SONGWRITER PROFILE: BRIGITTE DEMEYER AND WILL KIMBROUGH
FEBRUARY 21, 2017 / BY DAN KIMPEL
When a relentless mockingbird took up residence in the backyard of Brigitte DeMeyer’s Nashville home, the feathered interloper inspired an allegory. “I likened the pining and longing of my soul to a mockingbird that won’t leave you alone,” she recalls.
The subsequent song “Mockingbird Soul,” gives title to a full-length collection that DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough, longtime friends, are releasing as their first official collaboration.
Both have formidable solo careers. Brigitte DeMeyer, who is originally from San Diego, CA, is known for a string of well-regarded releases including 2014’s Savannah Road, and has toured as an opening act with Bob Dylan, Gregg Allman and John Mayall.
Kimbrough, a superlative guitarist, has collaborated as a songwriter and toured with Todd Snider, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett and many others. A noted producer, in addition to recording solo projects he performs in the band Daddy with Tommy Womack, and is a member of the group Willie SugarCapps.
DeMeyer says that audiences took notice of the strong connection she and Kimbrough share. “At first I was opening for him, then I would sit in on his sets and him on mine. We meshed our sets into a duo and people were asking for the record.”
A visit DeMeyer took to Kimbrough’s hometown of Mobile, AL, was the impetus for one of the duo’s songs. Says Kimbrough, “My mom calls it ‘The Little Easy’––too close to New Orleans (The Big Easy) to have any notoriety of its own. But it’s got big oak trees with Spanish moss and fine old mansions. My sister and my mom took Brigitte all over town, so ‘The Little Easy’ is a love letter to them. It’s a Deep South thing––to go out of your way to make people feel welcome; or go out of your way to make them feel unwelcome––either way.”
This geographic south is a magnet for DeMeyer. Hints of magnolia and julep infuse her vocals on “The Juke” and “Honey Bee.” Although currently living in San Francisco, she maintains a home and still spends a substantial portion of her time in Nashville. “The south was big influence of mine before I even bought a house there.”
Upright bass, percussion, ukulele and the shuitar (an acoustic guitar transformed into a percussion instrument) offer subdued shadings on selected tracks. The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood co-wrote and sings on “Carpet Baggers Lullaby,” and the lone cover in the collection is “October Song,” originally by the Incredible String Band.
Both DeMeyer and Kimbrough have home studios, and the bulk of the project was tracked at DeMeyer’s. “It’s not a technically perfect recording at all,” says Kimbrough, “More like a folk record, a document of someone playing the song and just capturing the moment. That’s why they call them ‘records.’”
Kimbrough emailed a selection of guitar improvisations to DeMeyer who was touring Europe with John Mayall. “I was on this high-speed train in France, listening to this music in my headphones, looking out the window. It was a rainy, moody day and I started humming over this one section that we turned into a song.”
The music led DeMeyer to pen the lyrics to “Mockingbird Soul.” The song that tells the story, as she laughs, “Of the soul that doesn’t shut up.”
The duo have an extensive tour of the U.S., the U.K. and Europe planned. “When you write, when you record, when you go and do a show, all you ever do in music is see what happens,” says Kimbrough. “It’s the doing of it that’s the reward.”