This lady has been working with Independent Artists for over 20 years. When you sit down to speak with Kim, you get the feeling that she is truly invested in every project she gets involved in and that she really cares about you and your musical future.
I had never met Kim in person before our scheduled interview date although I knew she was a producer that specialized in developing and producing independent artists. What I was to come to find out very quickly is that this lady has a warm easy way about her and when she speaks of the artists she has produced, she speaks of them with love.
The board in her studio originally belonged to Paul Worley and then was purchased by Frank Zappa and Kim bought and brought the board all the way back from California, had it rewired and reworked and that is the board that is used today in her studio.
I did a little Q & A with her so here are the questions and answers part of the interview.
Q How did you get started producing?
A Well I am from Texas but I am actually classically trained. I started vocals although I do play guitar and dabble in some other instruments, so I am classically trained and I have sung opera, pop, rock, country so I’ve really done a lot you know in formats but I am a songwriter as well and that is what attracted me to Nashville. So I have been here over twenty years now. Production kind of happened by accident but I find that it brings all my talents and skills together very nicely. It’s fun for me because it’s easy. I love it. A lady from New Jersey, a songwriter asked me to help her put her album together. I had been critiquing songs for NSAI and some other groups and doing some mentoring stuff and she wanted to come to Nashville and record and she didn’t know musicians and studios. So I booked the studio and asked the musicians and had already gotten familiar with her songs through helping her tweak them and through critiques and stuff. I organized a session and she asked me to come in and communicate with the musicians the ideas because she was not sure she could do that so I did all of that. I sang backgrounds on it, participated in the mixing of it, didn’t know that that was I was doing was producing.
Q How long ago was this?
A Fifteen or sixteen years ago.
Q A long time ago, so before you opened your first studio?
A Yeah, I was just writing and performing and enjoying that. It was the most fun I had ever had and it was like I say it just really brought out my skills and what was complicated and confusing to someone else felt very natural to me. That was my first attempt at it and her album, she won New Jersey Songwriter of the Year based on that album and referred me to someone else who came to me and I produced them and at that point my Nashville friends said you know you are actually producing. People actually get paid for this. But I was just thrilled to be a part of it.
Q You mean you weren’t getting paid for it?
A Oh no. I didn’t get any money.
Q So they were calling you now and you are getting these long distance phone calls from New Jersey so you are calling studios and you are booking time for people?
Q Then you are bringing them in and you are hiring musicians to do the session work?
A Oh yeah and I am like getting to know the songs and making arrangement ideas.
Q And you are doing it for free?
Q And how were you supporting yourself while you were doing this for free?
A I was working at Vanderbilt. I had a day gig.
Q Wow. Then you are okay, what is wrong with this picture because it’s fun but I am spending all this time doing it?
A Then it was really like would you consider paying me for my time because I gave up work to spend a week in the studio with you and they were like, sure. So cool and it just sort of evolved you know? It was wonderful. I wouldn’t have done it any other way because I still do it for the love of it. I still feel very blessed that I get to wake up every day and be able to support myself doing something that is this much fun.
Q That you enjoy?
A Yeah, I spend hours on pre-production. When I am in the studio that is the exciting part for everybody else to see. I tell people if you see me working in the studio something is wrong because the studio should just be creative, relaxed and all my work happens before we get here. I am not rigid in the studio but I don’t have to be because I have been very thorough up to that time so when we get into the studio we all know the songs inside out. We all know the goal for the songs and artist; you know what we are trying to do with these recordings. I never just record. I always want to-it’s a launching pad to the next step of the journey. Therefore, once we get in the studio, it’s like throwing a good party and inviting the right people and giving it a theme and then knowing when to get out of the way. I think that is where the magic happens. If I were looking over the guitar players shoulder and telling him exactly what to play that would be a problem, but I have created an environment where they knows what I am looking for. Then we just experiment and explore and make magic.
Q Okay so take me through the process? Somebody calls you on the phone and they have a song that is just a guitar and a vocal and they say I want to record this song and I want it to be full production, what happens next?
A Then I say tell me a little bit about yourself, what do you want to do with this song? Where do you want it to take you and what are your goals as a songwriter? If they tell me they want commercial success then I gear it toward that. I do a lot of pre-production via Skype and phone and email but I would contact them and go you know what, based on the message in this song, these are the strengths of the song, whatever that is, the groove, the lyrical message, the melody. You know the song has certain elements that you know are going to sell it better commercially. So I will say this is what we need to showcase. This is what we need to highlight in my opinion because that is what is going to create an emotional response from the audience and that is what sells music. It is just an exchange of emotion. I never record without a goal in sight because it is a waste of time and energy and money. So once we have agreed on the sound and feel of the song, I cast the musicians and vocalist accordingly.
Q How do you do fees? It is on a set basis, an individual thing? Is there a flat fee or does it depend on the project?
A No, there is a flat fee and the main reason for that is because I don’t want to watch the clock while I work. I like it to be about the project, the artist or the song and what it takes to make that hit and if you give people an hourly fee or this or that then I find that they are always looking at the clock and it makes me look at the clock and I don’t like that. It is a distraction in the creative process. Song demos are $895.00 and that includes pre-production, musicians, engineers, studio time and my time for that.
Q For one song?
A Yes. Then I have different levels and this is on my website if you want to look at it.
Q I will go there for specifics.
A There are songwriter demos, there are master demos which is TV and film ready. They are mastered and ready to pitch to TV and you get releases from the musicians and everybody has been paid accordingly at the higher level so that they are ready to go. I do artist development as well which are other flat fees.
Q All of this takes time and money and people don’t realize how much time it takes to record a song.
A Well it does and I don’t compete with demo services because that is not what I do. I try to be competitive with my pricing. You always get more than what you paid for with me because of the time and attention and care that I give it.
Q You are making me want to have you produce one of my songs. You’re very enthusiastic and I can tell that you actually care.
A I have done all of this. I came to Nashville like everybody else. I had a studio and I played all the instruments and I did all my own stuff and went, man this is great, I am saving so much money. Three months later I had a song I kind of felt okay about and then put it up against a professionally recorded demo and went, oh. A lightning bolt for me was Kim Williams who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, we attended his induction service but he’s had tons of cuts by Garth Brooks and Reba and everybody hits. But Kim kind of befriended me and invited me to come into the studio with him and see, we are recording some demos tomorrow if you want to come hang. I went in the studio with them and listened to all these master session musicians and I just sat there on the couch like a fly on the wall and in three hours time they had five songs that sounded like records. To my ears they sounded like Wow. Then I went to my little home studio and went I am not sure I could do that in five years. It is just because you can only do what you can do. No matter how talented you are it’s hard to do everything well for anybody. So I sold all my stuff and rented studio time.
Q Some of those demo services leave plenty to be desired. You get what you pay for as they say.
A The big difference between artist’s projects and demos is just having a producer in the room. Somebody whose job it is to keep the big picture in focus and to make sure that all the communication is happening. When I am producing vocals I am very specific about what I want because I am a singer I can communicate that. I can tell them do this.
Q And you physically sing it for them so that they can understand what you are looking for and what needs to be there?
Q Very good.
A I can say where they are going you know the phrasing is not right and put this third syllable on the down beat. Use the first two as pick up, here we go and we’re done and they go yeah, that is what I was looking for. I know how to communicate it you know so it’s just little things like that that make my job fun because then you hear the pieces kind of fit together nicely.
Q And then the baby gets born.
A Exactly! That is what so many people don’t understand. What do I need a producer for? I don’t want to pay that money but if you sit through a session like that, it takes away so much frustration and the end product is better.
Q Is there anything that you would like the folks out in cyber land reading this interview to know or any point that you would like to make?
A Here is a point that I would like to make that production for me is bringing out the best in the song or the artist that I am working with. It is not creating them in my image. I think that is different. Here is what I do, if you want what Mutt Lang does, you go to Mutt Lang and it sounds like a Mutt Lang Production. That may be a good thing. It makes your name as a producer. I approach it differently. I want to make the name of the person of the song I am working with.
Q That is a good point.
A So my goal would be you know Rachel Williams is on her way and she’s going to be big and when she is nobody is going to be more thrilled than me because I worked with her for five or six years developing her and her songs and we’ve written together. So my goal is to see a project or a person that I have worked with win the award. I am not saying I wouldn’t like to myself but that’s my goal.
Q Another point too is that when most of these people make it, everybody thinks they are an overnight success and nobody is an overnight success.
A It is very rare. I have worked with writers that have gotten writing deals based on songs that we have recorded you know who have won awards based on songs we have recorded or projects that we have done together. That thrills me.
Q That is exciting. It is like watching your children graduate.
A It is. That makes me very proud and that makes me want to do more of it.
I had a great time talking to Kim and I would never hesitate referring new or young artists to her because I know she would take care of them and give them the best she had to give. Thank you Kim for the great interview and you can check out Kim’s website at: http://www.kimcopelandproductions.com/