Photos & Interview by Scott Preston
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
8pm doors, 8:30pm show, $12 adv, $15 dos, Buy Tickets
With her sixth offering, Savannah Road, DeMeyer gives the listener access to a special place in her mind. The title track is inspired by Gregg Allman’s book My Cross to Bear. The celebrated musician’s biography was DeMeyer’s companion and took her in all different, musical and emotional directions. It helped her feel connected to Georgia, the South, and in the process, connected to herself. Released in April 2014, Savannah Road intermingles acoustic steel and slide guitar, fingerpicking, gospel-tinged vocals and literary imagery. DeMeyer writes songs as weavers thread tapestries. Poetry laden with southern groove, her music transports to another place and time. A self-produced collection of 13 songs written mostly by DeMeyer and frequent collaborator and string-master Will Kimbrough, Savannah Road has been described as “gorgeous and greasy.” DeMeyer simply calls it “acoustic soul.” (from brigittedemeyer.com)
Cincy Groove: I know you and Will Kimbrough have been playing together for a while, how did the two of you meet?
Brigitte DeMeyer: I’m from California and ended up moving to Nashville. I knew of him before moving there and seen him play in various places around town. We were scheduled on the same gig and didn’t know each other yet. This was back in 2009 on the Music City Roots show. We met and he gave me his card. I was just getting ready to make my last record and trying to think of who to get to play on it and I though of him. I found the card in my wallet and just called him. This happened about a year after we actually met. He was so kind and said yes right away. So he came and played on my Roads To Jericho record. Everyone that played on it was great, but Will really stood out to me. Anything I wanted him to do, he knew how to do it, even better than how I imagined it in my head. I just fell in love with his playing. We just started doing little gigs here and there together and eventually started doing tours.
Cincy Groove: Why did you decide to produce your latest record on your own?
Brigitte DeMeyer: Well, we just bought this house in Nashville 3 years ago and my husband took it upon himself to build a music studio above our garage. I then thought wouldn’t it be cool to make my record at home. I thought about getting other people to work with me on the record but it seemed like over the process of making records in the past you kind of wished you had done things differently but you listened to the producer instead. On Roads To Jericho the songs had already pretty much sounded like I wanted them to right from the start, so I thought why do I need to play somebody when I can create the sounds on my own. The people that played on the record would just pipe in when they had an idea. So why pay somebody? I of course would pay if Buddy Miller wanted to work with me (laughing). I just thought it would be an interesting experiment to produce it myself.
Cincy Groove: I understand the new record “Savannah Road” has an Allman Brothers influence.
Brigitte DeMeyer: I met Gregg at a book signing 2 years ago in Nashville. He wrote this book called My Cross To Bear and for some reason that book just swept me away. Reading about his life and how tragic, successful and crazy it was really impressed me. A big part of his life has been devoted to Georgia and Savannah so I started thinking about how Savannah has this soulful, spooky vibe down there. That book was my friend for about 3 months. I started picturing what Savannah would be like because I felt connected to it after reading that book. I started thinking about Savannah from about a hundred years ago, the old dusty roads and rows of peaches. I just opened a show for Gregg a couple months ago and I told him about the influence his book had on me.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about opening for Gregg Allman, that had to be special opening for one of your idols.
Brigitte DeMeyer: It was very weird but in a good way. Being a singer/songwriter is something you really have to love. Every once in a while you feel like your in a vast desert and then something will happen that will show you that you are on the right path. In this case my booking agent had sent my music to Gregg Allman’s management. She called them and they offered me this gig opening for him in my hometown where I grew up in San Diego. Not just in San Diego but in the vicinity where I grew up. So all these people who kept asking me “When are you coming home to play?”. So I end up coming home to play under Gregg Allman’s wing to a sold out 1,500 capacity show. It just happened last month, it was amazing. If that all wasn’t amazing enough he came out of his dressing room to listen to me, so when I came off the stage he was standing there. He told me I had a beautiful voice. It was crazy, everything seemed like it was in slow motion. I geeked out pretty hard. I said “Thank you so do you” and talked to him for a little bit. I said, “You still live in Savannah” and he said “How do you know that?”. So I said “I read your book and met you in Nashville 2 years ago and you inspired this” and handed him a copy of the record. I’m still pinching myself. The day you stop geeking out is the day you should hang up your spurs.
Cincy Groove: What kind of environment do you like to be in to write your music?
Brigitte DeMeyer: Its rare but when I co-write with somebody it has to be someone who I have strong chemistry with. Even if you have really strong chemistry playing together doesn’t mean you will have strong chemistry writing together. You have to feel absolutely comfortable to try things and have them suck or show really private parts of your heart and not feel judged. There was a time in my life when I would never want to make mistakes in front of someone like Will (Kimbrough) or Oliver (Wood) or Buddy Miller. Now I don’t care because you just have to go for it. When I’m writing on my own I like to be exercising, walking, running, riding my bike. When I do that songs come to me. I use my iPhone now to record ideas but I used to carry around a notebook.
Cincy Groove: I saw your record was #5 on the Euro Americana charts. How did that happen? Do you think your music is appreciated differently over in Europe?
Brigitte DeMeyer: Definitely, I think I speak for a lot of artists when I say they really like American singer/songwriters over there. I have been to the UK many times. I originally went to open for Al Perkins several years ago and once I went with Brady Blade and Chris Donahue. They asked to come back and started playing shows on my own. So in the UK they are just going nuts over this new record which is great. I will be going over there in October. I was also introduced to a booking agent, Joanne Sararis who books western Europe. So we started sending my music over there. Now there is a Dutch radio promoter who seems to really like what I do and all these radio reporters around Europe report their favorites. I couldn’t believe my record was listed along with all those heavyweights. I thought it was a mistake (laughing).