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Photo by Hector Corcin
British-Underground musician Kim Thompsett is an artist whose primary talent is a fearlessness to defy stereotypical categorization. She is a person who passes through boundaries spectacularly, not afraid to experiment with genres and create hybrids of fantastic advances. Although labeled as a folk artist, perhaps the foundations of her sound lies in that traditional music that is older than time itself. But, within her hands, that age-old sound is re-shaped and injected with her very soul, along with an array of technology.
The latest release by Kim, The Hollows is firmly anchored in the earth and pulsating with the sounds of nature. This is both rich and rewarding in value, a continuation from her previous offering, 2008’s spine-tingling Songs from the Uglee Meadow.
The years since have been both fruitful, and thoroughly worthwhile, as The Hollows continues Kim’s ethereal journey through the forest of life. Produced by Harvey Summers (Paul McCartney, Steeleye Span), and with the aid of fused electronic-samples, synthesizers and all manner of acoustic instruments, there is something special within her methods.
At times the sound balances between alternative-rock, psychedelia and the traditional format. There are touches of Jethro Tull, The Velvet Underground, Fairport Convention Kate Bush and at times a cool sliver of grunge. All these artists combined in a melting pot, will give listeners an idea of what to expect from the Kim Thompsett sound.
From May 31st, The Hollows was released via Meniscus Hump Records through Bandcamp, and joyfully available across all music formats.
On, the day of the release Kim kindly gave me an insight into her world, along with her influences and everything that is behind this fascinating artistic jewel.
Thank you Kim for taking time out of your schedule to talk to me today. As the pop culture dominates the airwaves, do you believe that folk music is a genre which has become overlooked in recent years?
Kim: Yes, massively. Folk is a many-faceted genre and also fuses well with a lot of other genre. People have been subjected so long to mainstream and rock, they are not encouraged to expand their musical diet, you need some roughage and complex proteins in with your processed carbs! One of the few ways I find people are become open to listening to new or unfamiliar music is when their parents have played older or more diverse music in their home/in the car etc. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions of course.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
Kim: Yes, my mother was a keen singer and there was a piano in the front room that I played a lot. My dad alas is pretty much tone deaf, but was keen on all sorts of music. I remember him coming home one day with a record deck and amp and a whole smorgasbord of vinyl that we wore the grooves out on!
I have always held a fondness for the tactileness of vinyl. Once my parents realised I had a talent for music, they were very encouraging and facilitated my meanderings. Although I spent a few years not playing, I picked it all up again in my mid-30’s and discovered that I could write a fairly decent song or two.
Did you always listen to folk music or was it something that you were drawn as you grew older?
Kim: No, I have always listened to a big variety of stuff, being very keen on bands like The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Who and some of the mod revival stuff from the late 70’s which actually spanned a lot of genres, from Motown soul, dance and Northern soul to the more gritty ska and rock bands. In my twenties my taste got heavier.
Was there a defining moment when you decided to become a musician, a moment when you said- “yes, this is what I want to do”?
Kim: It kind of crept up on me, mainly when friends hearing some of my songs gave me loads of encouragement and made me realise this was a ‘thing’ I could actually do well and enjoy. Songs have always come through in a kind of meditative state, just playing round a few chords, and the completion of each one became a kind of cathartic experience, sometimes bringing me to tears with the connectivity of it all.
Your voice is very unique, almost a style of a rock vocalist similar to Stevie Nicks, have you sang other styles of music in the past? Or has it been predominantly folk?
Kim: The folk aspect came really from my natural style – fairly gentle finger-picked guitar and vocals – I would have dearly liked to rock out but somehow everything came out rather twinkly and I’d start singing about trees and flowers. I have not had any classical-vocal training and so I think my voice has retained its character rather than being whitewashed with technique. Technique is obviously important but not if it just clones you into a ‘Glee Club’ member.
Which do you enjoy more? Acoustic sets with just yourself and a guitar or playing in front of a band?
Kim: Both are great – obviously playing solo is a very exposed situation and it’s more difficult to keep any nervousness under control, especially if you suddenly realise everyone has stopped talking and is just listening to you. Playing in a band gives you the space to step a little more into your own part in the music and sometimes when the chemistry is right, there is nothing like the feeling that you have created something that is greater than the sum of its parts and feeling that other entity in the room.
”Woebetide Hill” is a splendid display of how you can reshape your sound with electric instruments, in the case of that track, did you write it as an electric styled number or did you experiment with it until you came up with the finished article?
Kim: It started off as a purely acoustic number, then Lee showed me what could be done with a little injection of wah. When we took it to the studio, Harvey added some piano to match the guitar and mixed the two together to create the unusual backdrop. The other instrumental parts were then mixed to complement the electronic feel of the song and there it was. We have always experimented in the studio. With the last album, I stuck to the brief of all instruments being purely acoustic but decided I didn’t need to do that with The Hollows and just take it wherever it wanted to go, no boundaries.
Where did the idea come from to use synthesizer to augment some of the tracks on The Hollows?
Kim: I just told Harvey I was quite happy to go a bit ‘out there’ and he happily followed the brief!
”Hollow Hill” shows your strengths wonderfully in front of a harder sound, considering the acoustic splendor around it, what made you decide to do a track such as that?
Kim: I’ve always wanted to write more rocky stuff. When I first wrote it (came into my head whilst on a long drive) I heard it as a rock song, sort of in a ‘RHCP’ style. Luckily I managed to get the people around me to manifest it into the track it became. It just took a few takes with the
big mix of it to bring out the inner rock chick..
I was also not afraid, and was encouraged in this, to allow some eclecticity into the album.
I recently saw a picture of The Hollows on vinyl, it looked so retro and something straight out of the original (late sixties) era, how did it feel emotionally when you held it for the first time?
Kim: Blown away man! I wasn’t home when they arrived and Lee sent me a photo of the final product. He said they look bloody fantastic, which is rare praise from him! The release is just that, a complete outpouring of all the creativity that went into making the record, seeds in the wind if you like, to take flight and hopefully find a home in people’s hearts and minds.
What is next for Kim Thompsett?
Kim: There are a couple of gigs coming up and when I get the time, I would like to put a band together and tour a bit, hopefully with a bit of travelling. And the website needs a bit of work before it’s published! I have written a lot of harp tunes so will put those together on an album… perhaps a winter project.
Thank you Kim for taking time out as I know your schedule is a busy one with the release of The Hollow, we wish you all the best and can’t wait for your next release.
Kim: Thank you, Keep in touch
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