. Well, I said, “Great! That’d be wonderful!” Then I got a call a couple of months after that asking if I would come to Key West and record on the record, and I said “Sure!”

OKOM: That would have been “License to Chill” then.

WK: Yeah, I guess that was in January 2003. We recorded “Piece of Work” and I played on some other stuff. I met Sonny Landreth, Bill Payne, and met all the Coral Reefer people. I had a really good time. The record did great. So then, after that, Jimmy called me to come write and we wrote some songs for the next record, which was called “Take The Weather With You” – named after that Neil Finn song by Crowded House – and I co-wrote three songs on that record and I played on it. Since then I’ve become sort of a substitute guitar player for when Pete Mayer can’t do a show, and occasionally when he is there, I’ll be a guest. So, I’ve done a few gigs. I went down in January of this year, 2009, to write with Jimmy again. This time it was just the two of us. I had already sent him some songs and he had decided that he liked a song called “Nobody from Nowhere” and he wanted to work on the lyrics to a song called “Wings.” He had a song that he was writing with Mac McAnally that he wanted my help on called “A Lot to Drink About.”

OKOM: And those are all on his new CD. So, the “Wings” collaboration was his idea?

WK: Well, yeah, I had written a song called “Wings” and the version on my album is a little bit different from the one on his, a little bit different lyrics. So, I went down to meet with Jimmy and he said, “I think I’m going to record “Nobody from Nowhere.” I said, “Wonderful, that’s great.” Then he also wanted to work on “A Lot to Drink About.” Basically, when we were working on that, I got it from him – he played it for me. Then we did a demo of it. Then I sent him some verses that I had worked on while I was down there and from somewhere else. I think I went from there to New York, and then to Europe. I was just emailing him verses. He then took some of the lines from those. So, that’s a co-write with Jimmy, Mac McAnally, and myself. But we never did – all three of us – get together. We just sort of sent each other lines and verses, and Jimmy edited it together like he wanted it.

OKOM: Interesting.

WK: Yeah, and then, while I was down there – I knew that Jimmy likes to go surfing every morning whenever he’s by the water, which is pretty often – I had this song that I was working on called “Surfing in a Hurricane.” I said to him, “Let me play you this song that I’ve got.” This was one of those songs I wrote while I was trying to inhabit J. J. Cale’s mind. So, it was this real J. J. Cale kind of song. It was a kind of fast but kind of mellow acoustic.

OKOM: You know, he mentioned that song the other morning on The Today Show (Nov. 23rd).

WK: Oh, cool. So, anyway, I said, “What about this song?” And he liked it. Then I said, “Well, what if we did it like surf music?” So, we started playing around with it like Dick Dale, or like The Ventures. He really liked that so we re-wrote the whole song. He’s played that live quite a few times on this last tour. So, that’s four songs that I co-wrote on this new record of his. Actually, with “Surfing in a Hurricane,” we had recorded a demo of it and that became the basis for Jimmy’s recording that’s on his album. All my surf guitar parts were recorded at his place on – a guitar that was just sitting around – his Telecaster.

OKOM: Oh, that’s great!

WK: [laughs] So, that’s fun because – it’s similar to when I was talking about what I did on my record – you sort of fool yourself into thinking that nobody is listening. You can really be relaxed and do your thing and not worry about it or over-think it. So, I’m excited about Jimmy’s record coming out because I play a pretty big role; I wrote songs for it and played on it.

OKOM: Are you going to be doing any promotion with Jimmy for his new record?

WK: Yeah, what we’re going to be doing is a CMT Crossroads taping next week with Jimmy and a version of the Coral Reefer Band.

OKOM: That’s going to be with the Zac Brown Band, isn’t it? When is that supposed to air?

WK: Yeah. I’m not exactly sure when it’s supposed to air. I’ll have to find out when I’m at the thing. Right now I’m just in the logistical phase of them calling me and telling me to, you know, bring an amp.

OKOM: [laughs] Just show up, right?

WK: Yup.

OKOM: Hey Will, I want to get back to your record Wings. I didn’t want to just talk about Buffett. I didn’t want you to think that.

WK: Oh hey, that’s cool. Yeah.

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Interview with Will Kimbrough – Part 1 of 4

Will KimbroughOn December 4th, 2009, I had the pleasure of interviewing the very gifted singer-songwriter Will Kimbrough. I say gifted because – besides being able to sing and write songs – Will can also play many instruments masterfully, as well as engineer and produce music in the recording studio. He’s an internationally touring performer, a band leader, and a Grammy nominee. He is the definition of a musical “Renaissance Man.”
His upcoming full-length studio album Wings that will be released on February 23, 2010 is his fifth solo offering. It’s central theme is something we can all relate to at one point or another – the conflict between family and career, love and work, parents and children.

Part One

OKOM: Thanks for taking time out for this interview; I really appreciate it.

WK: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for doing it.

OKOM: I’ve been listening to your new CD Wings. It has a very warm, heartening, optimistic feel to it. I’ve only been listening to it for about a week. So, I’m sorry, I’ve probably only played it all the way through 35 or 40 times.

WK: [laughs] OK.

OKOM: Are these tunes that you’ve had sitting up on the shelf in your head for a while or are they new?

WK: Well, really, there’s a variety there. I write all the time and songs kind of come in different layers; and I recognize them as groups of songs and going together. I may not always be right on it but that’s just how I perceive it. I had that Americanitis which was from a huge batch of songs, and I put this giant 17-song record. I had the EP after that, and then we did the Daddy record [Daddy – For a Second Time]. There were still songs that were sort of floating around. Also there were some that were being written at those times. You know, when you get a record finished, you may have in the meantime – while you’ve been finishing the recording; mixing and mastering it; getting the artwork together, and all that stuff – you may write a whole new record during that time.

OKOM: Really?

WK: Yeah, like one song on there is from, probably like, ten years ago that just popped back into my head. I don’t even know if there was a recorded version of it.

OKOM: Really? Which one was that?

WK: It’s called “It Ain’t Cool” which I wrote with Todd Snider.

OKOM: Oh, OK. So, that’s the one that you co-wrote with Todd. I had heard that he had co-written one of them with you but the advance copy didn’t give writing credits.

WK: Yeah, that song goes way back. Neither of us had talked about it or thought about it. It just popped into my head one day and I decided to record it. I started playing with it, I decided that I really liked it, and I wanted it to have that kind of feel.

OKOM: I was wondering if maybe that was a personal message to somebody.

WK: [laughs] No, really we just made up a song that had a little moral and kept it real simple.

OKOM: Cool. So that’s the oldest song.

WK: Yeah, and some of the songs are really new. But they seem to be a group that works together. They keep their heads up when it’s their time, if that’s not too corny or mystical sounding.

OKOM: Right, they wouldn’t have fit in with Americanitis but they definitely have the same feel as EP.

WK: Yeah, I mean like “Three Angels” was one that was written during the time that I was putting EP together. One thing that we decided was to make it an EP, not an LP. It was something that could have grown into a bigger record but I just didn’t have the means to promote an album, and so I ended up making an EP. So, there are all kinds of reasons. But, it’s good to have too many songs.

OKOM: No kidding, you’ve got plenty to pull from too.

WK: Exactly.

OKOM: I was wondering if there were any particular influences in the way you did the arrangements on these songs because they don’t all have the same feel to them. Like, you’ve got that old R&B vibe going with “Open To Love.” Were there any other influences?

WK: One of the things that I was sort of trying to do when I started making this record was – What would J. J. Cale do? And again, not all the record sounds like that but a couple of songs have that feel to them but mainly “It Ain’t Cool.” It has a little bit more of that sort of whispery, bluesy, but kind of droning quality. I made a whole batch of songs like that, like I was going to make a record that sort of tipped the hat to J. J. Cale. But then I decide not to do that. I had just been under his spell for a while and I decided I didn’t want to make a whole record like that.

OKOM: Was that because of Roll On, that latest one that he put out?

WK: No, I wanted all of them. I went through a phase where I think I loaded all his records that I have – which were quite a few, almost all of them – into an iPod.

OKOM: That’s a lot.

WK: Yeah, I spent a couple of weeks when I was traveling listening to J. J. Cale. So I think that there’s definitely the influence of that, except that [laughs] we don’t get excited and yell at you in any of these songs.

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Todd Snider – Empathy For Assholes


Todd Snider at home in East Nashville

As an unexpected bonus, after Todd’s show in Eugene, Oregon, I was invited onto his tour bus, where he treated me to some beer and an early listen to some of his (then yet to be released) CD “The Excitement Plan.” I can’t begin to tell you how jazzed I was to get that surprise! (Thanks, Todd.)

I also interviewed Todd in May, 2009. We discussed “The Excitement Plan” and some of the stories behind the songs. (We also talked about wine, dogs, and pot; it seems that we both easily get sidetracked). The (unpublished) article from that interview will be posted here later this month.

(At the bottom of this post there is a link to the published version of this post).

Empathy For Assholes —

The guy in the car in front of you at the drive through window is brutally chewing out the blameless pimply faced kid working it. You watch this unfold and probably don’t give it much thought other than that jerk just wasted some of your precious time. When Portland-born singer/songwriter Todd Snider witnessed a similar incident, he thought “What would make a guy act like that?” Todd then took his thoughts, along with his food, home and digested them. “By the time I got back to my house” He said by phone from his home in East Nashville,  “I thought, if I could try to just find some empathy for this guy that acted like a total asshole… how could I write that down?” He then proceeded to piece together the possible aspects of this nameless man’s life that seemed to be pushing him off the edge of sanity: His unfulfilling, dead-end career chosen by his parents because they thought it would be practical; his brown-nosing, thankless, slave driver of a boss; his ingrate daughter that he keeps trying to please; his wife, who spends his money faster than he can make it; and his impenitent, slacker son (that he secretly admires for his shameless qualities). All of these pressures lead to the explosive assault on the innocent teenager working the window. The resultant track “Stuck on the Corner (prelude to a heart attack)” appears on Todd’s latest offering “Peace Queer” on Aimless Records. The song drives hard and fast, conveying all of the central character’s tension and anxiety.

This is just one of the extremely witty and perceptive songs that Todd will be performing when he hits the WOW Hall stage on Tuesday, February 17th armed with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, a wry humor and a unique style that firmly places him in the company of some of America’s greatest songwriters. Todd admits that, in his early years, he idolized as well as stalked some of those very same songwriters to whom he is now compared. One of those targets of stalking back then was Keith Sykes. “I’ve got maybe ten guys on my Mount Rushmore” Todd said “And he’s always been one of them.” Todd showed up at Keith’s front door with just a demo tape and a guitar. Keith was so impressed that he introduced Todd to Jimmy Buffett in 1993.  That led to Todd opening for Buffet at a couple of west coast dates. “One day I was playing a little coffee-house in front of like ten people.” Todd said “Then I flew out to LA and played the Hollywood Bowl with him (Buffett) and then I did Portland, where I grew up, with him. Then I flew out on a red-eye… to Memphis where I played for another twenty people. It was pretty surreal.” Todd’s first two CD’s came out on Buffett’s Margaritaville Records label.

Todd Snider has gotten to a point in his life and career where he has connections, friendships and a history with those that he once and still idolizes. He doesn’t seem to take that lightly. He sincerely appreciates all life has brought. Todd is very proud to be having Keith open for him on his current tour. He also produced Keith Sykes latest CD “Country Morning Music”.

Todd’s songs can have you laughing one minute and choking up with tears the next. He stirs your emotions, beliefs and thoughts cleverly and carefully without ever being over the top or in your face. As he tells his audience at every performance “…I don’t share my opinions with you because I think they are smart or because I think you should share them. I share them with you because they rhyme. I do not do this to change your mind about anything. I do this to ease my own mind about everything…”

Click here to see the edited version that was published in the Eugene Weekly February 12th, 2009

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