Opening Foreword- Jennifer- That is the voice of singer-songwriter Kim Zombik. I had a chance to sit down with her to talk about her creative process and her artistic journey, this past spring. Revealing some of her inspirations, and influences in her creative and daily life. Sharing stories, and discussing her various mentors, experiences and projects she has has been involved in past, present and future. Enjoy this interview with a creative who is truly living a life out loud,. With a wisdom and desire to share and express openly what is on her mind and heart
Jennifer - So today we are with Kim Zombik and we are going to have a brief interview with her and her creative story and process. So welcome Kim.
Jennifer- So we are going to start at the very beginning of things and we are going to start with where were you born?
Kim- I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1966… it was a very good year…..
Jennifer- How long did you stay in Boston?
Kim- I was in Boston till I was 19 and then I went to Umass Amherst. Which is about 2 hours west, and then I lived in Amherst North Hampton for the next 20 years , with a two year stint in New York City, and after that I came to Quebec.
Jennifer - The music, how did that start, what was the inspiration for getting into music ?
Kim- You know growing up, my father was a musician, he was a percussionist, so a lot of the times, actually when my mom was away, this was some private time that we had. When my mom was out, food shopping or whatever, he would pull out his congos and play and pull out music and play, and i would dance and dance. I could stay that there was a generally appreciation for music and then, when I saw some Barbara Streisand movie, i was smitten in way that i can’t even put words to it, I was just so like,…i want to do that. The first time, I was 8 and later when I was 9, I saw a star is born, I am doing that, whatever that is. At the same time, later on, I went to college and all that stuff, because I also did visual arts and I came to college to do a fine arts major and illustrate children’s book, that’s what I wanted to do, but the bigger wave became the music and i have been just riding that more or less
Jennifer - Was there a song of Barbara Streisand, or one that kind of was a bigger inspiration.?
Kim- When I was 8 ,was the movie, I saw it on t.v, on a clear day you could see forever, and just the whole thing, whatever she was doing, There was something about her and her voice, made some sort of deep visceral sense to me. A year later, a star was born came out and I saw that. It’s funny, some memories are so visceral , some of more visual but I so remember visceraling , I saw the film and days later, I sensed this sense of being lost in some cloud. There wasn’t really a playground in my neighbourhood, there was some new construction and lot of cedar chips everywhere, cedar posts. Im not quite sure, and I remember standing there with my arms on the cedar post, realizing I was tall enough to put my arm on the cedar post but I was desperately trying to remember the words to any of the songs from that movie ( singing) and at that point, that song in particular , was big on the radio, the movie had come out and it was a hit and thats when I was like , oh my god, thats cool, that was it.
Jennifer- Barbara started something musical inside you, but what started the Jazz? Like I know that, you didn’t up singing more Barbara Streisand.
Kim Can I tell you something interesting though? 3 years ago, I had a gig and after the gig, someone from Mcgill University, she was in the music engineering program and she needed to record a demo to complete her studies, so she asked me. Would I, with my piano player at the time, come to the studio, record something, graduate and get out of here. Wildly, she asked me to sing, “Evergreen”. What are the chances? And the thing that was so, oh really, oh really, she said to me while I was singing, she said it’s so funny, but I hear a lot of Barbara Streisand in how you sing. I was like…you do…(laughing) Because most people hear Billie Holiday or other things and I would like to think that are this point they just hear me but sometimes influences wiggle on through, thats what they do, we don’t live in a vacuum.
Jennifer -So tell us how that led to Jazz?
Kim- I think my mom was pretty burn out with Barbara and hear it coming from my room and hearing me singing it. I was probably like a junior in high school and struggling to do classwork, and there was this one night where I was fairly focus on my homework and my mother knocks on the bedroom door, and she said, “there is this movie on tv I would love for you to see it, I think you would really like it”. I was like mom is letting me off the hook from homework??!?… so I go in and it was that movie, Lady sings the blues with Diana Ross portraying Billie Holiday. I watched that movie, and I was like wowwwww….
It was very funny because within a couple weeks, me and my mom were big thrift store people and within a couple of weeks, what i find and at that time, it was the time to buy records, and I found the soundtrack record to the whole movie. So immediately I started learning those songs (singing) and then later, I got the real Billie Holiday album and I was like Barbara Streisand , I love you but this shit hooks into my soul, I have to say.
Jennifer- and did you feel it at that time, that it was hooking into your soul?
Kim- Part of it, it’s like a lot of people right, high school times were so not easy, and I was fairly miserable.
Jennifer -and that was the time for blues (laughing)
Kim- and that is the time for some of that stuff, exactly, so there was something , ya know, in Billie Holiday singing that most people experience, where your like, that women knows what i am talking about, she just knows what i am talking about, interestedly you listen to someone like Ella Fitzgerald and I love Ella Fitzgerald, but when she sings something sad, i like, I’m sorry I don’t believe you, I’m like, I’m sorry I don't believe, I mean your voice is too bright and optimistic to believe you. It’s a little like this.
Jennifer - It’s on that kind of topic, of all the jazz and blues singers, is there one that kind of followed you till now. For example Nina Simone. For me, to talk about it. Its Leonard Cohen. I encountered him when I was younger and he followed me through my life but if was different albums and different times.
Kim-I would have to say for a lot of that,,,,
Jennifer- Still Billie?
Kim-It was Billie for a long time, what changed it, and shifted a little bit, was probably….
Jen - You got happy? ( laughter)
Kim- Yeah, sorry Billie, I am no longer depressed , our meeting point is gone.
Kim - Long story extremely short. I was invited to audition for this play and in the play I got to portray Billie Holiday , in which was fricken funomenal …and somehow you know being in this play where I got to bring her to life and bring my own blues to life through her, these monologues and songs , it kind took something like, here’s Billie holiday and here’s my stuff and we are close. It kind of just did this ( expression) there was a bit of a fusion , for a little bit, and somehow in doing that, once the play was over, I could kind of soften up and others artists could move in and around a little bit differently . Does that make sense?
Jennifer- yeah totally, and that play was ?
Kim- Lady day and Emerson bar and grill. and the thing is, the coincidence, I remember the summer of 86, and I was really into Billie Holiday and it was the first summer I took mushrooms. ( laughing ), I was hanging out and swimming with friends, at this beautiful place outdoors, and I was buried in this deep head space and I was just having this whole thing with Billie Holiday in my mind, and I was probably having these thoughts, like am I her reincarnated? Is there something I need to express, that is her story that is my story, that is her story, that is my story. Within that same amount of time, I was changing my major, so I moving towards theatre. That i thought that i would even write this play, and isn’t it so interesting that 17 years later, I am standing in the coffee shop where I worked, and a women says to me. I have seen you sing and there is auditions for this play, You damn skippy….That was great.
Jennifer -Full circle
Kim- There is a lot of interesting full circles.
Jennifer -Meant to be, a little fate there, do you believe in reincarnation?
Kim-I do, I do…not to get into specifics.
Jennifer- Not to dive into this, but I have dove into this with other few other interviews. Just on those terms, your a yogic person and just got back from India, so its not a stretch that maybe…
Kim-”I do believe in reincarnation but I also feel like I believe in a lot of things, not necessarily a belief I hold onto in this way, but more that life and the mystery of life is so fricken vaaaaast. That like, anything is possible. So I kind of hold it in that space.”
Kim- Yet there are people, I feel are clearly reincarnated and or you can have that sense that, I have been here before, that i met this person before but I fully believe that there are so many dimensions to beingness.. Its not just here and now and this cognitive level.
Jennifer - You read signs a lot, when something happens, your intuitively in touch, with recognizing it?
Kim- I guess so, I’ve got some fate with this person, or isn’t that interesting this comes around again. I don’t necessarily assign it or make it a major importance as much as saying , well that’s cool. Its not like I won’t…
Jennifer - Buy a lotto ticket? (laughing)
Kim- Just like they say in the New York lotto. You never know.
Jennifer- So you left the fine arts and pursue the music industry. Which is one of the, besides the Billie Holiday tribute /play, is there another highlight, you can talk about to your music?
Kim- In music Abbey Lincoln, made a huge impact on me. Because she was also a jazz singer, probably in her own footsteps after Billie Holiday, and she writes really compelling original jazz work, and on that level, as I was kind of somebody who wanted to, I sing, I interpret songs, thats cool, but there is something else that wants to be expressed. There is something of my own story, that wants to be expressed, my own view, perspective or whatever and in that way its been more Abbey Lincoln.
Jennifer - But in terms of performing, would you say one of your highlights would be preforming at the the Montreal jazz festival?
Kim - oh yes, but something even more that, because that was great, it was like the one sunny night of the whole week or something. I got, for a brief time, 5 or 6 years ago, I was touring in the Japan, and I started out, with the Billie Holiday play, and what was great about the play was that the set was a bar. We could just set up and do it as a regular gig, ya know, that went around for awhile, and then one thing led to another, I got a album deal, I cut a few records there. Jo Hisaishi, who is the conductor to the Japan new world orchestra, he is also the person who composed the music for the really popular japan animation films, I can’t remember the name right now, so he heard my voice on the radio in Japan, he contacted my manager and I went on tour with a 90 piece orchestra.
That stuff, that was mind blowing. That was crazy time. Oh my god. walking out into a hall, with 2000 people, walking past the piano, walking past the 15 violins or whatever, ya know, to then stand in front of the stage, with a conductor, and there is a grand piano bigger then two cadillac and this orchestra behind, there is this sense of like. yep I am good right here, and literally the vibration that was coming off the stage, It was great , that is definitely a memory to hold, quite dear.
Jen- Is it recorded?
Kim- We made a record…but not sure about if it was recorded.
Jennifer- What about your own stuff? I have you been writing, when did that start and what are you up to now?
Kim- For a year in 2000 I had a band, we made and wrote originals stuff, we have a album up, but then when I moved here, it was more jazz standards , not so standards. Its only in the last year and half. Ok there is something, that’s cool interpreting other stuff, other peoples music, but its time to mind my own life experiences, my own heart, for stuff that i really wanted to say as well. So thats a relatively new process for me. For the most part I do that with my bandmate, Nicolas Caloia. We have a group call Silvervest. So its just a standup bass. Which I find really fulfilling , ya know I sometimes when I listen to it, I can imagine some people not getting it, like where is the drums? where’s the piano,? where the cordal,,,information , and its like no, Its just this interweaving of these two voices, my voice , his voice , responding, moving around. I find it leaves me a a lot of room. Also to create melodies without being so guided by, like a piano cord is this , so I guess I have to go here… its like no…I can do whatever I like, and that part has been really fulfilling and fun, to go wow, wow what wants to come out.
Jennifer - Where is some of inspiration for your songwriting coming from.?
Kim- I feel like a lot of it comes from poetry. Its funny as I sit here, I haven’ t been listening to a lot of music. Is that true, yeah I haven’t been listening to a lot of other peoples music.
Jennifer - Did you just ask your ego?
Kim- Yeah ego, because they suck ,haha ya know i haven’t been listening to a lot of others peoples music, I mean occasionally on youtube. oh well look at that…Charlotte day wilson, is that her name. or this person or that person, you know but mostly its that I read poetry. I am big into reading, Hafizs poetry. When i don’t know what to write about, I feel a little slumpish, I pick up a book of poetry and its usually Rumi’s or Hafiz, and i am like cool, I am ready.
Jennifer -so that could kind of describe your creative process to writing, if there anything else you would add, do you tend to meditate?
Kim- A little bit, the last couple months, since I got back from india, I am a little more prone to sitting meditation, in the sense of sitting silence meditation, which can have a really nice reset , press the reset button. But because i was in india, and beginning this training for classical indian singing, there is a couple of practices, that you do in that, they are extremely stabilizing for me and grounding and they also have the quality of hitting some sort of reset button, but in a way that is very vivifying. I making music, so thats what I get to do, so I get to do the thing that i do but in this very …(expression )
Kim -Its funny I feel like I am totally not answering your question. ok this 51, now, and stuff just wants to come out, like I don’t feel like I am not needing a lot of inspirations right now, because stuff is just like, dude we were waiting for you to look to us for a long time, we are so ready, lets go, its up in that phase.
Jennifer - There really isn’t a blockage or any barriers or make sure we don't put this out like this or express ourselves in a certain way. Now its like EXPRESS!
Kim- yeah its more like that….which is fucken gift…Parten my french, but its gift.
I am Jennifer Cloutier and this is process talks. Welcome to the Part two of a interview recorded in private home studio of Kim Zombik in March of 2018. Kim is a multi-facted and talented being. Splitting her time between being a creative as a singer-song writer to living and teaching a life of well-being though yoga, meditation, and sound healing. Continue to listen as she opens up about her upcoming travels back to India to continue her studies in classical Indian singing. As well, we will discuss all her projects past, present and future, the creative process and her mantra’s and advise to living and sustaining a creative life.
Jennifer- Go ahead, we are back with Kim, with her…( music )
Kim- Tanpura , which is actually on the lower range of quality. I bought this one, when your sitting right next to it, its full of radiant sound, but it might not be that radiant, where you are….
Jennifer It sounds amazing.
Kim -what is cool, the harmonics creating by plucking of the strings are harmonics that are contained within your human voice, so we use the tampura, at times to guide us to go, oh yeah how can I do that. But there is also something that happens, as least when I sing. It almost sounds like the tanpura sounds are coming out of my mouth, with my voice, which is fun, from a sound healing perspective. Singing, ( i am not a good player at the same time as I singing ) Mostly I sing one note, and try to expand within that one note and I find it incredibly healing . Its pretty wild
Jennifer - Its great and healing.
Kim - So there is morning practice and the morning practice is called Korash, so your playing, your two middle notes, are you starting point . So basically you go down and down and down, till you get to your lowest note, so something that you can keep low with integrity, so it doesn’t , turn into the bottom of the basket. and doing that, its amazing what you can feel , in your energy body in the sense of clearing of the lower chakra, and things like this, Its pretty subtle work, Its not like your feel it right away, but with time and attention, with sound, it really just penetrates with everything , its cool to have a practice, where ok thats what I am doing, Its amazing .
Jennifer - so tell me why you went to India?
Kim- I went to India because I wanted to start practicing this style of India style of singing called Dhrupad, Its a northern style where the emphasis is on the meditative quality of music, on improvisations. This is going to make me a better jazz singer. Last may, I took a 5 day workshop with the Gundecha brothers, and they are some of the main teachers of this particular tradition, I was blown away by there intent into the voice music. I’ve done physical yoga for a very long time, I love Iyengar method, of these particular refinements, so I understand, lifting the inner arch, cause your ankle to the outer knee, and all that stuff, but I had never had anyone talk about using the voice in that way. and line up these particulars , so this you want your upper trachea to do, the lower tongue to do that, this bottom part to feel like this, you want feel this, you know, just all these meticulous details, and I was like, yesssss., This shit makes sense to me, or at least try.
and what was cool about it, was the way these raaga’s are, and the dhrupad style , you spend the first My teachers say, they can improvise up to three hours, before you even actually get to the composition of the raga, thats every jazz person’s dream, knowing they can improvise, and be fresh and that alive at the moment at hand for three hours, yeah I want to do that, that sounds good and you know if along the way, i have these incredible transformative, simple but profound meditative experiences, I am all in,
Jennifer - Was that the biggest thing that you learnt in India or was there other things that you were there for?
Kim- No that was pretty much it. I went for 5 weeks and then I was going to meet a friend to travel for two weeks and then come back. Actually we were going to travel for months together and I met her and we traveled and I kept talking about this school and what I learned, that I was practicing as much as I could, I got to a point where I was practicing for 4 and half hours a day, between all these others things. and then we were traveling together and i was just like….I miss that , to go from practicing from 4 and half hours a day to suddenly just hanging out, drinking chai , looking around and that was cool for about 3 days, and then I was like….and she was like, that sounds really interesting , I would love to check it out, so we went back, and she came, she trusted me enough with what I was saying, so she checked it out for a week, I stayed for another week and came back here.
Jennifer- What projects are you working on now?
Kim- Well those two brothers ( Gundecha brothers ) are coming back, and yeah I opened to take that week long workshop with them. Which is to say, some project that I am always working on is trying to learn and master this raaga they had given me, baby steps up the fricken mountain. I got this project with Nicolas Caloia, we have this band called Silvervest, we are working on this project called The stories I have heard. Its a big project, and I got this grant. So I am so grateful to have a little money in the pocket so that I can teach 3 or 4 classes less a week, so that I actually have time to create, that is not between the hours of 10pm and 1am in the morning, you know what I mean, I can allow this process, so part of my objective in this process, I got all these journals here, and i want to read them all, and mine them for material, and then go from there.
Jennifer - So there stories you heard are from these journals but also are they from,?
Kim- They are things I actually heard, the journals kind of remind me of the things I don't remember that I heard, or put them also into a context. What I am finding that is kind of interesting. I read a…some of these journals are from 1981, and what is cool, from this perspective, I know I might have been told blah blah blah in 1981, but I see how it is that I related to it, what I wrote when I was 21, where I am finally able to digest, what blah blah blah said this, and now, how many years later, I kind of go, wow, or 1981 0r 1985 . I was just scrambling , just scrambling to deal. So that is the part that becomes interesting. Its like how is it that I digested these nuts and bolts, and that part is becoming interesting, and so sometimes I am writing about actually what I have been told and sometimes I am writing is about the process of hearing it and digesting it over time, thats something else.
Jennifer - I am so glad to hear you talk about this digesting, because I feel as we older, its what we are doing, like finally , we are like, oh thats my life, now I now digest it a bit to what just occurred. I actually spoke to another artists about this and having a exhibition and being in the exhibition room going and digesting it and thinking here’s my life. Because we go through these stories, this lifetime, and we forget to step back and take a look at that.
Kim - The digesting of it the metabolizing of all the stories, all the events , all the stuff that brought you to this moment, and maybe this is something that happens when you turn 50 or maybe people have a different age, i have no idea, but I know for myself, this turning 50 thing, crystalizing it or making very clear.
“I have a lot of stories, that have ruled my life , I have a lot of beliefs that have ruled my life, and if I am 50 and I know I am not going to live to a 100 most likely, you never know , but I am closer to the end then I am to the beginning, so what are things that i can let go of , creatively, actually.” So ok cool, now that I am 50, some of that stuff, a lot it , most of it, all of it, let it go, I am so free right now, what NOW now, I am not just this pile of stories. So some of this writing and this project, as cruel as some of it is. That is the stuff that brought me here. So as long as I feel relatively at peace with myself, you know I can find gratitude in that. that shit was shitty but wow. I am here that happened and that is part of what brought me here and thats cool “
Jennifer - We are back here with Kim and we are going to talk about ..
Kim - the power trio?
Jennifer- no , I don’t know where he lies, in all that but we are going talk about what happened two years ago,
Kim- the power meeting, and that where I met the power trio…
Jen- oh ok
Kim- so two years ago, I met my real father for the first time and that was pretty amazing and funomenal. It was like someone that we both knew on Facebook connected us . We met, it turns out he is a singer and has been singing his whole life, he was singing the night I was born, I probably bathed in his voice with the 9 months I was in there and what was great, he bought me a ticket to go visit him, he lives outside of L.A in Palm Springs, and I arrive on a Thursday, within 24 hrs, we had a gig together, we sang.
Jennifer - How was that moment for you. ?
Kim- Oh my God, It was great, it was so sweet, and natural, Here is the thing that i have been doing my whole life and here’s the person who has been doing it his whole life and that’s my dad, thats my dad, thats my dad….we are singing together. This is crazy talk
Kim- He has had a great long career, he wrote a bit of autobiography, to get all this information about a family I didn’t know. I had brothers and sisters and he was the last of 11 children born to a share cropping mom in Mississippi, thats the power trio, that women at 50 had 11 children and was sharing cropping in Mississippi, so all these stories as a biracial person, at different points I identified more with my white family and less with my black family at different points, sometimes I read these stories in black american history and sharecropping, and I would think I don’t know anyone like that , well I do actually. and so Maleva Thompson and her sisters and there father is pure cherokee indian, so as it turns out I have some cherokee indian in there too, go fricken figure.
Jennifer -What a story!
Kim- yeah so Its just amazing how, meeting me father flushed out something that I didn’t realize wasn’t flushed out. Ya know its like, I after meeting him, I literally felt like I had a leg that suddenly appeared and didn’t realize I was walking with a fathom leg and all of sudden there is this other leg there, and it’s like whoa . you know its a sense of being on the map or belonging, the way that I didn’t realize I was looking for so profoundly. Its not like we became incredibly tight and talked to each other all the time. It was just something just alone in the meeting . It was like, wow this is also what brought me here.
Jennifer- Here is there a certain mantra that you live by?
Kim- On one level so many, I have a little altar over that , little posted notes, they kind of change all the time, but I think something that has been underneath that, that is something that is more discursive, but something more heart level. There is a quote by James Baldwin, that a african dance teacher gave me in 1987, or something like this, and I have had this hanging up in every place I have ever lived, and it says here.
“but what advise can you possibly give , the best advise I ever got was a old friend of mine. a black friend, you need to go the way your blood beats . If you don’t live the only live you have , you wont live some other life, you won’t live any life at all and thats the only advise you can give anybody, thats not even advise, thats observation”
I love that, i love that, and I feel that the longer I live with it, I feel the deeper it becomes,the more I realize how true, how true that is, we can kind of live our lives and make something happen that isn’t from our true nature, like get a job or be nice or these kind of these and there is nothing wrong with being kind and all that jazz, or being pragmatic if there is a need for that, but what sometimes ends up happening, we don’t live the life we have been given, we are living some idea of something, so perpetually chasing after a concept that we miss the whole thing and damn look we gunna die now. I wasted a lifetime, I wasted a lot of time. Thats too bad, i don’t wanna be that lady. I wanna live the life that i have been given.
Jennifer - It must be nice to acknowledged that, and that you are doing that. and that you haven’t been wasting your life.
Kim- I mean at different points I felt like I had been . Like I said , it was like the turning 50 thing, i was like I am going to do that now. enough with things that don’t feel quite right.
Jennifer - Have enough with the maybe!
Jennifer - Where do you see yourself headed with your music ?
Kim - Well with the stories I’ve heard project, ya know some of my visions include, that I write a body of pieces, they are all autobiographical, so right now, I am just going to read through them and popcorn out what immediately comes to me and then with time, I might write different pieces from different segments from my life, because I am still so inspired by that Billie Holiday play that I was in, It may be that, It is one of my fantasies, that I take these pieces and write a one women show around these pieces and then present that.
Kim- My idea, that it would be autobiographical but thats it. There is enough universality in what I write, i mean look at Billie Holiday, your like, Oh my god, I know what you mean. which is a interesting thing, you know the way art can feel so narcissistic. Its just me and my journals writing about my life, but the other part , is like , I am not the only one, I am not the only one that feels this. I might be the one the who is writing about it, processing it in this way , singing it and in that way I can be a valve, valve for these women, a valve for the young girl who I saw in india, who had acid poured on her face, and she had nothing to say, she couldn’t say anything anymore, so on that level, thats what I want to used my art for, the telling of some of these stories,
Jennifer- What would you say to a young artist who wanted to do what you are doing ? or what you did, what would you tell them. if you could mentor them. What would be your biggest advice.?
Kim- Something along that line of course but at the same time, as a younger person, often the experience of life is that there are so many doors, walk through as many of them as possible, just to see, you just got to see, wiggle around, you got have to wiggling around, because the wiggling around its how you see, thats not me, thats kind of like me, that totally me and from there, its part of the refinements process. It was kind of like what I was saying the other night. Over time things become refined, things become refined and all of a sudden the yoga that interests me is just the vibration that is right here and its kind of like that. Youth is one thing and you have to do that, and you have to have wide range and that wide range becomes a little bit more narrow and it transforms itself into depth.
Jennifer - wow, that was great to talk to you today. So thank you for the interview Kim. Interview by Jennifer Cloutier
KIM ZOMBIK- www.kimzombik.com