Whether you know him as a solo artist, frontman for Will & The Bushmen or member of The Bis-quits and Daddy, you know Will Kimbrough. The Mobile native and Nashville resident has undoubtedly left his stamp on the Southern music scene in a career spanning nearly 30 years. During that time, Kimbrough has attracted a high-profile list of admirers, having been hired as a touring band member by Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris. In addition, Kimbrough’s songs have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett and Little Feat. On Saturday, October 22, Kimbrough will return to Birmingham for a performance at Workplay. Brigitte DeMeyer opens the 8 p.m. show. Recently, Kimbrough spoke to Weld by phone from his Nashville home.
Brent Thompson: Will, thanks for your time. We’re looking forward to your return to Workplay.
Will Kimbrough: It’s one of the best rooms in the country. It reminds me of The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.
BT: How long will you be out on this run of shows?
WK: It’s just a weekend run. It’s kind of been like that for a while. I’ve been on tour since the spring, so it’s a welcomed difference. I was playing guitar for Emmylou Harris since April – it’s been great.
BT: It must be great to stay busy.
WK: Especially with somebody like her that you’ve been listening to your whole life. You get to go play in front of a bunch of people who really love it and you get to learn from her and the whole group. When you’re singing harmony with her, you learn every note. You’re learning some new depth of singing. Whether it rubs off on me when it comes out of my mouth, we’ll see.
BT: If you will, talk about your entrance into her band.
WK: Funnily enough, [Kimbrough's former band mate] Bryan Owings is the drummer for her, so we’ve got half of Will & The Bushmen. When I auditioned for Emmylou, it was like waltzing through a dream. It was like, ‘What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, I’m in it.’ But the band is made up of mostly old friends of mine and I got welcomed by the whole band as an old friend. One thing I’ve learned in all these years of being in this town – and having worked with so many different people – is that there are probably 45 better guitar players in this town than me, but I don’t know if they all get along as well with other people as I do. I know that’s part of what someone like Emmy is looking for. You have to be able to play with the other kids.
BT: When you play solo shows these days, do you perform songs from your entire catalog?
WK: I tend to play stuff from a pretty wide range. If I play in places where the Bushmen played a lot, I’ll survey the audience and see if they might want to hear one of those. But I’ve put out six solo records, two records with Daddy and The Bis-quits record, so that’s about 100 songs I could play.
BT: How do you feel about the musical climate today? Do avenues like the Internet, iTunes and satellite radio help the exposure process for artists or clutter it?
WK: It still seems like the good stuff rises to the top and competition is good – I really believe that. There’s always somebody sitting in their bedroom that’s better than anybody else, but they’ve got to leave the house. I think it’s a better time than ever. If you go out and play in front of people and you don’t have what it takes to come back a second time, the market is going to let you know.
Tickets to the 18+ show are $12 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com