An Interview with Will Kimbrough

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Review: 'Spring Break' by Will Kimbrough | Lyric Magazine

Will Kimbrough has been anything but lazy during the pandemic. When COVID-19 sent him home in the spring of 2020, Will was not defeated. He did not sit back and feel for sorry for himself. What he did do was make what perhaps amounts to his best album yet, Spring Break, which you can grab here.

Today, I’ve got Will Kimbrough with us. Will is a truly humble guy, who has toured with, recorded with and produced some of the absolute greats. I had fun getting to know Will a bit better. We chat about his influences, his new record as well as some of his old ones, his love for vinyl, writing song with military veterans and much much more. Dig in.

Andrew:
Will, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a very odd year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to pass the time?

Will:
I made a new album, Spring Break, which was released October 23. I started a Patreon and that’s been a great experience. I started playing online shows, and that has been enjoyable.  My work with Songwriting With Soldiers has actually increased, mainly due to the growth of the Warrior PATHH program – a nonclinical program to treat the symptoms of PTSD in combat veterans and first responders without drugs – songwriting plays a small but vital role in that program.  It’s grown exponentially, so as I type this, I am in the Atlanta airport on my way home from writing with a group of combat veterans in South Carolina.

Andrew:
Tell is a bit about your musical origins. How did you get into music?

Will:
I loved music as a kid. I learned guitar and started playing in bands at age 12. I never looked back. I started writing songs immediately. Since I was about 18, that’s pretty much what I’ve done – write, sing, play and record songs I’ve written. Along the way, I learned to be a producer, a session musician, and an accompanist. That’s led me to work with folks like Todd Snider, Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Doug Seegers, Steve Poltz, Mavis Staples, Radney Foster and Shemekia Copeland.  

Andrew:
Coming up as an artist, who were some of your biggest influences? 

Will:
I always loved all kinds of music. So, I can count KISS, Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams and Son House as pretty strong influences – along with the obvious Stones, Beatles, Allmans, Hendrix and of course, Willie Nelson.

Will Kimbrough – The East Nashvillian

Andrew:
Your career got started with Will & the Bushmen, which were a popular college band in the 1980’s. What can you tell us about that group?

Will:
Will & the Bushmen were a group of friends from Mobile, Alabama, who happened to have a little bit of the chemistry that makes Rock ‘N’ Roll bands work – one part friendship, one part gang, add a little personal tension, some substance abuse and just a smidgen of musical talent and voila! Rock ‘N’ Roll Band! It was really fun and I cherish those days.

Andrew:
You’re a multi-instrumentalist, right? Do you favor any one instrument, or do that all have a special place for you?

Will:
I am a guitarist who doubles on mandolin, banjo, one handed keyboards and amateurish harmonica.  

Andrew:
Your music is generally rooted in County, Folk and Americana. What do those genres mean to you? What draws you to them?

Will:
Like I said, Hank, Springsteen, KISS, Hank Williams and Son House – with touches of Beatles, Stones, Allmans, Hendrix and Willie. I love music and play every day. I am drawn to music that moves me emotionally and sometimes music that tickles my brain.

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Andrew:
As a songwriter, you’ve had your songs recorded by the likes of Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet, Mavis Staples and more. That must be very gratifying to have so many artists record your work. What has that experience been like for you?

Will:
It is certainly positive to have anyone record your songs – much less folks like Todd Snider, Gretchen Peters, Little Feat and Jimmy Buffett, whose writing I admire. It’s a wonderful thing.

Andrew:
You’ve also worked extensively as a producer, having produced albums for Rodney Crowell, Kate Campbell, Kim Richey and more. What made you want to get into production? How has your work as a producer informed your work as an artist?

Will:
I produced my own debut album, This, and was soon thereafter asked to produce someone’s album – it’s a learning experience every time. Mostly a support role, lots of administration.  Not my favorite role to play – although it can be quite rewarding – Shemekia Copeland’s last two albums are case in point. Much joy and creativity in those grooves.

Andrew:
In 2004, you were recognized as the “Instrumentalist of the Year” by the American Music Association. What was it like to win that award? What did it mean to you?

Will:
I don’t know anyone who has received that award who feels they “deserved” it – I am grateful and honored.

Q & A: Will Kimbrough – Rams Head On Stage, September 10th | Rams Head Group

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your first solo album, This. Great album. Looking back, how have you evolved musically since then? In your eyes, does the album still hold up
?

Will:
I have grown since then in a few ways: I have 20 years more experience. I have released about 7 more solo albums. I have released many albums with my bands DADDY, Willie Sugarcapps, Red Dirt Boys and a wonderful collaboration with Brigitte DeMeyer. We can’t help but grow with experience. 

Andrew:
You’ve touched on some in-depth themes within your music. For example, on Americanitis, we see themes of anti-war and anti-greed and on Wings you explored the conflicts between family, career, love and work, and parents and children. Does your song writing come from a personal place? Or are you just telling stories so to speak?

Will:
Americanitis was a pro-peace album. Wings was an expression of gratitude. Sideshow Love explored romantic relationships. I Like it Down Here talks about the South – for better or worse. I sometimes mine a theme, sometimes not. Songwriting is very personal. Telling stories is personal too. You can try to leave yourself out of your songs – but I don’t think you can.

Andrew:
In 2020, you released your new album, Spring Break. What can you tell us about the album?

Will:
I went home like everyone else in March 2020 and I created a task for myself. Spring Break is the result.

Will Kimbrough Makes the Most of Unplanned 'Spring Break' - No Depression

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Will:
I have piles and piles of vinyl, CDs, cassettes, hard drives full of music. So yes, lots of vinyl, and lots of digital. Omnivorous! I shop at Grimey’s in Nashville, Mobile Records in Mobile, Alabama, online on Discogs, and wherever I travel – I go to the record store.  

Andrew:
This may be a difficult question, but what are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Will:
Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, The Stones Exile on Main St, Joni Mitchell Blue, Nick Drake Five Leaves Left, Mississippi John Hurt Today!, Skip James Today!, Jimmie Dale Gilmore After Awhile, Todd Snider East Nashville Skyline, Al Green’s Greatest Hits, Vol 1 and 2.  Roberta Flack’s first 3 albums. Anything by Stevie Wonder. I could go on and on and on…

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 calms down, what’s next for you? 

Will:
I’m so busy, I think I’ll just stay that way. Maybe there’ll be a return to touring – I look forward to getting back to the Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama, and back to Australia. But I’m as busy as ever, to be honest.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve had a long and career, with many more years to go. Looking back, what are some of your fondest memories?

Will:
Raising our children to be the awesome human beings they have become. Traveling with my vagabond better half. Playing in bands, with friends, feeling like it’s us against the world. Writing songs I love to sing and play. Working in the studio with great artists and fellow musicians. Traveling far and wide. Reading. Living on the beautiful planet Earth. Living peacefully, with love. I’ll keep making music ’til the lights go out. 

Will Kimbrough on Twitter: "LB & I just shared a new song to @patreon  patrons! Five bucks gets you new music every month! And there's much more  here: https://t.co/k4MvYqfvFh… https://t.co/NCl2IPvckm"

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Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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