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Will Kimbrough

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

Photo credit: Neilson Hubbard



How old were you when you started playing guitar?


Twelve.

What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?


My first guitar was an Alamo Fiesta. My parents bought it for me for $20. I do not have it, but I have one just like it.



Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?


My mother played piano, and my father would sing in church. That’s about it. Yes, when I was a kid, I played and sang with them.

What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?


I have a 1940s Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar that I adore.




I have a telecaster style guitar built by David Peto that is awesome.




It’s all about feel and tone - those guitars feel and sound great.


What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?


Oh, I use D'Addario mediums on my old Gibson acoustic, and D'Addario NYXL 10 gauge on my telecaster.


Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?


I use the yellow D'Addario picks… medium gauge, I suppose… and Slick Pick thumb picks! I probably play with my bare fingers 75% of the time.




Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?









Do you work on your own guitars or do you bring them to a guitar tech? Are there any guitar techs that you would like to recommend?


I perform basic set up on my guitars on a daily basis. When I need more technical work, done, I take it over to Joe Glaser Instruments or to Dan Blom.


Joe Glaser Photo credit: Michael Ross


Dan Blom of Blom Guitars


Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?


There isn’t really a small neighborhood guitar shop in my neighborhood anymore. So I don’t know… vintage shops are for the rich. I love TR Crandall in NYC!



At what age did you start writing songs?


13.

What is your songwriting process? Is it the music or the lyrics that usually come to you first? Do you write old school on paper, or electronically?


My process is… Lyrics… Music… It doesn’t matter what comes first. I keep up with it by recording ideas and writing them down in notebooks, typing them out on my laptop, typing them out on my phone. I would say I am holistic when it comes to technology. I use it all. For me, it’s more about keeping up with your ideas in the moment and every once in a while, writing a whole song in one sitting.



I work with SongwritingWith:Soldiers and the Warrior PATHH program has been a big influence on me. That writing process is immediate, on the spot, spontaneous, and vulnerable. It’s taught me so much.


Will discussing the evolution of a song that he wrote with five combat veterans.

Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?


The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Rodney Crowell.


Will and Rodney Crowell.



If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?


Mississippi John Hurt.



What are your top three “desert island” albums?


Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left

Mississippi John Hurt - Today!

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue



What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?


The first concert that really stands out to me was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Mobile Nashville Theater in Mobile, Alabama. $4.50 with 999 of my closest friends, having my world turned upside down in the best possible way.


The Beatles or the Stones?


Exactly.



Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?


Mid 1976, Skate World, Mobile Alabama. We were paid $150. We invested the money into our PA system.


What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?






What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don’t have to name names).


Recording session, where I did not belong. Modern commercial country music. I don’t know how to play it. I had to hand the guitar over to the producer and let him play the part. Luckily, this was only a couple of years ago, so my ego could take it! I was not young and fragile. Thankfully!


What are some of the venues you enjoy performing at the most? What things make the venue enjoyable for the performer (location, equipment, setup, organizers)?


Small venue: Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm, Silverhill, Alabama


Will playing at Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm. Photo credit: Stephen Anderson



Big venue: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, in front of 100,000 of my closest friends.


Will at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Photo credit: Brian A. Miller


How do you work out your setlist?


How can I break the ice? How can I keep the momentum going? How can I give everyone a break and play something that tells a story in a slower way? How can I pick the energy back up? What songs tell a story? What songs allow me to tell stories about the songs? How can I build up to the grand finale and then take it back down at the end so I can play my ultimate closer, “Goodnight Moon”?


I ask myself these questions, write down my answers, and then there is a setlist.


Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?


Focus on songwriting.




Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?


Write down what’s on your mind. If you’re sad, write down what is inside, etc. Learn a cover song. Pay attention to the nuts and bolts of that favorite song. Write out the lyrics to a favorite song in longhand. Practice morning pages. Play your instrument.




If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?


Probably teaching.


Photo credit: Glenda Stabler Campbell



Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.


I’m finishing a new album on my own, while also writing for the next, Shemekia Copeland album (I produced, and helped write her last three albums, two of which were nominated for Grammy awards).




I helped write and record the upcoming Jimmy Buffett album as well, and have been singing, harmonies and doing various post production work on that.


Photo credit: Fontaine Radcliff Howard

I have several SongwritingWith:Soldiers/Warrior PATHH trips coming up throughout the year.




My Will Kimbrough Super Service Podcast has featured guests like Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell recently. It’s on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio.



I still play and sing with Emmylou Harris whenever I can. We have dates coming up at the festivals in Winnipeg & Calgary.


Photo credit: Suzanne Weaver Zimmer



Wills links:













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