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October 17, 2000

Interview with Will Kimbrough

by Jay Sharpe

Sometimes the road to the top takes some twists and turns that no one could predict. In 1989, Will Kimbrough left Mobile in a cloud of dust and headed for Nashville. His band Will and the Bushmen had just been signed to the hot new label SBK, and it seemed as though the hometown boy was finally off to make it big. And for awhile he did. The album spawned a few popular songs and at least one video that received rotation back when MTV used to play music. But soon SBK seemed to be headed in a new direction with acts such as Wilson-Phillips and Vanilla Ice. It had been a long nice ride in the corporate rock Cadillac, but when it ran out of gas Will found himself back where he started from -- almost. The band continued to play and even put out another album on an independent label. Unfortunately, this second album was not as successful as the first, and the band soon went their separate ways.

After a short stint with the band, The Bis-quits, Will found him self looking for another band and a new direction. "After being in a band from the time I was 12 until I was thirty, I found out about the other side with Todd Snider." The other side was playing guitar for other artists. And the other side seemed to like Will. Over the next few years Will played with Todd Snider, Mathew Ryan, Josh Rouse, Kim Richey, and another performer with ties to Mobile -- Allison Moorer.

Over time, his reputation as a guitarist began to outstrip that of his singing and songwriting. He became quite popular as a sideman and he toured extensively. But all the while, Will was stock piling the songs that would become his solo album, This.

I spoke to Will over the phone after heíd returned home from taking his daughter to school and before he had to take his cat to the vet to be put to sleep. It says something about the person Will is, and has always been, that he took time out to call on such a bittersweet morning. A little down but excited to be talking about his album, he said that the reaction in Nashville had been one of surprise. "People want to know where the guitar stuff is. Iíd rather have horns and melodic songs. I like Jimi Hendrix, but if you try to be Hendrix you are gonna be a jackass."

Will went on to say how heíd "written fifty songs I held onto." "My attempt was to do a ĎBring the Familyí indie pop record with rootsy edges along the way." And the critics seem to agree that he succeeded admirably.

Nashville may have wanted a guitar rock record but This is reminiscent of the style Kimbrough became known for during his club days in Mobile. The opening tract "Closer to the Ground" which was written in one day and recorded the next, seems to be a tribute to the style of Will and the Bushmen.

After Willís experience with SBK Records he found the smaller world of independents more to his liking. In fact, This was released on Waxy Silver Records, Willís own independent record label. Sales of the album are good, airplay is great, and the company is in the black and looking to sign other artists. "Iím a small fish in a very yuck pond. But Iím on the most radio stations Iíve ever been on." The track that radio stations have seemed to pick up on is Chimayo a song about the afterglow of a summer love and the accompanying longing. Not surprisingly the song is most popular in Santa Fe, not far from the mission that shares its name. He recently had to add a show in the area due to fan requests.

This fall Will will be as busy as ever. He is touring with Allison Moorer to support her new album, The Hardest Part. He will be appearing on the David Letterman show on October 18th and Austin City Limits sometime this fall. In between dates with Moorer, Kimbrough will be playing shows to support his own album. He will be appearing at O'Rourkeís Irish Pub on Dauphin Street November 24th and 25th.


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