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. 🙂