Q & A with Kim Richey
Alternative folk musician Kim Richey has been in and around the country music scene for nearly 15 years as an active singer-songwriter who’s released six studio albums, had her songs covered by the likes of Trisha Yearwood and James Morrison, and been nominated for two Grammy awards. She’s received nods from Rolling Stone and People magazine for her Americana sound, and her latest album, Wreck Your Wheels, was released on September 14th. The accompanying tour will bring her to The Evening Muse on October 2nd. We chatted with her to get the scoop on the inspiration behind the new album, and the years of singing, songwriting, and performing (everywhere) that led up to it.
Revue: You’ve done lots of recording in Nashville, but it sounds like you’ve been doing some work across the pond, lately.
KR: Yes; I’m from Ohio, and moved to Nashville in 1988, but I’ve been going back and forth to London for the past few years. Now, I mostly stay over there. I’ve played in the UK and in Copenhagen some, and Sweden, and Spain. And Australia! I’ve been playing a lot over there, and it’s nice to be able to go to all these different places. It seems like the audiences in Europe (and I’ve noticed it a lot with audiences in the Netherlands) tend to know a lot about you when they come to your shows. Like they’ve been really following my work. It’s amazing when I think that a record I made in Tennessee has someone listening to it in Australia or Spain. But I do a lot of songwriting over there, too.
Revue: Speaking of songwriting…you’ve done a lot of it. What is it like to watch other musicians take on songs that you wrote? Is it rewarding, or do you sometimes feel ownership over the songs?
No, definitely not. I don’t feel any sense that I don’t want anyone else to perform my songs. It’s a massive compliment if someone decides they want to record one of your songs. When you think of all the songs they could chose from, for the 12 or 13 that go on their album, and they picked your song because they just heard it on the radio or on your album, that’s a pretty big thing. Brooks & Dunn recorded a song of mine, mostly because a fellow that works for them said, "have you heard this record?" That was Bitter Sweet [Richey’s second album, released in 1997]. So it’s kind of word of mouth like that.
Revue: You’ve also been able to work with Mary Chapin Carpenter in the past. What was that like?
KR: She’s great to work with. That was one of the first big tours I ever went with, with her and Trisha Yearwood. It was in the early 1990s, around when I released Bitter Sweet. They were both always generous and helpful to me; she’s a great person.
Revue: After so many experiences recording and working with other artists, what stands out as a career highlight for you?
KR: I think one of the most amazing things I ever did was when I was asked to play with a bunch of people in Nashville at Al Gore’s birthday party. Again, around the time Bitter Sweet was out. They had set up a tent on their lawn, and it was really funny because they asked to meet me, and I was talking to him and his wife, and just to be silly, I said that we were playing a show in D.C., and that they should come see it, not thinking they ever would. But they did, and they brought the Clintons! So I got to play for the Gores and the Clintons at the Birchmeer, a really historical D.C. club. That’s where Chapin started out playing.
Revue: As a songwriter, where do you find inspiration for your songs? Specifically, your newest album, Wreck Your Wheels. What went into composing that?
KR: A record to me is something like a book of photographs. It takes a picture and captures a certain time period: where I was during that time, who I was around, what was going on. One of the songs, for instance, "Careful How You Go," comes from when I was first dividing my time between Nashville and London. My friend and I used to go out on these walks in London late at night, at 11 p.m. or so, and we’d walk around until the sun came up. It was amazing. To be the ony people in the city walking around in the middle of the night. Sometimes, it would start to snow—that beautiful, soft, kind of heavy snow that just covers everything. So that song is all about going on those walks.
Revue: With all these albums and tours behind you, is there anything unique about this upcoming tour?
This is a different set up. I’ve never toured with this formation, before. I have one other person playing bass and percussion and singing; another who’s doing keyboard and trumpet, and I’m doing some percussion, rhythm, and obviously singing. It’s a lot of noise for three people. Usually, I would have a guitar player or a drummer, and that has a different sound, but I’m excited because it’s something a little different. Mondo Sykes will be touring with us for the first part of the tour, and for the last part of it we’ll be with a friend of mine who I met in Copenhaven. But our first show of the tour is in Atlanta, and we’re coming to you right after that!