[Interview] Will Kimbrough

The embodiment of a working (class) musician

Will Kimbrough is a lot like you and me.

The singer-songwriter goes to work (playing guitar, writing songs, making records, performing at shows), spends time with his wife and two daughters (he took the 14-year-old and her friends to a Vampire Weekend concert in Nashville recently), and worries about how to pay the bills.

“I’m a freelance, self-employed musician,” Kimbrough says. “I’m in the same deal as a lot of people in this country right now.

“But at the end of the day, even if I have to drive 12 hours to do it, I get to play music and people enjoy it. I’m thankful for that.”

Kimbrough has been trying to satisfy what his biographical material calls a “voracious appetite for every aspect of music” since he was growing up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. His impressive list of collaborators includes Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, Guy Clark and Rosanne Cash. He co-wrote four songs on Jimmy Buffett’s latest album, “Buffet Hotel.”

If you’re wondering why a guy with this resume is worried about paying the bills, Kimbrough will explain — in explicit detail — why the music business is a tough go in the age of free downloads.

“A few years ago, I was thinking about signing on to a big tour (as a hired guitar player) for the money,” he says. “I had my choice of a big country tour or a Christian music tour.

“I sat down with my wife and we decided that’s not something that I would do.”

To be clear, Kimbrough isn’t dissing the artists who offered those jobs. His decision was based on the fact that he would rather spend his time and energy on his music

“I’ve learned that if you have (your own) songs to play, it’s better than sitting in a big tour bus waiting for the next show.”

So Kimbrough stays busy with chores of his own choosing. His latest album, “Wings,” features a heartwarming tribute to the family called “Three Angels” (watch the video at willkimbrough.com), weekend tour dates with drummer Paul Griffith and bass player Tim Marks, and the band Daddy, a project with his friend Tommy Womack.

“Tommy and I played a house concert in St. Louis, and I said to him that music has come full circle,” Kimbrough says. “You play wherever you can, the neighborhood music freaks have you over to their house. It’s just like the early days.

“This is why I do it.”

And it helps pays the bills.

Will Kimbrough performs “I Like it Down Here”.


Originally published in 2010.

Each week, Bob Hust and Bill Thompson feature the best songs – old and new – from artists they have loved for many years and others they have just discovered. The best songs transport people to a time and place. That’s the foundation of BS&B.

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