Interview with Will Kimbrough – Part 3 of 4

Will KimbroughIn this part of the interview with singer-songwriter-producer Will Kimbrough, we dig deeper into the stories behind the creation of the songs on his upcoming album Wings. I hope that you find it to be interesting. Enjoy!

Part Three

OKOM: Will, what brought about the collection of songs you chose for Wings?

WK: Well, we did the Daddy record [For a Second Time] and it was pretty rocking; it’s not an extremely hard rocking record.

OKOM: There are some great tracks on that one too.

WK: Well, thank you. On this one, I wanted to do something that was sort of along the lines of a contemporary folk record that also combines R&B influences, and lets the band play together.

OKOM: On Wings, I really like the way you book-ended the album with the songs “Three Angels” and “A Couple Hundred Miracles.”

WK: They work well together.

OKOM: “A Couple Hundred Miracles” is my favorite on the album. It’s inspiring and beautifully done. They’re both obviously very personal songs.

WK: Yeah, “A Couple Hundred Miracles” – I wrote it in the context of a family. It’s sort of like a morning time, walking down the hall, counting your blessings song. I was reading this book called The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Buddhist. It’s a pretty famous book, as far as Buddhist books go. It’s a Zen-Buddhist book, and it’s about being in the now; being in the moment. It’s a practice that he has developed called “Mindfulness.” It’s just a way to get yourself in the moment when you get too far away from it – when you start thinking too much about the past or about the future – and you can bring yourself back into the now. One of the things he said was that: We don’t know why we’re here, so therefore every step on earth is a little miracle, and we should be grateful for every breath and every step. So, that song was really influenced by this old Zen Monk from Vietnam.

OKOM: That’s not your average influence.

WK: Also, one of the other songs, “The Day of the Troubadour,” says “little miracles from the seat of an old Greyhound,” which is about, you know, just the travel of life, and it makes kind of a comical reference to Jesus being sort of a vaudeville performer. I think that’s an interesting way to put it – my friend, Jeff Finlin, wrote most of those lyrics – and I really like that about that song. Jesus was at the train station, after years and years of town-to-town performing miracles.

OKOM: I caught a line “I didn’t come to hear him speak; I came to watch him eat; I came to watch him tie his sheets” or something like that. I thought maybe that was about Jesus.

WK: That line, I think, could either be about Jesus, or it’s about a child. Jeff has a son, and I think when he wrote that, his son was younger. I was thinking that it was about his son. It says, “I didn’t come to see a miracle; I didn’t come to hear him speak the truth; I came just to watch him eat; I came to watch him tie his shoes.”

OKOM: Oh, I was almost close.

WK: Remember when you taught a kid to tie their shoes?

OKOM: Yeah, it’s such a big moment.

WK: Yeah, and when you start thinking about how to tell somebody how to do that – suddenly, this thing that you’re used to doing without thinking – it becomes this complicated act. It’s all part of that little miracles thought that’s on this record. It’s looking at the little details of life around you. That’s a part of what makes this good.

OKOM: That was one of the songs that I was going to ask you about; there were three of them that I found really intriguing lyrically. That’s one of them [“The Day of the Troubadour”], “You Can’t Go Home,” and “Big Big Love.”

 WK: You know what, that’s because Jeff Finlin wrote most of those lyrics. He’s got some great records out. He’s probably got four or five records out. He was a drummer in Nashville, later got into being a singer-songwriter. He ended up getting a record deal over in Europe and putting out records over there. He moved to Colorado a few years ago. He just sent me a package of lyrics.

OKOM: You also have some songs on Wings about relationships – “Love to Spare,” “Open to Love,” and “Let Me Be Your Frame.” In that last one, I really like the analogy of the canvas and the frame showing the relationship.

WK: Yeah, a lot of these songs are co-written, almost all of them are. “Open to Love”, I wrote that with Dave Zobl. He’s another guy that lives in Colorado; he lives in Denver. I produced his record [And So It Goes] last year. And somewhere along the way, I helped him finish the song “Open to Love.” So I decided to record it because I really loved that song. Then, “Let Me Be Your Frame” was written with Sarah Kelly, who’s a young songwriter here in Nashville. She had that title when we got together to write. I just loved that title. So I said, “Lets make that song happen.” The song “A Couple Hundred Miracles” that you mentioned was written with Sarah Kelly’s mother, Irene Kelly.

OKOM: Wow, that’s great. So there was a lot more collaboration on this album then there has been in the past.

WK: Definitely, yeah. I think the only songs on Wings that I wrote by myself are “Three Angels,” “Love to Spare,” the original draft of “Wings,” and that’s about it. The rest were co-written with Jeff Finlin, Todd Snider, Sarah, or Irene. There are quite a few people and – except for Todd – they’re not the usual suspects whom I usually write with. It’s been a good thing to have.

OKOM: In the past, some of your songs dealing with relationships tended to be more on the sad side. Songs like “Letdown,” “War of Words,” and “Just Let Me Say Yes,” which is one of my favorites; I can relate to that one.

WK: [laughs]

OKOM: The songs on this album are more positive.

WK: You know, I just decided to do this record this way. I already had the songs and I had to weed out the songs for this one. In my opinion, some of my favorite songs – that I have now – are not on this record.

OKOM: Oh, really?

WK: These were the favorites to work on this record. The working title for this album was originally Great is a Small Word. That came from an episode of This American Life. I heard about an Iraq veteran who came home and had port-traumatic stress syndrome. But he went back to college – after this crazy experience – and ended up getting himself back together. They were asking one of his friends, “How does it feel to see him doing better?” The guy said, “Great is a small word to describe how I feel.” But, I got talked out of using that title… for some reason. [laughs] So, I called it Wings.

OKOM: [laughs] Wow, great story though. Thanks!


1 Response to “Interview with Will Kimbrough – Part 3 of 4”

  1. 1 Kathleen Keeslar
    December 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Okay, this is so far my favorite slice of your interview with Will. I happened to have read the book ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’, it is quite the inspiration. It’s nice to be able to get a feel of where a musician is coming from. And the part about his original working title, “Great is a Small Word”, I love that! I wonder if Will is going to use that in some context in the future. Anyways, really good work here. Enjoyed it, thank you!

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