"...flawless musical talent and penchant for evocative songwriting....vulnerability with a genuine feel that is hard to imitate."
"Influenced by greats like Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones, Small does her predecessors proud.
"Kira Small is a stunning jazz-infused artist that needs to be on your radar now. 3AM quickly proves to be a timeless record that shines from start to finish."
"Small's voice soars...It's no wonder artists like Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd have called on her as a session singer."
"“Gift That Keeps On Giving” features the sort of girlish vocals that would have made Aretha Franklin proud back during her prime... They call this music soul music because – if it’s done correctly – it comes straight from the soul. And with 3 A.M., Kira does soul music right."
"With a voice like whiskey spilled on a plush velvet sofa, Small opens up her world and lets listeners in to experience the confusion and hurt through her eyes. It’s highly relatable: simple objects trigger memories in the wake of Small’s solitude, from a billboard advertisement to a hotel pen, reminders of the little things that can make us so undone."
Hi Kira, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “3AM”?
It’s the title track and, really, the sonic heart of my new record. It sounds like 3 in the morning to me – that time when you can’t sleep and you’ve got memories you’d rather not recall on repeat in your brain. I’m a HUGE Bonnie Raitt fan and she’s got a song called “The Glow” that also sounds like 3 in the morning to me. I’ve always loved that song and wanted to write something like it.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
Yeah – quitting smoking, weirdly. A few days before I quit I was reflecting back on the dark days and weeks after the break-up I’d gone through. (Not proud of it, but smoking was my “divorce crutch”.) I remembered how I was so plagued with painful memories and jumbled thoughts that I couldn’t sleep. Smoked a lot of cigarettes at 3 AM, just sipping whiskey, writing in my journal… “waiting on time to pass”. I realized I hadn’t put that feeling – that seemingly never-ending moment – into a song yet.
The single comes off your new album 3AM – why naming the album after this track in particular?
The song and the time both seemed to evoke the overall feel of the album – raw, emotional, bare. It’s a break-up album, and any of these songs could have happened (and probably did) at 3 AM.
How was the recording and writing process?
Writing took a lot longer than recording. I don’t tend to be a fast writer. It takes me awhile to get things out sometimes. There were some songs on the record that came out quickly at first but were a little too “in the moment” and painful. They needed to simmer a bit. With a little time and perspective I was able to say what I wanted to with those, but I had to do some healing first. Writing this record was very cathartic for me – like most writers, songs are often how I process whatever I’m going through emotionally. The recording process was swift and deliberately so. We wanted to capture as much of a live record feel as we could, and we achieved that. A great deal of what you hear is first takes, all done at the same time.
What was it like to work with Neilson Hubbard and how did that relationship develop?
I absolutely loved working with Neilson on this project. He had produced records for several friends of mine and I’d worked with him doing some backgrounds on one of those records. I asked him to coffee to talk about the project and he said two things that resonated with me immediately. The first was “This should have a really raw, live feel to it – I don’t think we should take a lot of time to do it.” And the second was “Sam Cooke” who’s one of my all time faves. We went straight to my house, I played a bunch of songs for him, and after about 40 minutes he said “OK I totally see how these can fit cohesively on an album. Let’s do this.” We worked together really naturally from that point. He was the perfect person to help me bring this to life.
How much did he get to influence the album?
Neilson is a suggester, not a dictator. I trusted his instincts and he trusted mine. I’d never worked with the drummer he brought in (Evan Hutchings) and he’d never worked with the bass player I brought in (Brian Allen), but we’d both worked with Johnny Duke (guitar) and Danny Mitchell (keys plus 86 other instruments). It all came together in a really beautiful, organic way. I think one of Neilson’s greatest gifts as a producer is the space he creates for artists to be really honest in the art they’re making. It’s a comfortable, safe space, but he also won’t let anything but the truth be told.
Does Nashville plays a role on this record?
Absolutely, but not in the way the average person might visualize. Nashville is bubbling over with creativity and talent – musicians and writers are moving here daily by the dozens, drawn in by that scene and that energy. The depth of the musicianship here is staggering and inspiring, as the players and singers on my record so aptly demonstrate. Also I learned how to be a better songwriter in Nashville. I’m part of the East Nashville Song Salon, a weekly gathering where writers bring in new songs to get gentle feedback from peers in a safe space. Every single song on this record went through song salon and came out better for it. That’s (East) Nashville’s biggest role and I’m hugely grateful.
Known for combining different genres together – does one tends to shine out the most depending on the song or do you try to blend them equally?
That was one of the things I struggled with in how to make this record. I’d written a bunch of songs that all lined up thematically, but were pretty different from each other stylistically. I wanted to make a cohesive record that had my soul-flavored thing on it, while staying true to the integrity of each song. That’s what Neilson and I talked about over coffee. There were a few I’d written on guitar that were just too far away from the rest to make the record, but I’m really pleased with the cohesive feel the album ended up having.
How did your life struggles get to influence the songs on this material?
I got dumped. I made a break-up record. It’s a whopping pile of life struggles distilled into 43 minutes.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes! I’ll be on tour for most of June – Midwest, Southeast and Texas. Hoping to hit the northeast and the west coast before too long.
What else is happening next in Kira Small’s world?
Well, I just got married again in May and couldn’t be happier. I’m excited about this new record and hope to tour as much as possible in support of it. I love being out singing for people – it’s honestly the most “this is where I belong” feeling I ever get. So that’s pretty much my focus. That, and keeping our two goofball cats out of mischief, which is a full time job. Like I said, I’m pretty busy. 🙂
Acclaimed R&B/Soul/singer-songwriter Kira Small tells us the story behind the title track to her brand new album "3AM", which was released earlier this month. Here is the story:
"Kira Small bares her soul, leading with the drama that coursed like an out of control current through her life. 3AM crawls out of the hurt as it heals."
Intimate shows bring down the house
By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
June 10, 2010 6:54 a.m. EDT
Kira Small performs R&B and soul in Bill and Teri Hooson's living room in Covington, Georgia.
- Musicians, paying guests flock to performances in private homes
- House concerts foster intimate connection between artist and audience
- Performers can make more money in a house concert than in a club or bar
- Artist gets 100 percent of donations, free bed, free meals -- and full attention
Covington, Georgia -- Around a northern Georgia home sporadically illuminated by fireflies and distant lightning, music rises as darkness falls. A couple dozen smiling guests, glasses of sweet tea or white wine in their hands, settle onto sofas or lean against doorposts.
It's time for the magic to begin.
This is a house concert, a growing phenomenon in which musicians perform in private living rooms for a small but attentive paying audience.
The connection between performer and patron is almost palpable.
"We've seen magic happen here," said Natalie Cole, who recently co-hosted a house concert by folk singer Jonathan Byrd at her friend Cindy Ladd's mountainside home in Dahlonega, Georgia.
"There's an interaction that occurs between the artist and the audience that's different from anything that I've experienced in a club or a venue like a bar. It's more intimate."
Audience members "are here for the music," Ladd said. "They're not here to find a date or to cruise around the bar and talk."
And artists appreciate not having to compete with billiard games or blaring televisions.
"There's this intimacy to it where, as a storyteller and an acoustic musician, the subtleties of that kind of craft can come across," Byrd said. "When you're in a really big place with a lot of people, it's harder to get the subtlety of acoustic music, the dynamic range of it."
That intimacy is just as valuable to a big-voiced R&B singer like Kira Small. She and husband-bassist Bryan Beller have been performing at house concerts for about a year, most recently in Bill and Teri Hooson's tightly packed living room in Covington, Georgia.
"We just love being able to connect with everybody this closely," said Small, standing barefoot behind her electronic keyboard not 10 feet from the first row of seats.
"If we get a bigger crowd, I tell people, 'You may not have been friends when you got here, but you'll be friends by the time you leave,' " said Bill Hooson, who has been hosting monthly house concerts for 30 years.
"We've just always had music in and around our house," he said.
Concert hosts usually ask guests to make a $15 to $30 donation; they don't call it an admission charge because that would make the venture a business and raise zoning issues, said Fran Snyder, who runs ConcertsInYourHome.com, one of several sites that help match performers with home venues.
Snyder's site also offers practical advice for hosts.
"It's not rocket science, but it does take a little bit of effort," he said. "You've got to be friendly with your neighbors if you're going to do this stuff."
Interest in house concerts is growing "by magnitude," Snyder said. When he started the website four years ago, he was getting four or five inquiries a day; now he gets that many per hour, he said.
Texas is a hotbed for house concerts, as is the urban Northeast, Snyder said, including Brooklyn, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts. And "California is just on fire with it. We have probably a hundred hosts in California," he said.
Other concert networking sites include houseconcerts.com andgaiaconsort.com. Russ & Julie's House Concerts in Los Angeles, California, provides a rich resource page at http://jrp-graphics.com/houseconcerts/resources.html.
Artists also are using Twitter and Facebook to announce that they will be touring in a certain area on a given date and are available for house concerts on surrounding nights, Snyder said.
Besides the artistic benefits, there's a clear economic advantage for the performers: All the donations go to them.
"When you play in a club, the house gets a cut, the sound man gets a cut, the door man gets a cut, and by the end of it, there's no cut for the artist," Byrd said.
"I can play for 300 people at a club and make as much or less money as I make playing for 40 or 50 people here tonight."
Some hosts pay the artist a set amount regardless of the gate, while others pay whatever is collected.
"I like to have a guarantee for the artist," said Ladd, the host in Dahlonega. "Sometimes I've had to pay out of my pocket, but I'd still rather they leave with what they were expecting to leave with."
Bill and Teri Hooson's dog Lucy shares the stage with Kira Small, who likes to play in her bare feet.
The musicians also usually don't have to book a hotel.
"Often, the hosts will provide artists a place to stay, which is another touring cost, and they usually feed us too, which is really nice," Small said.
Additionally, those intimate audiences often are eager to buy CDs and T-shirts from their new musician friends.
"Sometimes they'll buy everything you've got," said Snyder, himself a touring folk musician and award-winning songwriter.
Things don't always go perfectly. Small recalled playing an outdoor house concert that was visited by a surprise rainstorm. But the audience opted to go with the flow.
"It was like Woodstock out there, with people stomping around in the mud and dancing in the rain," Small said.
Hosts generally don't make any money from their efforts. But they're not in it for the money.
"The tradition of house concerts is that they do it because they love it," Snyder said. "They do it for their friends. They like being the taste-makers in their community.
"A lot of hosts were musicians at one time. Hosting these house concerts is one way of reconnecting with that part of themselves."
For the guests, it's just good music, up close and personal.
"Seems like the smaller the venue, the better the music," said Jerry Whidden, a Gainesville, Georgia, social studies teacher who was at the Jonathan Byrd show.
Added Laurie Oliver of Covington, who came to hear Small sing: "It's like you're listening to your best friend play the best music."
"Elmeaux" (CL Seamus) - Thunder Row
Kira Small and Bryan Beller - Live at the White House
I received this album as a Christmas present, and it turns out to be an instant favourite.
Truth be told - and this is really to my discredit - I don't usually scope out recordings by female artists. Not because they aren't good, but because (based on my tastes) most of my fave lady singers went out with Dinah Shore, Margaret Whiting, and Vera Lynn. My music collection is stuffed to the gills with those ladies and others of their era, so I worry that their like does not easily surface in today's music.
But boy, oh boy, am I glad I got this new one. Taught me a lesson about the evils of not looking harder for the sounds I like! They are actually out there...I mean, if I'm willing to admit I'm just getting too old and cranky, and maybe need to take off the blinders once in a while. Hmmm...
Kira Small is every bit as sassy and smart in her vocals as any of those monstrous talents from the golden days, and she brings to the party a modern, smoky soul that makes me want to start taking a look at her previous albums...like, right now!
The songs on this solid R&B album have everything I want. Mood, subtlety, soul, groove, infectious keyboard licks, and tremendous basslines. The entire album just makes me want to light up a cig and curl my lip in a sneer...and I don't even smoke!
The live recording is pleasantly simple - just Madame at the keyboard and husband Bryan Beller on the bass. Any more instruments would ruin this tender collaboration and take away from the one-on-one interaction they share with each other.
The tunes are chosen from Small's three studio albums - one is from Beller's solo album, View. For this outing, all were performed at The Timucua White House in Orlando Florida.
Small and Beller chat with the audience between songs, and these little snippets are enjoyable to listen to - they set the mood for this intimate venue.
Let's take a look at the songs:
I Ain't Never: The opener starts with a funky bass and then fires up into a sassy tune, with a huge bass fill in the middle. Small's lively keyboard bounces along on the high side, with as much attitude as Beller's bass on the bottom. Impressive chemistry.
Make Up Your Mind: A smoky little number. I like the way Small controls the song with her vocals - the bass drops neatly into line, the footmen on her carriage. So exactly paced.
Miss You Bad Tonight: Based on Small's spoken intro, we learn this is a very personal song. I like that about this album - everything comes from different rooms of the heart. Her voice in the spoken intro quivers with such honesty that you know she's telling you a story of deep feeling. Beller's bass rumbles gently beside her: the purring lion to soothe her as she exposes her truths.
You Gonna Regret Losing Me: This one starts out with a Carole King "I Feel The Earth Move" sense to it, but takes enough bluesy turns to drift into more of a Motown feel. The whole thing sounds all right by me; very slick and stylish. Snake-smooth bass solo in the middle. Beller's on, that's for sure.
I Will Raise My Voice: Another one from the deepest part of Small's heart. Her spoken intro tells how - despite her gregarious exterior - she is often very shy when it comes to summoning the courage to speak. The song is about finding that voice, overcoming fears and stumbling blocks to allow the words to come out. Spiritual song, almost gospel. Finding her place.
Hootchie Mama: Small relinquishes her keyboard to Beller for this one, while she plays the tambourine. The tune is about road musicians and groupies...and the women who keep them at bay! It's a big finger-snappin', Aretha Franklin type warning to all the Hootchie Mamas out there! Stand back, girlfriend! She's a 24-7, 365 Ho Patrol. Mmm, hmmm.
Wanderin' Star: I like this one very much. A very old fashioned, jazzy tune with a crazy good walking bassline. Small fits this genre like a comfortable glove, and vice versa. If she made an entire album of this type of tuneage, I'd be there.
Shouldn't We Be In Love: What a gorgeous ballad! Torchy and so heartfelt. And there's Beller, the throaty, purring lion again, laying at her feet and generating a vibration of deep resonance to remind her of his support. Their teamwork on these songs is a lock of synchronised emotion.
Hurtin': A funky Rhythm & Blues toe-tapper. I hear a little Roger Hodgson in her keyboarding for this one - the clipped staccato taps on the keys. Maybe in the vein of "The Logical Song". And the bass drops in so deeply that you might have to dip under a low-slung limbo bar just to hear it! Ha!
Digging In The Dirt: A great cover of Peter Gabriel's song, done with a bass looper. So good. When I hear a looper pedal at work, I get a brand new shiver down my back about the power of the bass guitar. Small's sharp vocals and keyboard add the perfect upper register contrast. A tasty take on a pop tune. Less 90s, more grit, more soul. Yow.
Sugar Man: What else? It's a song about "cooking" (insert snicker here). Hey, if you can't stand the heat...
A raunchy R&B "come hither" number. Gal on the prowl. The bass knows what she's talking about and answers back in her language. If Small and Beller hadn't been together when they recorded this, they surely would have been when it was done.
Backwoods: Bryan Beller's electric version of the John Patitucci acoustic bass song (from the album "Sketchbook"). Very musical solo, rich and fully realised in depth and range. The electric bass at its finest, raw and true. Deep thunder, scorching twangs, and snappy pops. This is the one that (as mentioned before) appears on Beller's album, "View".
Ain't No Sunshine: You know this Bill Withers song, but Small and Beller take it where it's never been before. The bass nips at the heels of the vocals for control of the mood. Small works hard to keep that control, but because we are bassists...well, we might just have to side with Beller. Ah, why compete? The two of them together form a searing combo for this song, and one just wouldn't do without the other.
I Can't Stand The Rain: The closer is a tangy tune and once again I feel that lip's gonna start to curl into an attitude-rich sneer. In the "reminds me of" department, this one sort of brushes up against a Ray Charles kind of sound. Not bad, Lady. You're all over it! Incredible bass riffing in the middle.
There isn't a song on this entire album that could be considered a weak link. It's all A-List material, well played and sincere. From start to finish, Small's voice rules with rock steady tone and power. She's the lightning to Beller's thunder, and together they cook up a seriously delicious storm.
Nashville-based Kira Small has just released Love In A Dangerous World, and our guess is that it won't be long before the world, dangerous or otherwise, takes notice.
The title track kicks things off with a laid-back Latin-flavored groove. Things get funkier with "Not Me Without You," a mid-tempo piece in which Small channels the Queen of Soul herself.
"Miss You Bad Tonight" practically drips with longing, while the forbidden affair in "Not Supposed To Love You" makes being bad sound oh so good.
Small will woo your ears with stratospheric vocal runs and then dive down to sexy, Earth-mama lows. She may be loving in a dangerous world, but she's certainly giving it a seductive soundtrack.
Mare Wakefield - Performing Songwriter