BY ALEC HARVEY
Music really hasn’t come naturally to Kyle Kimbrell.
By his own admission, he’s had to work at playing the guitar. Same with singing, he explains, “but I’ve worked on it as much as I can.”
Still, it’s a calling for the 27-year-old Birmingham, Alabama-based singer-songwriter. His first EP, “Lazy Bones,” recorded at Water Valley’s Dial Back Sound, came out last year. His second, “Nobody’s Fool,” will be out soon, perhaps in time for his Jan. 11 appearance at Proud Larry’s in Oxford.
Kimbrell says he didn’t really start playing music until high school, after a “great upbringing” in the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills.
“I had picked up the guitar at about 10 or 11, but it frustrated me, I was impatient, and I put it down,” he says. “But my freshman year of high school I made the commitment. I took some lessons, and I also studied via the internet.”
A semi-successful high school band, Solomon Grundy, followed. “We had a pretty peculiar name, but we were having a lot of fun,” Kimbrell says. “We were a good little group. We were good for some high school kids.”
After graduation, Kimbrell stuck with the music, playing in Birmingham bands like American Animal. Though he was also studying communications at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kimbrell was “trying to pursue music full time, playing around town as much as I could.”
When it came time to record the first EP, his high-school bandmate Will McCarley, who had moved to Oxford, suggested Dial Back Sound.
When describing his music, Kimbrell falls back on Gram Parsons, who described his sound as “cosmic American music.”
“It’s Americana-rock,” Kimbrell says. “It’s rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit of country, blues and all of that. It’s a little bit of everything, honestly.”
Whatever it is, it has caught the ear of some veteran Birmingham musicians, including Rick Carter, whose bands Telluride and Rollin’ in the Hay are popular around the Southeast. “I’m a fan of his songwriting and performance abilities,” Carter says. “He does the next generation proud.”
Kimbrell says he met Carter at an open mic night Carter was hosting in Vestavia Hills.
“We really hit it off,” Kimbrell says. “I think he really dug the music I was doing. He’s been really good to me. He’s been like a musical father. He’s hooked me up with gigs and helped me out.”
As for his real father, a doctor, Kimbrell says both his parents have been supportive of his career, but his father has been a tad leery about the long-term prospects of the music business. But that may be coming from somewhere else, the younger Kimbrell says.
“My dad always told me growing up that his dream was to play guitar in a rock band,” Kimbrell said. “Growing up, I never thought I had any musical talent – I didn’t do band or anything like that – but now I’m trying to do his dream. He might be a little envious, but he’s definitely been supportive.”
Alec Harvey is a contributing editor for Oxford Magazine. He covered entertainment and pop culture (including books) for The Birmingham News and AL.com for 27 years before returning to his alma mater, Auburn University, to advise student media and teach journalism.