Kim Richey to Bring Songwriting Prowess to ARTS/West Dec. 19

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Kim Richey is a two-time Grammy Award nominated songwriter, storyteller, and musician. Born in Zanesville and a native of Dayton, OH, Richey’s work is tender, achingly honest and, above all, strikingly original. She’s responsible for major hits by Mary Chapin-Carpenter and Trisha Underwood. Her early works, 1995’s “Kim Richey,” 1997’s “Bittersweet,” and 1999’s “Glimmer” all showcase Richey’s ability to twist and mold country music tropes into something exciting, enticing, and entirely unique.

She’s been based out of Nashville for some time now, having since crafted the critically lauded “Rise” (2002), “Chinese Boxes” (2007), “Wreck Your Wheels” (2010), and “Thorn In My Heart” (2013), all exploring Richey’s underlying fascination with all musical genres while remaining true to her mind-bendingly simple approach to the art of songwriting.

She spent a portion of her youth in Athens studying at Ohio University, and she’s coming back on Tuesday, December 19 to lead a songwriting workshop (attendance is a suggested $10 donation) at ARTS/West at 1 p.m. and a show, opened by Scott Minar at 7 p.m. (for a $15 suggested donation). WOUB’s Emily Votaw spoke to her about being one of the supercool indie acts on the uber-hip Yep Roc label, listening to all types of music, and her thoughts on coming back to Southeast Ohio.


WOUB: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it!

Kim Richey: No problem, thank you for your interest.

WOUB: In researching you and listening to some of your music, I found that your early albums on Mercury are typically categorized in this very interesting mid-‘90s alternative country headspace. Overall it seems like people like to describe your music as country music – I guess what I’m asking you is how you categorize your own music? You’ve been on Yep Roc for a little bit, and they’re more of an overall indie label.

KR: You know, I get asked that often and you’d think that by now I’d have a good answer, but I really don’t! I grew up listening to all types of music, even though my own music was at first mostly categorized as country music and now it’s considered more widely to be Americana. It’s almost like when you first get categorized into a genre, it’s very difficult to change how people think of you in that way, no matter what the next record sounds like. Now that Americana is a genre that people reference, that’s such a broad category, people are hard-pressed to even tell you what it means – but I think that my music falls nicely into that categorization. It’s because it’s a mixed bag of folk, blues, rock, country, and bluegrass, it’s all kind of a big mash up. I think it’s the mash up that I fit into the best.

WOUB: That makes sense! When I was first researching you, I saw that a lot of music journalists draw comparison between your music and Marshall Crenshaw’s, and at first I thought it was a strange comparison, but it really makes sense. I guess that’s not much of a question, but it is an observation.

KR: I think that sort of sound really comes from listening to all types of music. My first records were all on Mercury, and later Lost Highway, and I was given plenty of rope in making those records – nobody told me to cut any songs or who to work with or anything, I got to do whatever I wanted, which was great.

WOUB: That’s fantastic! Are you working on anything right now? I know you’ve been touring some this fall and winter.

KR: Oh yes, I’ve got a new record in the bag, which will be out sometime next year. I also just release a single, it’s on a playlist, and the song is “The Get Together.” It’s a duet with Mando Saenz, who is one of my most favorite partners to play with. Right now I’ve got the tour going on, and I’m working on organizing a tour for the new album next year, too.

WOUB: How do you feel about coming back to Athens?

KR: I’m really excited to some to Athens! It’s a beautiful part of the world, and I love having the opportunity to be there and to play my music with some of my dearest friends. I played music with a lot of people in Athens in college, and I recently got back in touch with some of them, and they were putting together a songwriting workshop in Chautauqua, New York, and they asked me to be the musical guest, and that is how this all happened.