Episode 3 : Getting To Know A Southern Peach with K. Michelle
Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, K. Michelle is an R&B singer and songwriter who has always known her voice and how her music should feel and sound.
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K. Michelle: I just knew what music was supposed to feel like, was supposed to be like, and it was just a comfort for me.
Lucas Hendrickson: Hip hop and R&B artist K. Michelle trusts the little voice inside her, the one that tells her which way to turn, one of the hardest lessons an emerging artist has to learn. On this episode, we talk to the relentlessly busy K.Michelle about music, her successful collaboration with Jack Daniel's on the country cocktails flavor Southern Peach, and believe it or not, yodeling. My name is Lucas Hendrickson, and this is "Around the Barrel."
Lucas: Welcome back to "Around the Barrel," the official podcast from the makers of Jack Daniel's. I'm your host, Lucas Hendrickson. The 21st century requires those in the public spotlight to both specialize and diversify, keep in your lane to develop a fan base, but do as many different things as you possibly can to keep that fan base interested. That doesn't seem to be a problem for Atlantic Records recording artist and Tennessee native, K. Michelle. Her artistic portfolio includes four albums, including her most recent 2017's "Kimberly: The People I Used to Know" and multiple TV projects, and then there's her collaboration with Jack Daniel's on the country cocktail flavor known as Southern Peach, which has become a runaway hit in that line of pre-mixed drinks. It's easy to see that K. Michelle has earned the hyphens in her career singer-songwriter-musician-mixologist, but in her eyes, all those facets rely on her bringing things back to the basics.
K. Michelle: Hello, my name is K. Michelle, known to my mother as Kimberly Pate. I'm from Memphis, Tennessee. I am a recording artist signed to Atlantic Records. And I love food. I'm a big foodie, and I'm a huge, huge, huge Jack Daniel's fan and Jack Daniel's drinker and I'm currently located and Studio City, Los Angeles, California on this sunny, but cold day.
Lucas: K. Michelle, welcome in to "Around the Barrel."
K. Michelle: Well, thank you for having me. I'm excited about it.
Lucas: No problem. We appreciate you spending time with us today. This is a very busy time for you. You just released a record on Atlantic Records called "Kimberly: The People I Used to Know." You're working on that, and then you also have your relationship with us here at Jack Daniel's. Talk a little bit first about the record. It came out early December, and the debut single was "Birthday," correct?
K. Michelle: Yes, yes. Yes
Lucas: You've got a number of different artists that are with you on this record as well, talk a little bit about what your music is like in this moment.
K. Michelle: Well, my music it's very much me. Like, I called it Kimberly because I wanted to get to back to the basics of what made me the artist I am, what made people fall in love with me and that was honesty. And this record is completely full of honesty. It is records of all different emotions, all different time frames in my life. And it's like a snapshot of my life right now. So, "Kimberly: The People I Used to Know" the people I used to know because so many people, everybody has somebody that they used to know, you know, they have somebody that they used to know which they still knew or somebody that they used to know that they don't ever want to know again. So a lot of my music and a lot of our life is the way people made us feel in the moment. So for me, I really wanted to show how I felt at that moment and I always kind of do but sometimes I get a little scared about it. But this time I really went for it.
Lucas: So if somebody were coming into your music cold, hadn't heard of you before, didn't know a lot of songs. How would you easiest describe your music right now?
K. Michelle: I would say it's a mix of everything. It's a fusion, it's a buffet. It's a little bit of this and that, I would say it's just music. There's some country. There's some rap. There's some R&B, some ballads, some soul, some inspirational. It was just all the emotion, so I can say the genre, there's really not a distinctive genre on the album. If you have to honestly listen down to it.
Lucas: Now, does that make it tough for you as an artist to get people to understand what you're trying to do there when you're trying to do a lot of different things all at once? I mean, that's a tough thing in our genre-specific age these days.
K. Michelle: Yeah, it's difficult for them. Not for me. Because them, they want to box it. Me, I just go with the flow and I go with the music that's there, and I think a lot of artists do, but I think what happens is, you know, they're trying to fit in like, you know people around them. But a lot of times if an artist truly loves music, they can feel any type of music and music is the universal language.
Lucas: So you've had a lot of experience in the the R&B world, you know crossing over into a little bit of rap, that kind of thing, but I think people would be really, really surprised to find out that you entered into higher education via yodeling. Tell me that story.
K. Michelle: [Laughing] I did, I entered into the game on some yodeling. And you know, it really was weird because my parents took me to Bob Westbrook and he is a voice teacher and he trained a lot of people like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, the Miss America's... he's just been known for it. And when I went to him the first thing that he said he's like, you know, I want her to try some other things and immediately he started to teach me how to yodel.
Lucas: How did you react to that? I mean had you heard yodeling before? Had that crossed your path growing up at all, or was it a completely different musical form for you? And did you take to it pretty quickly?
K. Michelle: I took to it pretty quickly, I loved it. And it was something that was really easy for me and it was something that allowed me to do something different. So I've always liked different things and as just took to country music after that so it's always been something that I've loved.
Lucas: Okay, now your hometown is a fine upstanding, Tennessee town, you have Tennessee roots here. So you grew up in Memphis, right?
K. Michelle: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee.
Lucas: Okay, so how much of your musical education was based on that area and it's very rich musical history?
K. Michelle: Oh, wow. A lot of it was based on what my parents would put around me. And they would put a lot of gospel music and also a lot of soul. So my mom was always like a big Diana Ross fan, and Patti LaBelle, so I was always surrounded with these great, great artists. So I just knew what music was supposed to feel like, was supposed to be like, and it was just a comfort for me, and that's a comfort that I always try to feel when creating music.
Lucas: And about what age did you discover A) I have some talent for this and B) This is something that I want to pursue on a bigger level?
K. Michelle: When I wouldn't shut up. Yeah, when I wouldn't shut up that's when I realized that okay, this is something a little bit different. My parents even gave me the biggest closet in the house so that I could just sing to the top of my lungs and not get on their nerves. So I appreciate it.
Lucas: That was no longer a closet. It was a vocal booth.
K. Michelle: Yes, it was my vocal booth. It was my stage, and I was ready for it.
Lucas: Okay. Do you remember the first time you sat down on purpose and attempted to write a song?
K. Michelle: Oh, I think I wrote them, I just wrote them every day. Like I remember I had like a little one of those recorders and I remember saying like a Christmas song like "Up on the housetop, click click click." and I would always sing that but I would always sing answers and it would drive my mom crazy. And I knew it would drive her crazy so I would continue to sing her answers. I was always writing something.
Lucas: Now, when did you get together with other creative people to try to do music in front of folks? Did you sing in church choirs, did you perform at school? What was your underpinning for that?
K. Michelle: Church, school, I went to a performing arts school and that was something that really helped because my classes were, I had to take a lot of the core classes in the summer and things like that. I went to school that was kind of like "Fame." So I also was like an amusement park entertainer. I stayed performing.
Lucas: But you're also a guitarist and a pianist, correct? When was the last time that you just sat down at a piano or grab a guitar and just kind of noodled away just to relax, to kind of just clear your mind or some other stuff. How are you able these days with as much as you've got going on to kind of stay in touch with your creative side, in that way?
K. Michelle: It's difficult. Like I can honestly say that it is difficult. Like really trying to not just do business and look at numbers and do all of these things. It gets to be very, oh very stressful.
Lucas: But are you able to take some time for yourself and do that? When was the last time you were able to truly do that?
K. Michelle: When was the last time? I make time, like at night, like late night when everybody sleep, I'm normally awake. Yeah, I'm normally awake. So I make time for it.
Lucas: And what was the last song idea that came out of one of those kind of moments?
K. Michelle: Well, you know a lot of my song ideas are like going until like my creativity with the drinks, like it's always song titles, you know, like the Cigar on the Beach all these different little titles, you know what I'm saying? So it just kind of comes out in other ways. It might not be if I sit down and write a specific song but it might be something with the restaurant, or something creative, as long as I'm being active and creative I feel a whole lot better. And you know, it's like an outlet for me.
Lucas: Well you gave me that great segue to kind of jump in and talk about why we are sitting Around the Barrel. Your relationship with Jack Daniel's. When did that come about? We know back in your song you wrote "Jack Daniel's is the only man I'll ever trust," I can say we appreciate that. But where did where did that relationship come from? And and what has come out of it?
K. Michelle: Jack Daniel's has been great for me because it's something that is authentic and natural to me. It's not anything that I'm forcing myself to drink or forcing myself to love. Like I genuinely have always liked drinking when I was of age. It's always been something.
Lucas: You've always enjoyed it responsibly.
K. Michelle: Yes, So for me that that's something else that just came true in the past couple of years because fans would bring me like bottles of Jack with bows on it. Yeah, with bows on it and they would say to me, "I know you say Jack Daniel's is the only man you'll ever trust" And I'm like, "you know, "Absolutely." And it is, so that's natural. So the relationship has grown from like a contest/competition type of thing, to now Southern Peach that's in stores, and you know people really love the Southern Peach Country Cocktail. And women love it, they drink it and they love it. So that for me alone is like to see a drink that you love, and then to see it growing like it's a part of you, that's something that I'm very proud of.
Lucas: What was it like for you to see that finished product for the first time? Do you remember seeing it in a store and was it kind of like hearing a song on the radio to know that you had a hand in putting together this product and now here it is in the real world for everybody to have?
K. Michelle: That's like, it's like weird. Like you see the Southern Peach, I was able to go and taste all the different types of Jack Daniel's flavors, and I just thought it was amazing how I did start, and then how they're delivered. And it is like a song. It's like an idea you just have maybe the music or you might have just something that you think you want to do, and I've watched it come to life. I've watched it.
Lucas: That's got to be a lot of fun.
K. Michelle: No. No, it's great. It's great. So, I'm thrilled.
Lucas: So what what does the future of that partnership look like here? Are you working on a second Country Cocktail since Southern Peach is taking off? Or are you gonna let this one ride for a little bit and see how it goes?
K. Michelle: I'm going to let it ride. I'm still making people aware of it. And I want to keep on making people know that it's a great, great drink. Southern Peach is a smooth drink. It's for a cookout, its for a girls night out. It's something that I'm going to hang in there with.
Lucas: At the same time, from a creative standpoint this could have been a very different time for you right now, music-wise. I know the record that just came out, "Kimberly: The People I Used to Know" again, very R&B, rap focused but it could have been a very different thing had other things gone a little differently. Talk about your love of country music and wanting to kind of create some of that moving forward.
K. Michelle: I absolutely adore it, like to me country music is just storytelling, and it's so heartfelt and it's everything that I'm about, you know, I grew up in it and it's so honest and I have a strong desire for it and it's something the first tape I ever got was the Judds.
Lucas: [Laughter] Okay, do you remember which record?
K. Michelle: "Love Can Build a Bridge"
Lucas: Okay. What a fantastic song that is.
K. Michelle: Yeah, country music just has always meant a lot to me. It's been something that I loved from yodeling all the way down to just the first tape I ever got was the Judds. So this is a genre of music that I've grown fond of and something that I've grown up in.
Lucas: So thinking about your fan base right now, who are some artists that you would point them to kind of say, "this is who has inspired me" not only legacy artists, but new artists, new country artists that are on the scene.
K. Michelle: I love Miranda Lambert. I love the Pistol Annies. I love the new country, its very rebellious.
Lucas: No, you rebellious? I'm shocked
K. Michelle: A little bit. Yeah.
Lucas: How do you feel like this particular beverage, Jack Daniel's Old Number 7, and the various things have sprung up around it over the past decade or so, how has that influenced the world of music and how has it intersected with not only your stuff but the history of all different forms of music?
K. Michelle: Jack Daniel's, a lot of people drink it and sing about Jack Daniel's. And you see it a lot, you know, a lot of even R&B acts like Rick James and things like that, a lot of people love Jack Daniels. It's like a cross genre based drink and it's natural. You don't see people like shoving it down your throat, It's something that you just naturally drink and love.
Lucas: Now have you had a chance to make it out to Lynchburg and see everything that goes on out there as far as the home of Jack Daniel's?
K. Michelle: Yes, I have. I've been able to, I went there years ago and it was a dry county and I got to see where it was made and everything like that. But I've also got to go to Kentucky and also got to see exactly where Southern Peach was made and that was a great experience.
Lucas: Did you get to see it being bottled and come off the line?
K. Michelle: Yes, I did. Yes, I did and I really enjoyed that.
Lucas: Did you get emotional about that? I mean, I know I've been emotional watching Jack Single Barrel coming off the line, but this was a product that you had a hand in, did it choke you up at all or are you just super excited about it?
K. Michelle: Oh, I was just, I flew down to watch it and I just kind of like teared up because it was such a long process and journey, you know for me to see that on the belt and just to see how it was created. I think anybody would just be thrilled.
Lucas: I would imagine that anybody would be thrilled. So I realize it's really early in the year but what does the balance of 2018 look like for you? Do you have music to promote? I'm assuming you're going to be performing throughout the year. What does what does the calendar look like this early in the year?
K. Michelle: I'm going on tour in February and I have to film a TV show, we start filming in January and you know, I have the Southern Peach promotion, so my New Year is ready to go.
Lucas: You're already spoken for, so we appreciate you spending some time with us today. Thank you so much K. Michelle. Appreciate it.
K. Michelle: Thank you so much. And it's really great to be a part of this. I really think that the podcast is going to really do great. And Southern Peach is something that ladies are enjoying and Jack Daniel's, in my opinion, just like music is universal, it's the universal drink.
Lucas: "Around the Barrel" is the official podcast of the Jack Daniel Distillery. Follow the podcast on the web at JackDaniels.com/podcast. If you like what you hear, please subscribe, rate, and review at Apple Podcasts or wherever you gather your on-demand audio. Always remember, with great podcast and great whiskey, please enjoy responsibly. Join us next time for more conversations Around the Barrel. Your friends at Jack Daniel's remind you to drink responsibly. Jack Daniel's and Old Number 7 are registered trademarks, copyright 2018, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, 40% alcohol by volume, 80 proof distilled and bottled by Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee. Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails are premium Malt Beverages from the Jack Daniel's family of Brands. Around the Barrel is intended for listeners 21 years of age and older.
Her new album "Kimberly: The People I Used to Know," was released in December 2017 and is a snapshot of her life - open, honest, emotional and real. In this episode of Around the Barrel, K. Michelle talks with host Lucas Hendrickson about the forces that influence her music, career and life.
Subscribe to Around the Barrel with Jack Daniel's for this episode and more on Apple Podcasts or wherever you enjoy your on-demand audio.
For more information on K. Michelle and her new album, visit website at http://www.thekmichelle.com.
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