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INTERVIEW: Kim Anderson

Pic by Amber Gress

-Hi Kim, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi, I’ve been great! I’m very excited for the upcoming April 6th album release, and I’m really happy that the album has found a great home with Biophilia Records.

-Can you talk to us more about your song “Yarrow”?

Yarrow is a flowering plant species that can be found all over North America, and it often grows by roadsides and fields, in shallow soil where other species might not thrive. The theme of nature and wildness thriving in inhospitable environments has always inspired me to make art, and ‘Yarrow’ is definitely an example of this. It’s also one of the first songs I wrote when I picked up the guitar. I’ve always played piano, but I began playing guitar in more recent years. 

-Did any event inspire you to write this song? 

I was out in Bushwick, Brooklyn—I was probably about nineteen—on a scorchingly hot late summer day. I’d borrowed a friend’s broken track bike and was just suffering in the heat, looking for a solitary adventure. Bushwick was still new and unfamiliar to me then (I later made my home there for ten years). I rode down Central Avenue, and found that the street just fizzled out and ended at a back entrance to an enormous cemetery. Inside the cemetery, the difference in atmosphere was palpable, and relieving—no more asphalt, the cool shade of the trees, not a soul in sight. And Yarrow was growing up among the gravestones. It brought me a real sense of peace in that moment.

-Any plans to release a video for the track?

We’re working on something, and are likely to drop a video sometime in May for ‘Yarrow.’ (Look out for a video for a second song, ‘Emily’, on or around the April 6th release date!)

-Why naming the album after this track in particular?

I’ve spent many years of my life writing music while working part-time as a gardener and volunteering as an urban horticulture activist; I co-founded and helped run a community garden in Bushwick for many years. So the botanical reference is more than casual—I think selecting the title track of ‘Yarrow’ helps illustrate where I’m coming from as an artist and a human being. 

-How was the recording and writing process?

The writing took many years, the recording a matter of weeks. The songs themselves are a kind of anthology of different musical moments in my life after I dropped out of college (the New England Conservatory of Music, where I was studying jazz composition) and returned to New York City. While friends and classmates were out playing gigs, I was on hiatus—moving away from more formal composition and exploring the world of songwriting, singing, playing guitar, then playing a few local gigs with a band in New York, testing the waters.

When it came time to make a record of some of these songs, I was able to use my compositional muscles again, and write in some great textures and colors with woodwinds and strings. And for personnel I called upon friends from my days at New England Conservatory, as well as my time at LaGuardia High School, which is an arts-focused public school in NYC. The producer Benjamin Lazar Davis (Joan as PolicewomanCuddle Magic), engineer Christopher Andrew McDonald (also Cuddle Magic), guitarist Will Graefe (Jesse HarrisStar Rover) and other instrumentalists on the record are NEC friends I was fortunate enough to work with, and other musicians, including my husband, Bram Kincheloe (who plays drums on the record), were connections that had lasted from my time in the music program at LaGuardia. Basically, I had this amazing reservoir of talented musicians to draw from, and they helped make the record the magical thing it became.

-What role does NYC play in your writing?

It’s a huge aspect of my writing, and it manifests in a couple of different ways. I’ve been blessed to have had the diversity of musical influences that I’ve had. For one, my parents are jazz musicians who moved to NYC in the 70’s to become part of the music scene there. So from an early age, jam sessions, recording, gigs—I was around a lot of that. And later, in my adolescence and young adulthood when I really grew to love jazz and new music, NYC was such a fertile ground for that stuff. My friends and I could be found at jazz clubs like the Village Vanguard, 55 bar, Small’s, Jazz Gallery. But I also got to find many other kinds of music, from studying West African dance and drums to hearing new music at places like the Stone in the East Village or the Kitchen in Chelsea, and many others. I spent some time at open mics listening to scrappy local acts, too. We even used to get discount tickets to the Philharmonic from time to time. Yeah, I’ve been very lucky.

Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it often illustrates a time and place, either intentionally or indirectly. I’m no exception. New York City, and in particular Hell’s Kitchen in the 90’s and the pre/post September 11th experience, was such a specific place in a particular time, and observing it and living in it definitely affected and inspired my music. Watching vacant lots and open spaces continually built upon, and the unstoppable machinations of development and constant change, as well as seeing the lives and struggles of so many humans in such an improbably crowded place, gave me material for my lyrics for sure. 

-Do you tend to take a different approach when you’re collaborating with someone else rather than working in your own original work?

Left to my own devices, I tend to develop very strong opinions and specific musical ideas. Working with other musicians is always a good thing to do, because it forces me to let go of a song, or a melody, and see what it can become in someone else’s hands. The results are often surprising, and sometimes better than what I could have come up with on my own.

-What aspect of human relationships did you get to explore on the record?

There’s some confessional, personal moments on the record, where I’m talking about a particular person or relationship in my past. There are also some songs about the moments when the lack of human interaction, and a sense of isolation, can leave a person lost in the weird geography of their own brain. And then there’s moments where I took a turn into fiction, and invented characters and their relationships, and wrote a song about them. The song ‘Letter’, for example, is a literal letter that I wrote from one fictional character to her sister. Humans are endlessly fascinating to write about, real or imagined.

-Any plans to hit the road?

Definitely. After our Brooklyn show at the Owl Music Parlor on April 6th, we’ll be playing throughout the Northeast, and the rest of 2018 may bring our musical travels farther still. Show dates will be posted on Biophilia’s website as well as my mine.

-What else is happening next in Kim Anderson´s world?

My husband and I recently relocated to a more rural setting a couple of hours north of NYC. It’s already bringing new kinds of inspiration for songs. I’m getting material ready for another record down the road! And of course, looking forward to playing music and breathing the fresh air this spring.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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