Singer Kim Wempe brings her tremendous knack for expressing herself through music to The Scott Block on Nov. 16. Her latest disc, Coalition, the follow-up to Wempe’s 2010 critically-acclaimed Painting With Tides, is a bold leap into a new sound that showcases her songwriting and vocals against electric guitar hooks, imaginative percussion (chains, hammers, beat-boxing), and blues-derived grooves.
Her first disc, Where I Need to Be was released in 2009.
“With my past albums, I just really went with the flow,” she explains during a recent chat. “But with Coalition, I was very strategic with it because I wanted to make a record that really lent itself to my voice; I wanted to step it up a notch on this record. And I was really influenced by the sound that came out on the record.
“I had to think about that when I was writing – making sure that my voice was up front and a certain style was coming through because I wanted to make a certain type of record. And I’m really, really happy with the way it turned out.”
Produced by Newfoundland soul artist Chris Kirby, the CD features 13 roots-tinged pop/blues tracks influenced by Americana storytelling and gospel melodies.
“I was listening to lots of bluesy, Americana stuff. I was really influenced by that kind of sound.”
Wempe is originally from Saskatchewan, later moving to Calgary and then to Red Deer. She also studied music at Red Deer College and eventually moved east in 2007.
Once in Nova Scotia, she quickly became immersed in the East Coast music scene and won an ECMA in 2009 for her debut Where I Need to Be. Her sophomore release Painting With Tides featured appearances by Joel Plaskett, Old Man Luedecke, Thom Swift and Geoff Hilhorst. With producer Charles Austin at the helm, it was released in 2010 on GroundSwell Music/Warner Canada and nominated for an ECMA and two Music Nova Scotia Awards.
Shortly thereafter, recognition of her skills began to take shape quite rapidly. Highlights over the past while have included a stopover at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Junofest in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“I was really influenced by the east coast singer/songwriter sound, and you can hear that in those records,” she says of the influence of the Maritimes on her craft.
Touring consistently in Canada for the past few years, Wempe has also performed alongside Canadian favourites Royal Wood, Jim Bryson, Jill Barber, and Jenn Grant to name a few.
She has also appeared at noted Canadian folk festivals including Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival and the In the Dead of Winter Festival.
A love for music was sparked early on, as Wempe recalls her dad playing guitar around the house. “When I was a kid, I wanted to sing, play guitar and perform. I was always running around the house performing something. When I was in Grades three and four, I’d be singing my face off – that being all I wanted to do.”
In Grade 8, music class brought her the chance to really hone her skills on guitar and her gift for music truly surfaced from there. A knack for songwriting was also soon to follow. “I feel grateful to have always known what it is I’ve wanted to do.”
Still, it took time to become used to performing onstage. “I was extremely nervous all the time. But that’s why Red Deer College was so amazing, because we had so many performance opportunities where we were given the chance to hone our skills and to get comfortable in front of an audience,” she says. “That took a long time for me.”
Wempe now lives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and says the creative atmosphere, not to mention the natural beauty of the location, provides reams of inspiration. She’s certainly found her niche.
“I like to sing so many different types of music, and I listen to so many different types of music,” she explains. “I’m always battling with what I want to do next, but you always have to go with what you are being influenced by at the time. You really have to roll with that.”
Tickets for Wempe’s show are available at the door.