Kimm Rogers on falling in love with music and new album Where The Pavement Grows

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Kimm Rogers is back with her new album Where The Pavement Grows which was released this summer with the help of Julian Coryell who recorded and produced the album in his studio in Venice, CA.

This Southern California singer-songwriter first hit the L.A. music scene in the late ‘80s and was signed to Island Records. While life seemed good at the time, Kimm was unfortunately faced with several setbacks in her life with the untimely death of her sister, the loss of her record deal, as well as suffering her own serious illness.

After several moves and working with a few different bands, and even taking the time to pursue a college degree and develop a music program in New Mexico for adults with cognitive and physical disabilities, Kimm found her way back to Southern California, reuniting through social media with former friends and musicians, and once again found herself immersed in what she loved most – music!

Kimm shares with us her background in music, her early musical inspirations, how she overcame difficult obstacles in her life, and how she “found” herself and the inspiration behind her new album, Where The Pavement Grows.

I really enjoyed your bio and how it was written. I’d like to touch on that if we could. Originally from Cleveland, you ended up in California. How old were you and was it your family that brought you to California?

I was about 10 years old or so.  My mom visited once and decided it would be great place to live and so there we went.

What kind of impact did that have on you?

It was exciting as a kid to be moving to what seemed to be a foreign land.  Palm trees, lots of summer and no winter….tacos….and the ocean.

You said you fell in love with words. Was it the poetry or the music that moved you…or both?

Definitely both.  Before I started writing my own songs, I wrote poetry.  I had no idea that I was any good until my 8th grade English teacher made me read a poem in front of my class that I had written for my mom for Mother’s Day.  “That,” she said, “is poetry.”  She was in her eighties and finally retired that year, but I was thrilled that she thought I had something going on.  I had tremendous respect for her.

I believe you started playing guitar in your teens and learned some chords from your mother and a Bob Dylan songbook. Tell us about that experience and did you ever pursue formal lessons?

I never pursued formal lessons for guitar.  To this day, I place my fingers incorrectly for an E chord simply because I learned chords from chord diagrams in songbooks.  The diagrams did show which strings needed to be pressed down but they didn’t always indicate which fingers went where.. So I did what felt natural to me. It was only when I started working with other musicians that I found out I was playing several chords with my fingers placed incorrectly.

Inspired by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, what was it about those musicians that drew you into their music?

I think the first time I heard Joni Mitchell, I wept.  The haunting melodies, her voice, and lyrics that dig so deep.  Music that awakens one’s brain, heart, and spirit all at once.  I grew up with Bob Dylan.  I wanted to steal every rhyme he ever wrote.  I like that his voice is his own and while some folks don’t like his voice, there is no denying he is not only a brilliant songwriter but a brilliant singer as well.  You don’t need a great voice to be a great singer.  Led Zeppelin…….wow…….sexual, powerful, rock and roll that could do tough and tender all in one song.  I have always been fascinated by Jimmy Page’s open tunings and to this day, I love playing with open tunings whenever I can.

You’ve moved several times throughout your life. How did those moves help or hinder you in your approach to songwriting?

Moving was often painful on a personal level.  You just get in the groove, finding friends, adjusting to a new school and then you start all over again.  However, I think it gave me more life experiences to draw from at a young age.  And that’s a great thing for songwriting.  When you are the new girl on the block, you are more of an observer than a participant.  And in those observations there’s always a story to tell.

Nashville didn’t go so well for you? What do you think was the reason behind that?

At the time, I wasn’t very interested in country music.  I was interested in The Pretenders, REM was just getting their start.  I did make some demos there and met some fine musicians.  But at the time, Americana didn’t exist and I wasn’t country enough for country music, so on the advice of a couple of people in the know, I moved back West.

In the LA music scene in the ‘80s, it was a friendship with Jimmer Podrasky of The Rave-Ups that ignited your career with their performance of your song “Train to Nowhere” ultimately garnering a record deal with Island Records. Tell us a little about how that came about.

I met Jimmer Podrasky because a woman who managed me at the time was good friends with the guy who owned Fun Stuff Records, the label that put out their brilliant album, “Town and Country.”  I met The Rave-Ups at Fun Stuff’s studio one day when they were rehearsing. I got to playing with Tim Jimenez, the drummer and then to my surprise, went to see The Rave-Ups play live and they covered “Train To Nowhere.”  This was and still is a tremendous honor for me.  Jimmer Podrasky is my favorite songwriter on Planet Earth.

When everything seemed to be falling into place, some setbacks in your life occurred around that time with the passing of your sister who suffered from cerebral palsy, the changing of the music industry, and the end of the record label deal . How did you deal with those disappointments and what got you back on track?

When my sister died suddenly, I was in the midst of working on a demo deal with MCA Records.  My world completely stopped and I needed time to regroup.  Not long afterward, things were put on hold again when I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis that required surgery.  But the record company was patient and I finally got to work on those recordings, which MCA passed on.  I did finally get my record deal with Island, but by the time my first album, “Soundtrack of My Life” was released, there was change in the air.  Polygram International purchased Island and artists were being dropped, as well as some of the staff that was truly behind my record.  After losing my record deal and the big earthquake that followed, I headed north to Idaho for no other reason than my husband’s brother lived there and I felt done with Los Angeles.  I didn’t make a big splash musically there, but I did find there are lots of ways to live a life. And living in the country was one way I got to experience this firsthand.  It definitely had an impact of my writing.

While on a hiatus from music, you were able to graduate college and teach music for artists with disabilities. How rewarding was that experience?

College was an interesting and rewarding if not a challenging experience.  I spent 5 years studying writing.  I tend to be wordy and I learned the value of less is more.  I know it helped my songwriting.  And I particularly liked studying creative non-fiction.  I found that songwriting and essays share some of the same characteristics.  A good essay has a thread running through it much like the chorus of a good song.  Teaching music for artists with disabilities brought me tremendous joy.  Music is powerful stuff.  The arts level the playing field and I learned as much if not more than I taught.

In your bio, you stated that after forming a band “The Anti-Social Butterflies,” you fell in love with music all over again. What happened at that time in your career?

The band consisted of myself and two women with disabilities.  They are both remarkable musicians and we played several shows in Albuquerque.  They were no different from other bands I had played with in the past.  Plenty of diva moments and sometimes, like any live performance, I never knew what might happen.  But these two women had such tremendous passion for music, strictly music.  They had no concerns about what anyone thought.  They played from their hearts and souls and it taught me that music is about the love you have for it. Not what any critic or hipster, or record person thinks.  They set me straight. 

So you’re back with a new album Where the Pavement Grows recorded and produced with Julian Coryell (Madeleine Peyroux, Aimee Mann, Alanis Morissette and Leonard Cohen) in Venice, CA which dropped in June. Share with us a little about the album, the inspiration behind the songs, and how you ended up working with Coryell.

My husband encouraged me to get some simple recording gear and I started playing around with it.  I had some older songs I had written from Idaho and New Mexico.  And I had new ones begging to come out.  Through Facebook I came in contact with old friends from my music life in Los Angeles.  I hung out with Tim Jimenez and he recorded some songs with me.  I also met up with Jimmer and Alison Freebairn- Smith who I hadn’t seen in years.  Alison drove me to the train the next day and she put on some of Julian’s music in the car.  I think I may have joked that he should do my album never thinking in a million years that he would.  But Alison got the ball rolling and I soon found myself meeting Julian and I instantly knew that he was the right person for the job.  His sensitivity, his musicality, his intelligence, and his kindness made it one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had making music.  He played almost every instrument and seemed to know intrinsically where to take each song.  As far as inspiration……..wow…….just getting older.  Realizing it’s all going really fast and trying to navigate in this ever-changing world inside this vast universe.  The desire to do it right in this limited timeframe we call life.  How to be a better person in all of this.

With an album of 10 beautifully crafted songs, is there any one particular song that stands out from the rest and, if so, which one and why?

Hmmmm.  That’s kinda like asking me to pick my favorite child.  I like them all for different reasons.  If I were to choose one it would have to be the title track, “Where The Pavement Grows.”  For some reason, it hits me the hardest on an emotional level.  I have no idea why.  I am not sure if it’s Julian’s arrangement, the song itself, or both. It tears me up every time.

What is the one “take away” you want people to garner from this album?

Pay attention.  Be in the moment.  Find something or someone to love.  The ride we take on this planet is short-lived…..

Using Social Media, you were able to reconnect with many old friends and musicians. How important do you feel social media plays in a musician’s overall brand?

Because of Facebook, I was able to reconnect with the very people that helped me get to the place I needed to be to make this record.  It certainly helps spread the word and puts people in contact with each other.  But self-promotion doesn’t always feel so great to me personally.  And there are so many musicians out there, just like me, trying to be heard.  We are bombarded with millions of musicians, songwriters, singers in our “feed” and that it makes it a very crowded venue.

If presented with the opportunity to sign with another label, knowing what you know now about the music industry, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

I would remind myself that being on a label does not guarantee that my record will be heard and that success has more to do with what is inside my head rather than what others think.

A few fun questions:

First concert ever attended:  Stevie Wonder

Most memorable experience as a performer: It would have to be the gig I just played at El Cid in LA with Julian Coryell, Brett Simons, Peter Adams, and Adrian Harpham.  Playing with them was other worldly.

One album you cannot live without:  Dirt Floor by Chris Whitley

Favorite place you’ve ever lived: Every place I have ever lived is my favorite.  I mean that.  Seriously.

In one word, music is: Love

For more on Kimm Rogers, click HERE.

Where The Pavement Grows Track Listing:

  1. Rain
  2. Twenty-Three
  3. Gravity
  4. As Good as It Gets
  5. Change
  6. The Ballad of Moon Valley Road
  7. Eventually
  8. Where the Pavement Grows
  9. Valentine’s Day
  10. Star Filed Canopy
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