Arts

US singer Kimmie Rhodes back to spread some love and happiness

Kimmie Rhodes has been described as 'an undiscovered superstar' by Willie Nelson and now the Texan singer-songwriter is back in Ireland for a three-date tour. She talks to Brian Campbell

Kimmie Rhodes's latest album is Cowgirl Boudoir 

KIMMIE Rhodes prefers to say that she’s in the 'fun business’ rather than 'show business’.

The Texan country-folk singer-songwriter has worked with or had her songs covered by such illustrious names as Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, Gillian Welch, Peter Frampton, Waylon Jennings, Trisha Yearwood and Beth Nielsen Chapman.

She dedicated her most recent record, Cowgirl Boudoir (2015), to recording engineer Jack 'Cowboy’ Clement, writing on the album liner notes: “Dedicated to Jack, who taught me the power of believing in magic and that 'we are in the fun business, so if we’re not having fun we’re not doing our job’.

Ahead of gigs in Antrim tonight and Lisburn tomorrow, Rhodes laughs at this quote because there was a typo in the first pressing of the album.

“It actually said, 'We’re in the fun business, so if we’re not having fun we’re doing our job’. I guess those records will be collectors’ items now. But I do love being in the fun business and I try to make my shows fun for everybody. We try to make sure everybody goes away with a smile on their face.”

She admits, though, that people “do like to hear a good old sad song every now and then”.

Rhodes has been a successful songwriter since 1979, when she first moved to Austin, Texas. It was in Austin that she met her future husband Joe Gracey (an influential DJ and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s producer). Sadly, Gracey died of cancer in November 2011 and three tracks on Cowgirl Boudoir – including Don't Leave Me Like This – touch on the effect his death had on Rhodes.

“I can’t believe it’s been over four years now, but we’re healing and learning and he doesn’t have to suffer any more,” says Rhodes. “This record is the first original one I’ve released since he died, but I put out a covers record [in 2013] that was dedicated to him.

“But the song Yes on the new record is a really happy song. I learned that when life hands you something you want to say no to, there are also things you can say yes to and when you do you feel better. We’ll definitely do that song at these shows.”

Rhodes had two sons with her first husband Michael and a daughter with Gracey called Jolie Goodnight.

“This tour I’m on now is special, because I have my son Gabriel and my daughter Jolie with me, so we have these wonderful harmonies going between the three of us on a lot of the songs,” she says.

“Jolie opens the shows with a couple of songs. She’s got her own record out and she’s just starting out. Gabe is producing records for a lot of people and plays in lots of bands and he comes out on the road with me a couple of times a year.”

A frequent visitor to Ireland, Rhodes is excited to be back.

“The people are just so friendly and I think they have that in common with Texans; there’s just a social grace. People are friendly and loving.

“And I’m a writer first and my songs are very lyrical and Ireland’s a very lyrical place and people focus a lot on literature. People love to sing there too and I have a lot of songs that audiences are invited to sing along with.”

Rhodes is always busy and at the moment she’s acting as associate producer on the documentary They Called Us Outlaws for The Country Music Hall of Fame and is planning a book of memoirs based on her life in music with Joe Gracey.

Perhaps her most popular song is Love and Happiness For You, which she co-wrote with Emmylou Harris and which she has performed with Willie Nelson (while Harris also performed the song with Mark Knopfler).

“That’s my most requested song – that and Love Me Like a Song – but I always save Love and Happiness to the very end of each show.”

:: Kimmie Rhodes plays The Old Courthouse in Antrim on Thursday at 7.30pm, the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn on Friday at 8pm and the Venue Theatre in Ratoath, Co Meath, on Saturday (www.kimmierhodes.com). Cowgirl Boudoir is out now.

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