Thinking back, we’ve never had an artist with so much education under their belt. It’s not impossible but definitely rare to stumble upon someone who is able to balance a plate so full. That’s Kim Tibbs though. Working on her seventh degree now, this educated woman is also a dynamic singer. She talked about both worlds, her new album and much more in this in-depth back and forth.
Kendra: You’ve mentioned that your father was a big influence on you. Was he the one to thank for various genres you incorporate into your overall sound?
Kim Tibbs: Music was always a major occurrence in the Tibbs Household growing. My siblings and I played piano growing up, while also sang. I was the one that kind of stuck to it the greatest. Well: Music stuck to me…Daddy was a pastor. So growing up, primarily, the main music that I listened to the most was gospel music. Music was a way for me to escape. I had a critical hand injury when I was younger. That took me away from being able to play sports like basketball or football. The only things I could do were run track and field, cross country, play piano, and B-3 Organ.
Dad did give me plenty of genres of music to listen to growing up, however, I truly only got Jazz, Country, Blues, some R&B such as Aretha Franklin, Donnie Hathaway, Al Green, etc. Growing up sheltered, I didn’t get a chance to listen to rap until I got into high school. Once I started listening, I truly made sure that I caught up on my styles of music quickly! What I got is way more than many people get nowadays. I got a chance to listen to true music written by artists that had quite a bit to say about life, the current conditions of their time, love, death, and much more.
Since my father also was a musician, it was easy to do the same in his footsteps. He was one of nine children, but his mother was a powerful singer as well. She was known all over the United States for her singing ability. Her vocals, his younger siblings, and his piano skills crafted what became known as the “Tibbs Family Singers.” But it didn’t stop there! Some 60 years later, I am part of the “Tibbs Family Choir.” Today it consists of my aunts, uncles, and about three generations of cousins! My entire family has the same tone register and most of my cousins can also play musical instruments.
The great part about creativity is that it also fell on my mother’s family as well. Singing, performing, and entertaining are just a few traits in my background of which I have spent the last 35 years doing. But, sitting under my father was one of the greatest moments in my life. Being that he is deceased now, I appreciate everything that he passed along to me.
While I was younger, I also took piano lessons from Dr. Henrene Smoot for my classical training, theory, and sight reading; Joyce Brown gave me an early start of gospel chord progressions. Later in my life, I sat under Dr. Reginald Jackson and learned a lot about the numbers system, more gospel chords, and patterns. But, the ultimate example that led me to neo-soul, was Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, a legendary guitarist that played for so many music industry greats like Toni Tony Tone, Al Green, Raphael Saadiq, D’Angelo, Harvey Watkins and the Canton Spirituals, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and so many. Between the five of these great examples, I got my true identity and was given the opportunity to really learn how to be a professional musician.
Kendra: Your debut, KIM, does indeed have everything from jazz to R&B with soul splashed in between. When you start working on a song, do you know what genre it’ll lean towards when you start or does it develop naturally?
Kim Tibbs: The album, KIM, was a complete humbling moment. When I started that project, I approached it from what a songwriter would put together for a label or publisher. I wanted to showcase the very different genres of music that I knew how to compose and to show the world of music of today what yesterday was made out of and show why the music of today is still showcasing itself more and more in everyday music, television, film, and much more. I wanted to show the people of yesterday that I learned well from them.
KIM debuted very passionately in styles that people got to know me for. Since I am a true musician, I wanted to spotlight that I could arrange, compose, play, produce, sing and write an entire album with placing tons of energy into perfecting the songs that I felt were really something special. There are so many different genres on purpose so that I could reach multiple groups and fans of other musical genres. I wanted to give the hardcore soul lover a little bit of mid-tempo to up-tempo songs, folk lovers a taste of simple piano ballads, heavy piano-driven songs, along with eclectic pauses to showcase the musicians on board for this album. I also wanted to give a blues fan some heavy duty “B.B. King meets Donnie Hathaway,” while making sure that the Jazz fan had plenty of rhythms as well.
I approached this album from the mindset of a real musician and had some of the most iconic musicians in the history of music. Being that I am from Huntsville, Alabama, I recorded the bulk of the album at the world famous, “Fame Recording Studios,” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was something else to sit and record in the same room as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, or Gregg Allman. The magic was there, but I also was able to record the album at one of my alma mater, Calhoun Community College.
I had a mixture of musicians, as well as music lastly because I wanted to introduce myself to the world as a recording artist and not the backing musician or background singer that I have also been for years. Spending the last 12 years recording different songs that would later be known as the KIM album, I started most of them in a general place first. I wanted to find a new way to express my feelings while also making lesser known or heard genre’s in music, be heard.
When I write music, most of the times, I write with true confidence. I usually get a melody to come out of my head, sit down at the piano, map out the melody of the song, and then magically, the lyrics just come. Most of the time, my lyrics will come and be based on several things like how I am feeling that day if there might be anything going on in my life, situations, experiences, and just life in general.
What I am feeling just might be something completely different from day to day so I make it a point to write quickly so that I can capture just what I want to say. By doing that, I then allow myself a little time to record, and go back a few days later after the recording and listen back to see if I still have the same tingle that was present when I started the original writings and keep it going. I have written thousands of songs that way and all of them are unique in their own way.
It has been a very rewarding process but I am excited about where I am headed and know that I will be around for a while just because that is where I place my focus mostly. So, in the end, by writing, I gain a feeling of being complete and let that moment start my next writing session.
Kendra: What was the first thought that crossed your mind when you heard the final cut of “I Need You For Your Love?”
Kim Tibbs: To be quite honest, I was screaming “!@%^&*(!@#$&*(!” You can fill those select words in for yourself! Hahaha! I have never felt more proud or more amazed by something that I had truthfully put mine all into. I was pleased with the first notes that I heard all the way down to the end as you hear the crackle in the Leslie of the Hammond Organ spin-off. It was just a moment that I knew that I had something but just didn’t know what all I had! I had heard my music before, in my head, but from the moment that all the musicians and I sat down and started playing, it was almost like a one-take situation.
When you can smile and jam out with friends to your music all in the recording, it is amazing and we truly didn’t do anything but have a great time. The chemistry was there alongside the magic and those components are what I feel the music of today is lacking on many fronts. There are artists holding it down amazingly in their craft but when you can hear a modern throwback to a time where everything on the radio sounded uniquely the same and was genuine and heartfelt: Then it is good.
I was extremely more proud to know that I accomplished yet another goal. What you don’t understand or know is that when I started recording this project, I started out late in 2010 after the passing of my father. I had to take a break to regroup and to recover as it took the air from inside of my heart when he passed. But, I was able to live his dream as he was an aspiring songwriter as well, recording many years ago.
So in a way, I was able to put dad to rest by finishing what I told him that I would do. And after I got all the emotions out of laughter and tears, I sat down and knew that I was going to be going on a long journey that would be filled with turns, hills, mountains, winding roads, valleys, and a life of sometimes being lonely in order to fulfill my destiny. For that part, I am at peace. And YES all of these emotions and thoughts are what crossed my mind as I heard the finished version of “I Need You For Your Love!”
Kendra: Is that how you felt about the whole record?
Kim Tibbs: Yes! I felt those exact feelings and even more. When I started placing my sound out, I didn’t know if people would like or hate it, honestly. I was doing the second-guessing game for many years and wasn’t truly confident in being in my own skin. I knew I would be able to achieve anything that I put my mind into, but I was so unsure about the music scene as it is definitely uncharted waters in my camp. You hear all the time of artists making decisions to place music out and you don’t really think about the process until it is your time.
During the recording of the entire record, I wasn’t sure just what other people’s thoughts would be, but I knew what my sound was and made sure that everything was perfect before I placed it out to the open world. I wanted to put something very genuine and unique out that would make people want to know about me but more importantly, want to hear my ability. It is very rare to have a girl basically produce her entire first project and also play a large portion of it physically, while also sing the entire album front to back WHILE doing background vocals as well.
It was a lot of work…There were also a lot of doubts in my mind until I decided to quit making excuses and just finish each song one by one. As I would get one song done and accomplished, I would move on to the next one and the next one until 13 songs later, I had a Number #1 Record along with seven Number #1 hit singles! I guess I cracked the formula that worked for me, for my sound, and wanted to keep that magic going at all costs. The record was humbling as it had thousands and thousands of people that responded to my music by following certain radio programs worldwide and I was grateful for the opportunity that creating my music has done for me. It has built my confidence but has shown me that I do have a place in the world of music.
Kendra: You’re based down south in the states but have done very well overseas. Was dominating the UK scene first always the plan?
Kim Tibbs: I knew in the back of my mind that the particular music style that I had would go over well in parts of Europe. People don’t know that the European music scene is amazing. But worldwide, other places enjoy live music and spend much more time supporting artists so I took a chance to really get to where I could physically see a following and it just so happened that I was at the beginning stages of truly finding my own voice.
I kind of feel like the pattern that I was seeking to build upon was that of the earlier known soul singers like Aretha Franklin or Wilson Pickett. In the early days of the 1960’s, artists could go over to places like the UK and have a true hit song which would help them to migrate back over to the United States and gain successes.
I just believed in my sound from the beginning and although I did what some artists have done in the past by second-guessing themselves, I found what worked best for me. I also found that it was okay to be different as well as be myself. In the process of actually becoming myself as a front artist that it was okay to work with other musicians that believed in what I am doing and the end result is being able to have a recognizably seen following from the United Kingdom as well as other European countries and Asia.
Kendra: We also can’t end this back and forth without talking about how educated you are. You have degrees that are far from music, but what do you feel they bring to your artistry?
Kim Tibbs: When I talked about wanting to go into the music industry, keep in mind a truly major mental note: my father was a pastor and my mother is a minister. Most people don’t handle that news too well especially considering that I wanted to do soul music. I remember explaining to my father that I had a very great chance at making a true name for myself, and letting him know that I would be pursuing it with or without his blessing. He knew I would do well which wasn’t his issue. He just wanted me to make sure that I did have a backup plan. The backup plan was to have a solid college education and foundation. I meant a truly solid foundation as well!
In total, I have six degrees and am currently, I am working on my seventh degree. It’s a Doctorate currently in Business Administration and Leadership from Columbia Southern University. Having a diverse platform has actually been very helpful in working for me.
It has been a great experience as well because, in some form. I work between one of my alma mater in different capacities: I sit on the Board of Advisors at Calhoun Community College’s Music Industry Communications program and it truly feels wonderful to know that my hard work is paying off but that my efforts are being noticed in my community as well as the state of Alabama. Someone looking from the outside in would see a girl that has tried to excel in her entire life.
Kendra: What’s next for you this year? Shows? More music?
Kim Tibbs: It was three weeks after my album was released last year that I started back recording. I wanted to jumpstart on placing my new confidence on records so I went back into the studio headfirst! I am working on a double album. To start, I have already completed 68 new songs. From that, I am pulling what I feel will be the greatest work of my life yet.
I have a totally packed late summer and early fall. I have a lot of personal appearances and performances that I am extremely happy and proud to announce in Europe. I’m also headlining Bol Soul 4 in Split, Croatia and that is truly a humbling thing. Performing in key places in Europe is going to be such a great end to my summer. I’m looking forward to releasing my newest wave of music as I have held so many feelings inside and have had so many things to happen that require a response from my own personal heart.
I am also displaying my sound in the United States. Slowly, my music has now migrated to the United States and has started to catch a slow-burning buzz! I’m excited but it is also creating more folks asking for my sound while also creating a lot of traffic where performances are pouring in for performing in the United States which is what I was hoping for as well. I anticipate a tour in the USA as well as the one in the late summer and fall…
This year is already off to a great start. I’m accomplishing so much and I just see a bright future for my brand and for the music. I feel it will have the proper time and place and that is what is going on at the moment. All things new music and more presence from the Kim Tibbs Music Family!