In music, reliability with an artist is key. If listeners feel like the artist is singing directly to them, it creates a level of familiarity with them, thus creating fans, and most importantly, friends.
Joplin, Missouri native Kimra has done just that; focusing her songwriting on what her fans want to hear, and it is paying dividends, and her most recent EP, “Songs for You” was her most successful release to date.
In this detailed interview, hear from Kimra about her songwriting, her myriad of influences, the stories behind some of her songs, and much more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Kimra: Growing up, I always listened to ALL kinds of music. My parents were divorced, so being in separate households a lot, I was exposed to different genres and eras of music. I would stay summers with my grandma & grandpa in Wyandotte, OK, and we would listen to musicals on cassette tapes and watch movies such as Singing in the Rain, anything with Bing Crosby, and I owned & wore out EVERY Shirley Temple VHS! My mom and step dad were both really into 80’s music, so I love ELO, The Eagles & any 80’s rock. My dad listened to country, and I loved singing Shania Twain karaoke tapes at his house.
I joined Choir in 7th grade, and I was extremely shy (believe it or not)! By then, I was listening to Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, all those great pop artists we all grew up with. Then I went through my punk girl phase, listening to Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Finch, Taking Back Sunday and I definitely thought I was Avril Lavigne. I guess you could say she was actually a huge influence because I could relate to ALL of her music.
My parents bought me my first electric guitar at 14, and I taught myself a few chords. The first song I learned to play on guitar was “Tomorrow” by Avril Lavigne, which is a very powerful song. I think it’s amazing how certain songs can take you to another world on such a deeper level and help you through whatever you’re going through at that time in your life. So shout out Avril Lavigne, your first 2 albums that got me through my teens & inspired me to start writing music! My country music influences were definitely Shania Twain, Deana Carter, Miranda Lambert & Kacey Musgraves. There’s just honestly too many great artists to mention that I was influenced by. If you were to look at my cd collection back then, you would’ve been impressed with the variety! I just love a song that tells a great story that anyone can relate to.
At the end of the day, I love ALL music. But I feel like I put my own twist on “rock country” to tell my story.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
Kimra: So like I said earlier, I was a very VERY shy person growing up. I was timid, self-conscious, and would just write songs and share them with my closest friends, but no one else. I met my good friend from Australia, Michael Edser, aka Grayson, in October 2013, and he was doing a Route 66 tour through Joplin, MO (where I’m from). We sang karaoke together at a local place and got to talking, and he said I should go to Nashville, where he currently lived, to record in his friend’s studio. I thought to myself, “Yeah right, I’m sure you say that to everyone.” I didn’t think I was good enough to record, I didn’t think someone would actually want to record or listen to MY music, and I was terrified to go to Nashville! But with the support & encouragement from my amazing husband & friends, in 2014, I made the trip to Nashville and recorded & then released my first EP “Kimra”.
I’m so glad I decided to take that first step into my musical journey, because it’s one I don’t regret. I’ve met the most talented musicians, played fun shows alongside some great artists, and made some of the best friendships with loyal fans. I think if you can make people happy and affect them in a positive way with music, then you’re doing something right.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your self-titled EP?
Kimra: I think there was definitely pressure from all aspects of my life at that point! We released the 3 songs December 2014, and I just remember being so nervous in the studio recording, hoping that my voice was going to sound half as good as the musicians that I recorded with! Johnny Highland, probably one of the greatest guitar players ever, did all the lead guitar on that album, and I was in awe watching him in the studio. I’ve also always been one to make other people happy before myself, so I just wanted everyone to like my music, wanted them to relate to it & wanted them to be proud of me for going for it!
The response I had from people was definitely a positive one. As an artist, I think it’s important to take good AND bad feedback, because it helps you grow as a person, and when writing music. You just take notes from that feedback, work on the things you need to make yourself better, and keep pushing forward. (Matt Stewart played killer drums on this album & the legend Johnny Highland rocked the lead guitar)
PC: As a whole, the “Forgive & Forget” EP is the most traditional of your releases. Was that intentional as you were writing and going in to record that EP?
Kimra: So this being my second album, I felt like I had 1 under my belt, so I had an idea of what I wanted this one to sound like. Justin Miller at Yellow Hammer Studios (studio owner/producer) in Nashville is such a talented guy, and so easy to work with. Going in to record this album, Justin and Grayson both asked “So what do you want this one to sound like?” As I mentioned earlier, I love Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. I love that they are both songwriters, and that they aren’t afraid to speak their mind or be vulnerable in their music. I wanted that same feel with the melody and sound for this album. These songs were definitely written with my traditional country soul! (It was an honor to have Carrie Underwood’s drummer, Garrett Goodwin on the album as well as Big and Rich’s pedal steel player, Alex Cordell, and Rudy Zee on bass.)
PC: “Forgive & Forget” is one of the standout tracks on its EP. Why did you decide to name the EP after that song?
Kimra: And now it gets personal! So when I write music, I like to tell stories of the people I’ve met or known in my life. I also tend to add some of my personal experiences to the lyrics as well. So this one was a mixture. I absolutely love this song and what it means, and I still get teary-eyed every time I sing this song with my band. We all know the saying “forgive & forget,” and I felt it was appropriate to use along with a piece of my past that involved a lot of negativity growing up.
I do believe in God, and I think if more people in their past could forgive the ones that wronged them or the situation that tore them apart at that time in their life and move on, they would be a lot happier. It gives you that sort of peace when you don’t hold on to those things. I believe in “killing them with kindness” as they say, and I stay away from any negative vibes that affect my life. As I said earlier, I always try to make others happy before myself, and at that point in my life, it was where it became toxic & unhealthy for me. This song was a detox you could say for me from that past. I also tied in a relationship aspect to this song because I know for a lot of people, they can be stuck in toxic relationships, whether it’s a friend, spouse or loved one.
Sometimes it’s hard to pick yourself back up after what’s happened to you, but it’s important to see that there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel, and it is okay to make yourself happy, because guess what, you only get one shot at this life. YOLO! (my husband teases me when I say that. Love you babe :))
PC: “Clothes on the Line” is a song that has gotten great response from your fan base. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
Kimra: You’re going to laugh, because this song was written at about 2am with some friends of mine, in my garage back in Joplin. One of our buddies was smitten over this girl who he had been with previously. They are now married, and my friend from college helped me write part of the 1st verse and chorus for this one. It’s just one of those back and forth love stories and I even added my Shania “yee-hoo” in this one. I love that this song has a play on words “You’re clothes on the line are still hanging there to dry.” Basically meaning, things are still not going to change and they are going to stay the same. It was a fun song to write, but I’m glad their real-life love story had a happy ending.
PC: Your newest EP, “Songs for You” features a more constant southern rock sound than your previous releases. Was this intentional or do you feel your sound naturally progressed in that direction during writing/recording?
Kimra: This album “Songs for You” is definitely the album I’m most proud of. I was inspired a lot while writing all of these songs. This was during the time when I was putting a band together, trying to find the right sound, trying to book shows all on my own, and decide if this was the right direction I wanted to take my music career. So there was a lot going on and a lot of decisions I had to make!
The title of this album is just what it means…”songs for you” (my fans!). This album has probably had the best response of all 3 from our fans. I remember playing a show in Joplin, and there was a lady there who came up to me after I sang “Save Me.” This song can have so many different meanings (love, death, breakups, heartache, faith, addiction) and that is what I love most about it. She came up to me crying saying, “I lost my daughter in the Joplin tornado, and that song really spoke to me.” Of course I cried with her and hugged her, saying, “This is why I do what I do.”
All of the songs on this one are SO powerful, I wanted it to sound strong and show that I had grown as an artist, and of course the crew at Yellow Hammer Studios and Winter Records DID NOT disappoint in helping me achieve that goal. (It was very cool to have Tim McGraw’s old drummer, Billy Mason record on the tracks & talented Nashville artists Jeff Hyman & Tom Hampton.)
PC: “Stand Up” has gotten off to a good start from the new EP. What kind of validation does it give you, as both an artist and as a songwriter, when people connect with the songs from your new releases?
Kimra: “Stand Up” is also one of those songs that can have so many different meanings for so many people. It was the single off of “Songs for You” and we will be making the music video for that song this spring! When people can connect to the lyrics or melody of my songs, then I have done my job as a singer/songwriter/artist. Writing songs is not an easy task, and I think a lot of other artists struggle with it. Besides meeting fans, writing is probably my most favorite part of what I do as an artist. “Stand Up” was kind of an anthem for myself, because I’ve never been great at standing up for myself or what I want in life. I’m so lucky to have a husband that has always supported & helped me evolve into this strong, independent woman, and I’m more confident today than I ever imagined being. This album has only pushed me to write more and challenged me to get better and better at making music that people love and want to play on repeat.
PC: “Good Life” is one of the standouts from “Songs For You.” Can you talk about the writing process of that song?”
Kimra: I’ve actually had a lot of great feedback on this song! I love the guitar riff in this one during the break. It’s magical.
So this song has some of my favorite lyrics in it. “Living sleepless in the Good life” basically means, the euphoria we know as life is so good that we don’t want to sleep and lose time from it. We all go through ups and downs, and once you meet that person, or once that big break happens for you in your life, you just don’t want to wake up from that “dream,” because it’s almost so unreal that it’s happening to you. My guitarist had also been married that same year to one of my closest friends, and their love also inspired me to look back on when I first met my husband. The innocence and purity that you feel when you find that special someone after waiting for so long is definitely something worth writing about, and if you’re lucky enough to hold on to that after many many years (I’ve been married 10 years now), what a Good Life!
PC: Why did you decide to call your new EP “Songs For You?”
Kimra: When song lyrics or the melody come to me, it’s at the most random times. Whether it’s during band practice with the guys playing a random guitar riff or beat, driving home with lyrics in my head, or literally waking up and having a melody in my head, my songwriting never fails me. Most of the time what I’m writing tells someone else’s story. I do like to of course write songs about my experiences too, but I think as an artist, it’s important to write songs for our fans, the people that support us. I’ve always been the type of person to serve others, having worked in customer service since I was 18, so it’s just a part of my DNA to want to make music for others. And most of the time when I’m writing, I can combine my own feelings into the song & really convey what I was feeling at the time or what I interpret the person was feeling at the time. “Songs for You” is exactly what it’s title says, these are songs I wanted to write for you guys. You deserve great music, & to have your own stories heard, so I hope to never disappoint!
PC: Where do you sense that you’ve grown the most since your first EP release in 2014?
Kimra: I would say I grew the most between EP 2 “Forgive & Forget” & EP 3 “Songs for You.” I took on a lot more responsibility in life, made myself accountable and challenged myself. There were definitely times when I questioned why I was doing this, was it worth it, & how am I going to make it through this? We all feel this way at some points in our life. I will say a lot of praying, a lot of tears. & a lot of positivity from others is what kept me pushing. I wanted to see “Songs for You” go somewhere. and I wanted it to hit as many ears as possible, so my goal last year was to book as many shows as possible, collaborate with as many other bands as possible. & to promote myself like crazy. Being your own boss isn’t always the easiest, but I can say I’m very proud of myself and have zero regrets.
PC: What do you hope people take away after listening to the “Songs for You’ EP all the way through?
Kimra: Even though every person that listens to my album doesn’t know me personally, I hope they can tell that the songs that I wrote were for them. The songs were so much fun to write and put together; it’s really a cool process to look back on once it’s all said and done. When I listen to music and songs that I can relate to, I get moved, I get excited, and all I want to do is put them on repeat. I hope that for others, they can say the same thing about my music.
PC: What are your plans for 2019?
Kimra: You should always have goals in life! Even if it’s something as small as drinking more water every day or something as huge as losing a ton of weight! The New Year is always a great time to set goals, but I think it’s important to set goals each month to keep your momentum going.
Our goals this year are:
Jan – Work on new songs & new set/show
Feb – Record music video for “Stand Up” & trying out for The Voice again
March – Release music video & book band photo shoot
April–Aug – We plan on booking shows/festivals with other headlining bands all around the area & competing again for Nash Next 2019!
Sept-Oct – Record new music in Nashville to release in 2020
Nov-Dec – I want to record a Christmas album
Hope that isn’t too specific! 🙂 I’m sure we will be adding to that list as we move throughout the year!
Our Christmas break was great, but the guys and I are excited to be back at it, making great music for all of you!
PC: Additional comments:
Kimra: Justin, thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my music and for doing this interview. I think it’s so great when we can open up about what inspires us, and I think it’s great you’re doing this for artists all over the nation. Bravo!
I also want to mention a few things I am proud of myself and my band’s accomplishments in 2018:
- It was the busiest year we’ve had for booking shows & the most exposure we’ve ever had! I couldn’t have done it without my guys.
- We made it to the Missouri finals for Nash Next 2018 and came in second place
- Released my 3rd album “Songs for You” (I am most proud of) & promoted the socks off it! LOL
- Opened for Bart Crow Band & I was able to sing a duet with him twice (such great guys)
- Released my 2nd music video for “Forgive & Forget”
- Signed my first cowgirl boot at a show! (I’m easily amused)
- Played our first show in Oklahoma
- Reached almost 2,300 YouTube views on our 1st music video “In My Little Town”
- I won Artist of the Year from Winter Records Nashville
- We appreciate all the love from everyone this past year: the venues, the fans, the other bands. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 🙂
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*All images courtesy of Kimra and Kimra website*