If music is a gift, then Kim Kalman, the Kill Devil Hills North Carolina-based singer and songwriter, received a major inheritance from her grandfather, George Kindler, who was a band leader with a hot swing band and had his own radio show in the 1940’s. Mr. Kindler was well-known for his killer riffs on a mean sax, he played it his way.
As Kim grew up and rocked her cradle to the big band sounds of her mother’s favorite golden oldies radio station in New Jersey, it became apparent that George Kindler’s granddaughter had inherited his passion for music.
Kim, a highly skilled acoustic guitarist, has a truly beautiful tone and sincerity to her voice. Her song selection and interpretation echoes her spirituality as she alternately lifts you, rocks you, soothes you, and seduces you in her own special way, much like her grandfather. Moonlight, Kim’s CD of original material, includes songs that have awarded her the honor of being named one of the top ten songwriters at the Kerrville Music Festival and Honorable Mention in the Billboard Song Contest.
It isn’t often that a gifted songwriter is also a gifted performer. Kim’s true passion for music is revealed in her performance… from fundraisers, special events, restaurants, and festivals to appearing as featured artist at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and Harrah’s Casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe. In her unassuming way, Kim transforms a large auditorium into an intimate gathering of friends. One walks away from the earthy honesty of Kim’s performance feeling really good about him or herself.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Kalman, the Outer Banks busiest musician, and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her passion for music, her career, and her new contemporary Christian CD release entitled At The Foot Of The Cross.
TCS: At what age did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
I started singing to the radio like most folks at an early age. I tried out for school choir as a 4th grader but didn’t get in! However, I did get into the band on flute though. The following year there was a new choir director and I was accepted. But, I didn’t really want to be a “musician” ─ I just wanted to sing in the choir at that point.
TCS: What was the first genre of music you loved and who were among some of your early musical influences? And, why?
I don’t know that there was a specific “genre” I first loved at the time, just what was on the radio in the 60’s and 70’s such as singers/songwriters such as Dan Fogelberg, The Carpenters, Bread, James Taylor, Janice Ian, Joan Baez…and this list goes on. At the same time, my Mom especially listened to a radio station, WNEW out of New York City, playing Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Judy Garland ─ today we call them “the standards.” I loved good lyrics and melodic melodies ─ still do.
TCS: Take us back to when you first started playing guitar and fell in love with the instrument? And, what was the first tune you learned to play?
Our choir director in 5th and 6th grade, Mrs. Cheryl Elmeger, played guitar so that’s when I decided I wanted to play the guitar instead of the flute much to my Dad’s dismay as he had just signed the school contract and paid the annual rental fee for the instrument.
I was 10 years old and very much an introvert so the playing guitar was a form of expression. The first tune I learned was probably out of a Mel Bay Guitar Book i.e. “Sidewalks of New York.” I took lessons for a year with an instructor who was trying to teach me “Flamingo” so I learned/played A LOT of arpeggios. At some point I broke my finger playing baseball on the school playground and had to stop lessons for 3-4 months. I picked it up with a different instructor at some point but wasn’t happy with his technique so I taught myself from there on playing at school functions, Girl Scouts, and church throughout high school.
TCS: How do you think graduating from the College of William and Mary in Virginia with a business management degree has helped you launch, manage, and market your musical career?
Well if nothing else it gave me the confidence and tools to work other jobs before going with music full-time. It also gave me some great contacts in the Williamsburg and Tidwater Virginia area to start booking venues. It’s also where I did music ministry (Campus Catholic Student Association) and got my first hotel management job which lead to developing a lounge I sang in and learned country tunes per requests. Williamsburg was the place I was supposed to be. William & Mary College was a great experience personally and academically.
TCS: With regard to your musical career, what did you do after graduating from the College of William and Mary?
I graduated William & Mary in May 1982 with a degree in business management thinking I was going to go back to banking or Bell Labs (I had done both in part time positions previously). The summer prior to graduation my voice teacher, who was very connected in the community, (I had taken voice as an elective on a dare from some music buds) got me an audition with a local hotel which lead to a balladeering position in their restaurant where I would stroll from table to table offering a song (this was very big in the colonial section of Williamsburg so I was in 18th century attire doing mostly 18th century style material ─ not my favorite but it was a great opportunity).
Before graduating, during the winter months, they were kind enough to give me a position in the office with a VP in sales as my mentor. With her help and the help the hotel and restaurant managers, we opened a lounge on the property in an unused banquet room. I would sing in the restaurant early evening and manage the lounge late night.
In addition to that, I had been offered a youth ministry position with a local church (their first youth minister). Part time ministry positions never stay part time in hours (but do financially). Needless to say I was burning the candle at both ends AND in the middle! But don’t all college grads work 60-80 hours/week when they are climbing the “ladder”? Eventually the lounge job disappeared but I continued singing there and at several other venues in the Williamsburg, Richmond, and Norfolk Virginia area ─ wherever I could drive to within a reasonable distance. I built a good repeat business booking myself, developed a following, started a mailing list, and released my first recording. I also continued the ministry position for 3 years. When my grandmother died suddenly, life put on the brakes and I had an epiphany to do music full-time. I was singing 7 nights/week, sometime 2-3 gigs before that decision so it was not a difficult one to make. I was also in graduate school for a Master’s in Education with 3 classes to go so opted out of that ─ it was night school program and in direct conflict w/singing at venues.
In 1988, I decided to move to Los Angeles, California to continue working on my music. I took some writing courses, started playing venues and was back up to speed performing 7 nights/week in no time. I recorded most of the tunes on what is now The Early Years in LA with the prodding of music buds. I also recorded a Christmas CD entitled A Christmas To Remember (which is no longer in print) as a fund raiser for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The project, backed by local businesses and musicians, went on to raise $13,000 for the cause.
TCS: Share with us your work as a soloist and song leader at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina?
When I landed in the Outer Banks, I had no interest in getting involved in music ministry. I owned a restaurant which was 24/7 consuming and was singing at other venues as well as my own. I got drafted by a “friend” at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in 2004 who I had done ministry with in Virginia.
What I do at Holy Redeemer, is choose music that is within the vocabulary of the faith community to compliment the liturgy and lead them in song, which for me and hopefully for them, is a form of prayer. What I did was answer the call that had been put on my heart in my very early years ─ when I realized what Jesus had done for me. In return, this gift is what I have to give back. I love leading song at mass ─ it is an incredible experience for me and I hope that translates to the community.
TCS: Describe to us your performance set when you play at some of the Outer Banks places such as the Jockey’s Ridge Crossing, Sea Ranch Resort Beachside Bistro, Avenue Grill & Events, and the Christian Music Summer Concert Series? And, do you perform around the country as well?
My restaurant gigs are usually between 2-4 45 minute sets and are a mix of cover tunes and originals and material from my CDs (mostly secular).
The material at the Christian Music Summer Concert Series is material from my Christian CDs. The event benefits our Beach Food Pantry and Interfaith Community Outreach (ICO). The musicians donate their time and talent, our audience is asked to consider donating their treasure to our causes by way of our love offering baskets.
Yes, I try to travel outside of the area September through mid-June. From mid-June through Labor Day I try to stay booked 7 nights/week in the Outer Banks at venues along with weddings.
TCS: How special was it being named one of the top ten songwriters at the Kerrville Music Festival and Honorable Mention in the Billboard Song Contest?
I was totally surprised by both and obviously very excited. The Kerrville Music Festival was in Napa, California which was a beautiful area to sing ─ big outside stage, on a gorgeous Fall day.
The Billboard Contest was very cool. I’m not into contests but that was one of those things I thought I’d try. I was living in LA at the time so there was a lot of support from my musician buds to take these chances ─ hence I did.
TCS: How excited are you about the release of your new CD entitled At The Foot Of The Cross?
This is a wonderful CD and I feel it’s very “me”, very real for where I am currently in my journey. I pick the material so the songs are obviously ones that spoke to me and I hope they speak to the listener.
At The Foot Of The Cross is available along with my other Christian CD releases after the Masses that I minister at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Additionally, the CDs can be purchased through my website or by mail via PO Box 1993, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948.
TCS: “Sweet Redeemer” from your first contemporary Christian CD release entitled I’m Not Alone is one of my favorite songs so can you tell us about the arrangement and the musicians who joined you on that track?
This CD was recorded with my long time award winning producer Kenny Royster at Direct Image in Nashville (as are all of my CDs).
The musicians are also folks I’ve been recording with since I lived in Nashville and first recorded with Kenny (early 1990s). Jon Conley on electric guitar, Dave Francis on bass, Dennis Holt on percussion, Pat McGrath on acoustic guitar, Dennis Wage on keyboard – all have a slew of credits to their music and are awesome players and musicians in their own rite – great guys – we always have a lot of fun being creative!
TCS: Describe the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?
We’re going back a few years – I haven’t written any “songs” since the 80’s-90’s and they are on 2 CDs: Moonlight and The Early Years. Some are solo writings and some are collaborations. One I remember writing from Moonlight: “Strong & Tall” – I was driving to VA from Nashville, it was raining lightly, I was absorbing the scenery, my Mom was battling cancer and my folks were gonna be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. I kinda put myself in their shoes writing the lyric. I’m happy to say, my Mom’s in remission and they’ll be celebrating their 56th in November.
TCS: What’s the most unusual venue that you’ve ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
I don’t remember any unusual venues although I’m sure there have been some – maybe awkward is a better word – like the bachelor party I got pulled into one night while singing at Tony Roma’s on 57th in New York City. I think that was the first & last for that kind of “venue” for me but the show must go on so I did my best.
TCS: Does the size of the venue and/or audience affect your performance?
I’d like to say no but I know it does from a comfort level…I feel more comfortable in smaller intimate settings.
TCS: What type of events do you typically perform at?
Restaurants, weddings: beach or church, masses or services, workshops/retreats, funerals, Living Room Concerts ─ yes I do fund raisers depending on the organization…and I just got my first song placed in a television movie: LA Dirt which has not been released yet. Look for it on Country Music Television (CMT) in the Fall.
TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances?
In the past, I have had my Christmas CD, A Christmas to Remember, in retail stores here in the Outer Banks because I was donating part of the sales to Feline Hope Cat rescue and Feeding America.
TCS: On your website, tell us what fans of you and your music can do or learn about Kim Kalman?
You can head over to KimKalman.com now and do the following:
- Sign Kim’s guestbook
- Listen to Kim’s CD’s
- Read Kim’s Blog
- Learn More About Kim
- Discover Kim’s Performance Schedule
- Sign Up For Living Room Concerts
- Schedule a Signing Telegram
- Schedule Your Wedding Celebration
- Book Kim For Your Event
- Read Articles and Reviews
- See Photo Gallery
- Sign Up For Kim’s Email Updates
- Contact Kim
- Join me on Facebook
- Follow me on Twitter
- Watch Kim’s Videos On YouTube
TCS: Tell us how one can go about booking a Kim Kalman concert right in their own living room?
I love doing Living Room Concerts! Usually 10-30 folks and some kind of food event: a reception (i.e., wine and cheese, desserts and coffee) or a pot luck dinner. I sing and share stories about my music for about 50-60 minutes: just me and my guitar. CDs are available for purchase. It’s a fun, intimate evening – I get to know the listeners and they get to know a little bit of me.
TCS: Additionally, I noticed on your website that visitors can order an in-person singing telegram anywhere in the Outer Banks so can you tell us a little about that?
Singing telegrams started for Valentine’s Day one year. WAVY TV Channel 10 came down from VA Beach & filmed me presenting a surprise song to Liz from her then boyfriend Stevie. It was great for all involved and the TV audience got to share the surprise and love. I have since done a few at restaurants, homes, offices, the boatyard, and even one via Skype!
TCS: What do you feel is the best and worst part of being a musician?
If it is truly your passion, as with any other thing one is passionate about, the best and the worst is how you answer the call. In my case, I am the product (artist) and the booking agent – sometimes hard to wear both hats. Since it is also how I make my living, it can be challenging at times – but what occupation isn’t?
In your opinion, what would life be like without music?
For me without music, my life would be pretty dull and boring.
TCS: What specific advice do you have for female artists wanting to become singers, songwriters, and/or performers?
Education is everything: music and business….and in the words of St Francis de Sales: “Be who you are and be that well!” Believe in yourself. Work with people you like and respect. Say yes to opportunity. Step out of the box and answer the call! Listen to your heart.
Song List on At The Foot Of The Cross (2013)
1. At The Foot Of The Cross
2. How Great Is Our God
3. Callin’ My Name
4. Mary Did You Know
5. Given For The World
6. Our God Is Here
7. I Will Follow
8. Heart Of My God
9. Till I Turn To You
10. On The Way
Song List on I Look to You (2010)
1. Come To Jesus
2. Where I Belong
3. Just a Closer Walk With Thee
4. I Look to You
5. Standing On the Promises
6. Amazing Grace
7. I Rejoice
8. Be Thou Near to Me
9. Only in God
10. Footprints in the Sand
11. Testify to Love
12. How Great Thou Art
Song List on Let the Door Swing Wide (2008)
Song List on I’m Not Alone (2007)
Song List on A Christmas to Remember (2007)
1. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
2. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
3. I Heard the Bells
4. Cool Yule
5. Silent Night
6. A Christmas to Remember
7. Christmas Can’t Be Very Far Away
8. Joy to the World
9. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
10. Christmas Again
Song List on At Last (2005)
Song List on Moonlight
1. Move Me With Your Heart
2. We Could Teach Cupid
3. Kiss Of Til Then
4. Blame It On The Moonlight
5. Strong And Tall
6. Only Old Lovers Know
7. Ain’t That Love
8. Roses In December
9. Til Angels Sleep
10. Life’s Too Short
About Frank Iacono
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