Kimberly Dunn playing with fire on latest album, 'New Smoke Show'
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
In the past few months of this blazingly fast year, singer Kimberly Dunn has gotten engaged, toured a wide swath of the country, moved to a new city and gone from a brilliant blonde 'do to flaming red tresses.
And somewhere in that span, she found time to release on new EP with another on the way in a couple of months, both aimed at rocketing her into some new, mainstream attention.
Is it any wonder that the spitfire Dunn's favorite adjective to use describing New Smoke Show Vols. 1 and 2 is "high-energy"?
Dunn will barrel back into Amarillo for a 10 p.m. Friday show at Golden Light Cantina, 2906 S.W. Sixth Ave. Cover is $10.
We spoke today about her crazy 2017 in a wide-ranging, fast-paced 30-minute conversation, focusing largely on the March release of New Smoke Show Vol. 1 and the upcoming fall release of Vol. 2.
"I wanted this record ... to be all about the show," Dunn said. "I wanted this record to be fun to play live for the fans, and hopefuly, we'll get more fans by showing them how high-energy our show can be."
Recording last year in Nashville with producer Chad Carlson, the Grammy-winning engineer for Taylor Swift's Fearless, Dunn backed off on her usual practice of writing or co-writing every song on the album.
"I have so much more fun recording high-energy songs, but what's so backwards is ... that it's very difficult thing for me to pull out those high-energy songs whn I'm writing. I'm such a sad-sack when I'm writing," Dunn said. "Probably 90 percent of my songs are sad singer-songwriter songs like on my album Forever on the Run."
"Stand On It," Kimberly Dunn
Vol. 1's "Stand On It" — written by Autumn McEntire, Hannah Blaylock and Nicole Witt — is indicative of Dunn's approach, both for the EPs and for her career, she said.
"That's my favorite song of the whole album," Dunn said. "It kind of encapsulates ... the entire idea behind my project.
"'I don't fit in the box. I stand on it'," she said, quoting the chorus. "That's my message."
She applies that to how she describes her music. Though proud of her Texas country roots, Dunn said she has other colors to paint with, as well.
"It's easier for us to put things in boxes, but the world's not that way," she said. "If you're a fan of Texas country and ... want to put me in that box, by all means, do it. But I'm also in the rock box. I'm also in the pop box.
"I'm more about love and light and bringing people together. I think we screw up when we start labeling things. ... We start dividing ourselves, and right now, more than ever, is not the time to divide ourselves."
With the new album came a new look.
"I've been blonde my whole life, so I wanted to see what life is like as a redhead," Dunn said. "And where there's a New Smoke Show, there's gotta be a fire, and I wanted my hair to be the fire.
"There are so many blondes out there," she continued. "I think this will help me stand out — not that being a blonde is bad, but this is just something different, something memorable. I'm throwing everything to the wall and seeing if it sticks."
In the middle of all this change — including a move from Austin to Bryan/College Station — and new energy, Dunn got engaged in January to longtime boyfriend, guitarist and manager Scott Willson.
"We've been dating six years and working together almost seven," Dunn said. "I told him, 'Listen, let's get engaged. Let's level up in our relationship. It's weird calling you my boyfriend. We'll figure out the wedding later.'"
Willson proposed at the end of the Steamboat Music Fest in January, when the band gathered for a traditional farewell-to-Steamboat shot at the top of the mountain.
"It was really, really special," Dunn said. "I'm such a moment person. I love making and creating moments. That's my job, what I do on stage every night, and the fact that he created that moment for me was the most selfless thing anyone has ever done for me, so I want to devote all my time and energy to making our wedding the most special moment it can be."
Just not yet.
"Seriously, the first couple of months of being engaged, all these questions came raining down on my from my family. I don't know! I've got a record to put out," Dunn said.
Wedding planning will begin soon enough — but not until after New Smoke Show Vol. 2 is released.
"We'll see. I'm sure some sort of Bridezilla will come out in me ... but I just don't see that bone in me yet," she said.