SCENE & HEARD
Kimon Kirk steps into the spotlight
By James Reed GLOBE STAFF MARCH 05, 2015
Kimon Kirk has an endearing quirk he seems unaware of until you point it out to him. He has a hard time taking a compliment without giving someone else credit.
When praised for the soulfulness of one of his new songs, “Baby Who Knows,” he explains that he co-wrote and recorded it with Aimee Mann and, really, she’s the one who made the chorus sound so good. His production work on local guitarist Lyle Brewer’s forthcoming album is clean and classic — yeah, well, Lyle is such a great guitarist who knows what he wants.
Time and again, Kirk is too humble to acknowledge what other musicians around town already do: He’s a vital part of the roots community here, whether out front or off to the side.
“Kimon is very sweet and extremely modest,” says Mann, who has taken Kirk on tour as her bassist and collaborated with him on another song, “Not Where I’m At.” “And it’s really interesting to see such kindness and modesty come out of such a Greek super hunk.”
For the past decade, Kirk, who pronounces his first name KEE-mone, has been a go-to utility player open to all sorts of gigs. There’s a six degrees of separation aspect to the artists he has worked with either as a sideman (mostly on bass) or a producer. The list is long: Mann, Session Americana, Amy Correia, Will Dailey, Ramona Silver, Dietrich Strause, the Heygoods, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Kris Delmhorst, Grant-Lee Phillips, and many more.
“I’m constantly at odds with the idea of social media and self-promotion,” Kirk, 37, admits over tea recently in Jamaica Plain, not far from his home in West Roxbury, where he grew up. “I like collaborating. But in some ways the most exciting thing for me is to get to make music with these people who I really like playing with. It’s a gas to have them playing songs I wrote, and that’s very rewarding and fun, but it might be just as fun in another musical situation.”
Kirk’s previous solo album, “Songs for Society,” came out in 2011, but he’s ramping up this year with new recordings. He’ll release two of them (the dreamy “Baby Who Knows” and the spiky, power-pop anthem “Powerstroke”) soon in digital formats and eventually as a vinyl 45. He’s also in the process of making his first-ever video, for “Baby Who Knows,” which features a cameo by Mann.
Even more impressive, Kirk and his band — with Brewer on guitar, Jamie Edwards on
keyboards, Jim Haggerty on bass, and John Sands on drums — have a residency at Lizard
Lounge in Cambridge every Tuesday this month. Billed as Kimon Kirk and the Meds, the
nights will feature special guests, including Gaby Moreno (March 10), Lori McKenna
(March 17), Jennifer Kimball (March 24), and the Incredible Casuals’ Chandler Travis and Steve Shook (March 31).
“It’s a different sensation,” Kirk says of being a frontman. “One advantage to having played with so many other people is seeing the good ways to lead a band and the not-so- good ways to lead a band. You get perspective.”
Kirk gives particular credit to David Champagne, the local roots-rocker whose most recent album, “Agnostic Gospel,” Kirk coproduced. Champagne gave Kirk what he considers his first big break as a musician after having admired Champagne’s music with the Heygoods. He asked Champagne and his wife and bandmate, Katie, if they ever needed a bass player. Eventually they did and Kirk got his start.
Asking if “they ever needed a bass player,” by the way, was Kirk’s idea of “actively pursuing” something he wanted. Otherwise, his trajectory has unfolded naturally, through his numerous connections and sometimes serendipity. Kirk met Champagne back when he was a schoolteacher and Champagne’s son was in Kirk’s third-grade class. (Kirk became a full-time musician around 2006, “and my days of making very little money began,” he says, laughing.)
“I think he’s just naturally reticent about pushing himself forward, but at the same time, he’s been resolute about being a musician,” Champagne says. “He can definitely step back and be a sideman, and I think he’s sometimes more comfortable doing that.”
Kirk started taking steps as a solo artist at the end of 2008, when he uprooted to Los Angeles for a change of scenery. It didn’t take long before he met Julia Stone, of the indie-folk duo Angus & Julia Stone, at a party and a month later he was invited to go on the road with them. While in California, Kirk began writing again and pieced together “Songs for Society,” a casual collection of songs that showcased his dexterity with folk, pop, country, and soul. This time around, though, is different.
“I feel like there’s a little momentum of some kind,” Kirk says, before reverting to his typical modesty. “I’m grateful to Billy Beard [the drummer who books Lizard Lounge] for letting us have these five nights in March. My band is awesome, and I love all the guests. I’m excited about it.”
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.
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