Kim Richey bringing Nashville/London sound to Tucson
Grammy-nominated artist never dreamed she would have a career as a singer/songwriter
Singer/songwriter Kim Richey, twice nominated for Grammy Awards, has a lilt in her voice, the noticeable hint of an English accent, despite growing up in Ohio. It’s the result of living in either London or Nashville when she’s not touring.
“I’ve been living in London for the past couple of years mostly,” she explains.
“I was going back and forth a lot. It kinda started in Nashville because writers were coming over to write, so I got to be friends with a lot of them, including Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer, George Martin, who produced “Chinese Boxes,” her fifth album, not counting a 2004 compilation). So then I started going over to London every so often to write with people over there. I started spending more time over there and kinda liked it and thought I would try living over there.”
Richey brings her eclectic Americana/country songs to Club Congress on Friday. She’s on tour, backed by Neilson Hubbard, formerly of Spoon, on bass, drums and percussion, and Danny Mitchell, a jazz-influenced Nashville keyboard player.
“We’re having a great time with the show,” she enthuses over the phone from a state park in Tennessee where she is taking a short break. “The guys I’m playing with are fantastic. Both of them are artists in their own right. We do a lot of vocal stuff. We can make a pretty good noise for three people.”
Richey came to her musical career relatively late in life, only moving to Nashville in her 30s, at the encouragement of Bill Lloyd, a friend with whom she had played in college bands, and half of 80s country duo, Foster and Lloyd, with Radney Foster.
“When I was growing up, I never thought for a second that I could make a living writing songs and singing,” she admits.
After moving to Nashville in 1988, she began writing songs and gigging around town.
“At first I was probably doing what everyone else was doing, what I thought country music was supposed to sound like,” she says.
After co-writing Foster’s hit, “Nobody Wins,” with him, and singing on his debut solo album, she began to get noticed, eventually signing to Mercury Records. Her 1995 self-titled debut made it into the Top 100 on Billboard’s Country Charts and her 1997 follow-up, “Bittersweet,” reached 53 on the charts.
She became a frequent co-writer, penning songs for Trisha Yearwood, the Dixie Chicks, Suzy Bogguss, and Mindy McCready, with the likes of Jim Lauderdale and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Richey claims, “There’s nothing better than writing a song with somebody. They’ll make you go someplace or think something that you wouldn’t have on your own.”
An early mentor and co-writer was Angelo Petraglio, who later shaped the Kings of Leon into a major band. He also produced Richey’s “Bittersweet.”
She admits that the professional Nashville songwriter model, treating songwriting like a 9-to-5 job, scheduling writing sessions by the hour with other songwriters, doesn’t work for her.
“I’ve done the kind of thing where you just write willy-nilly with people,” she says with a shudder. “When you write with someone that you don’t really click with, it’s like a bad blind date. You sit there thinking, ‘How can I get out of here?’”
Richey’s style, while fitting under the broad category of alt.country or Americana, has varied from album to album, sometimes more folky, sometimes more pop or country. “Chinese Boxes,” (2007) recorded in London with British musicians, had a retro Brit-pop feel.
“Those musicians have a different reference point of things that they grew up listening to,” she notes.
Her other albums include 1999’s “Glimmer,” and “Rise” in 2002. She is particularly fond of “Rise,” produced by Bill Bottrell (Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson).
“We wrote a lot of songs on the spot,” she explains, “which I’d never done before and I wasn’t really that open to it, truthfully. But then I got to really like it. It enabled me to come up with some different melodies than I would have on my own, just playing guitar.”
Her sixth and most recent album, “Wreck Your Wheels,” was produced by Hubbard. “Some of the songs on this record are pretty folky. But every record’s been different,” she admits.
She also sells recently recorded limited-edition five-song EPs at her concerts. She’s currently offering volume three in the series.
“We sell them only at shows and once they’re gone, they’re gone,” she explains. “It’s just something extra for people who come to the shows.”
As she prepares to re-enter the studio later this year, Richey is contemplating another change of address.
She acknowledges, “I might end up moving back to Nashville. Wherever I live, I’m not there very much. I love being over in London with my friends there, but I’m spending so much money to not live in London, that I could spend a lot less money to not live in Nashville.”
As for her success in her chosen genre, she notes, “You’re not doing anything new. People have been writing songs forever. But when you say something that’s a little different or say something that people have been saying for hundreds of years in a little different way, that’s when I think you’ve succeeded as a songwriter.”