Hit Factor Interview
Hit Factor" Interview with Bobby Kimball (Original Lead Singer with "Toto")
What inspired this current "Kimball/Jamison" project?
Jimi Jamison and I have been friends well over 25 years, and we've worked together 100's of time on concerts with multiple singers and great bands. We've also toured with both of our Solo Bands over the years. We've been talking about doing a CD Project together for most of that time, but so much touring and recording with other artists has gotten in the way of our taking advantage of this project. We both got an e-mail from Frontiers Records in Italy, asking if we would be interested in doing a 12-song Duet CD. That was our opportunity to take some time off, and record together,....since we would get paid to do it. The CD is called "Kimball/Jamison", and it was a lot of fun making this CD.
What was the biggest artistic challenge for this project?
This CD was actually no artistic challenge for Jimi and I, because Frontiers sent us about 20 songs to pick from. All of the songs were written by different writers, all of them great, and we chose the 12 songs we liked best,...the one's we thought would fit our voices best. Jimi and I both knew exactly who would sound best on whomever would sing the parts on the melodies, so there was no argument about that. Some of the writers on the "Kimball/Jamison" CD were Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Mutt Lang, Randy Goodrum (wrote for Toto, Richard Marx,...etc.), Jim Peterik (Survivor), and Robert Säll ("Work of Art" band in Scandinavia),....etc.
For you personally, what are the key components to creating a hit song?
I think about every writer and artist might have a different opinion about this question. There are so many elements to writing a song in the first place, but I feel that if you create a message that lends itself to touching a multitude of people's hearts, whether it's sad, happy, a love song, or about something that makes them mad,......you'll find that many people will embrace it and bring it into their souls. Everyone has their own personal beliefs, and if you touch on one of those with some great lyrics, and make sure the music is played well, you just might have found the formula for writing a hit song.
What has the collaboration process been like on this project?
Since all of the songs were written by writers, the most collaborative effort on our parts was to choose who would sing the different lines of the songs. That was a very easy decision for us though. It was very obvious who would sound best on the different lines of the songs. Our voices are very different in range, and Jimi covered the lower parts, and I covered the higher one's. By doing it this way, we had a very wide range of vocal capability.
How have you grown as an artist and how does this project display that?
I've become a lot more happy with my present situation. When you play with a band, many times, there are huge arguments over some very petty things, and it makes the band's environment a really bad place to live, and play together. If you look at the history of some of the biggest bands that ever existed, you'll notice that as soon as the money started coming in, the "Super Egos" began to raise their ugly heads, making life unbearable for most of the other members of the band. It happened to The Beatles, The Stones, and so many of the greatest bands ever, it's very easy to see that the behind-the-scenes existence for a lot of band members is nothing but misery. Now, I'm not in a band, and I only do the things that keep me happy. I usually find the best musicians in whatever part of the world I'll be touring, send them Mp3's of the song arrangements we'll be doing, and I give them about 3 weeks to learn the songs. By the time I get there, we rehearse the songs, and begin the tour. So far, the bands have all been fantastic, and the shows have been very fun for me. I don't have to make certain that the band has work all the time, and I don't have to deal with any of the problems most bands do. Another great factor is, flying a band around the world is very expensive, and that problem doesn't exist for me either. I've been working on a Solo CD for about 8 years, but all of the recording time and touring with Toto, doing concerts with friends, and so forth, have kept me from finishing my Solo CD. Now, I have a bit of time to finish the last two songs. I've been working with Bill Champlin, who played keyboard, and sang with "Chicago" for 28 years. Bill has always been one of my best friends and favorite musicians. We've worked together for about 35 years doing background vocals and writing songs. He's a brilliant musician. I'm also working on another Solo CD with Robert Säll from "Work of Art" for Frontiers Records. I love the songs, and it will surely be a very good CD. The other Solo CD I'm working on is with a co-writer friend of mine, John Zaika. We did a CD about 12 years ago called "All I Ever Needed", and now we're doing another one. This one will be released on a new label John and I have just started. It's called "Future Memories Music". Life is good for me at this time.
How is creating a hit today different from years before?
That mainly depends on what part of the world you're in, because music the world over is so different for the listeners. Many years ago, a record label could push a song onto the charts, and keep pumping money into the song so that radio stations would play it, then it would become a hit. Now, with the introduction of the internet, music can be gotten for free, and the push from a record label is practically non-existent. After touring all over the world, I've found so many musicians in Scandinavia who write and play the music I love. Many places in Europe have a totally different taste for music. I also like the style there, and knowing that their cultural beginnings in music were hosted by musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, ........etc. That makes their appreciation for great compositions in music a bit higher-grade. When I toured in The Far East (many times), I discovered that the people there love songs they can sing along with. This is where Karaoke originated. My Promoter gave me a set list of songs to sing, and most all of them were ballads. I thought to myself,..."this is going to put the crowd to sleep", but he was absolutely correct. They loved the concerts and at some points in the show, the crowd was singing louder than the band. So,..it really depends on "where" you're writing a song for, which will make it a hit or not.
What is the biggest factor that has molded you as an artist? What has shaped you stylistically?
I would have to say that growing up in the South, in Louisiana, had the greatest affect on me musically. I started playing piano when I was about 4 years old, and had my first band when I was 8 years old. My Dad and Mom were so cool about the music scene, partially because my Mom had perfect pitch, and could play anything she heard on a record or the radio, on piano. They hosted the "Teen Dances" in my little home town, but there were people from about a 75 mile radius who would come to these dances on the weekends. When I was about 6 years old, I was collecting the money at the door for the people who wanted to come in. It was something like 15 cents to enter. They would use the money to buy all of the new "78 RPM" records for the JukeBox. It was a great time for me, because I got to listen to all of the latest music out at that time. My oldest brother had a band called "The Rockers", and my band, when I was 8 years old, was made up of all of the younger brothers of my oldest brother's band. We were called "The Rebels". Many times, we played during the 30 minute breaks on the gigs "The Rockers" played. By the time I was 12 years old, I was playing night clubs with a band of 20 to 24 year old guys. I had a note, signed by my parents, so I could show the club owners and the police that I had their permission to play at the club. From that time on, I was always in a band. I played in several bands in Louisiana, and most of the music we played was from black artists. I grew up on black music down there, and it had a dramatic affect on my vocal style. When I was 15 years old, I was playing with a band with a 5-piece horn section. This was so fun for me, because I love horns with a rock band. I was doing songs by Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and all of the big black artists of that time. When "The Beatles" came out, there was a drastic change in the music everyone wanted to hear. Bands started playing without horns sections, and began playing songs by bands like "The Who, The Rolling Stones, and many by The Beatles". That's when I began singing songs by more white artists. I still had the "black singer" effect embedded in my voice though. When I would sing songs by white artists, I changed them up a bit, and gave it a little different sound to fit my voice.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Be very patient, and don't let anyone tell you that you'll never make it. It's very tough in the music world today, but if you stick to the sound you love, and project it to the best of your ability, you may find that you've just created a new sound that people might love. The more you stick to what you want to do in music, and give it "your all", the better chance you'll have of possibly making it, and also, you'll be doing exactly what makes you the happiest. That's very important too, because you don't want to become a hit artist doing something you don't like to do.
How has digital technology and the internet effected your career? Has it effected this current project?
Since the advent of digital technology & the internet, music has changed completely. Before all this happened, when recording an album, every part of the music you put on the album had to actually be played live, and there was no chance to "cut & paste" a part from another section of the song. When I started doing lot's of background vocals with Bill Champlin & Michael McDonald (we had a trio, and worked on many albums in the early 80's), we had to triple-track the background vocal parts on each chorus. That took some time, and was not an easy thing to do. the 3 of us together had a great sound, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had working with them. Now, with this technology, you can sing one chorus of background vocals, and paste it all over the song with no trouble. If it's out of tune you can also tune it to the right pitch. Many singers who really cannot sing very well, can create a great vocal with this technology. With the internet available now, the way a musician has to make money has totally changed. Back in the 70's & 80's, most of the money was made from album sales. Now people can get most of that music for free off the internet. Therefore, if you want to make any money in the music business, you'd better be able to do it live at a concert.
What is your opinion of the global marketplace and how has foreign markets impacted this project? Is it more difficult creating for a global audience?
On the Global Market, there are so many different styles of music, and what people might like or buy. It is difficult creating a single CD that will get noticed by the total Global Market. However, if you stick to the style you love, and do it to your best ability, the people who love that style will come to the table for you. With the "Kimball/Jamison" Project, I think, for the most part, the different writers, and different styles of music on this CD, will have a wide-spread noticeability around the world. Jimi and I just played some concerts in Europe together. One of the shows October 12th, was for a very small audience at "SWR" radio (One of the biggest radio networks in Germany). The people who got to attend the concert were winners of a music contest, and the concert was in a small recording room, where they were broadcasting the show live on the radio. We played with a live band, and along with the "Toto & Survivor" songs we did, we decided to play two songs from the "Kimball/Jamison" CD. When we did that, the phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree with requests for the station to play one of the new songs again. After so many calls, they finally put the song in heavy rotation, which means they played it about once an hour. Within two days, it was already in the German Music Charts, and this was strange, because the CD won't be released until October 18th. This was almost a month before the CD will be out. The last concert we played on the recent tour in Germany, was "The 125th Anniversary of Mercedes Benz" in Mannheim, Germany. there were 11,000 people at the S.A.P. Arena, and when we did a song from the new CD project, they went crazy over it. That's very exciting to Jimi and I, because we now feel that a tour playing a lot of the songs from the new CD, will be a great success.
What makes this project stand out? At a time when the music industry appears to be struggling, financially and some would argue artistically, what makes this product distinct?
I think one of the things that makes it special is, Jimi and I have both sung on many "Number 1 Platinum Hit songs", and with two voices that are recognizable, singing songs by some really great writers, there is a special quality about it. After listening to the CD the first few times, I feel that it has a very noteworthy substance about it. It was so fun to work with Jimi on this project, after so many years of us talking about doing a CD together, and because the songs were great, and the tracks were amazing, I think there is a unique quality to this CD. We're already talking about doing the 2nd "Kimball/Jamison" CD, but this time, we would like to write most of the songs. We'll begin touring soon to promote the CD, and I know it will be a lot of fun.