One Original Singer
by Jay S. Jacobs
It almost sounds like a cliché to say that you have seen someone growing up on TV. However, in the case of young singer/songwriter Cheyenne Kimball, it is undeniable. Granted she is only sixteen years old so she still has a lot of growing to do, but she has been on television since she was just a girl, allowing the cameras access that most of us could never imagine. This summer she released her debut CD The Day Has Come and was the subject of an MTV reality show called Cheyenne, which focused on being a young singer and moving from a small town in Texas to the glitzy world of Hollywood.
This wasn’t Kimball’s first brush with reality show cameras, though. Back in 2003, Kimball first caught the country’s eye on a completely different show.
“When I was eight, that’s when I started [writing songs] myself,” Kimball recalls. “When I was twelve, I went on America’s Most Talented Kid on NBC. That’s really what made me have a career in this.”
America’s Most Talented Kid followed in the footsteps of American Idol in giving children the chance to prove their worth on television. She beat out many others. Other singers to come from the series (the season after Kimball was on) include teen singer and actress Joanna “JoJo” Levesque who topped the charts in 2004 with “Leave (Get Out)” and appeared in the movies RV and Aquamarine. (Ironically, one of Kimball’s songs called “One Original Thing” was on the soundtrack to the second film.) Also, on the show the same year as Kimball was Diana DeGarmo, who would go on to come in second in American Idol the next year.
“It was really just kind of a fluke that I ever tried out for it,” Kimball says. “I kind of begged my dad. I just wanted to see how I’d rank in the whole thing. I didn’t have managers or headshots or anything like that. I just wanted to see how I’d rank amongst all the kids. So, winning the whole thing was just weird.”
This victory caught the attention of record labels. Soon she had signed with Epic Records and was leaving her hometown of Frisco, Texas to relocate in Hollywood to start work on her debut album. Going from a small town to the bustling LA area took a little getting accustomed to.
“I definitely have gotten used to it,” Kimball says. “I’m not really there a whole lot. I travel so much. But you definitely get used to the LA thing – just get used to the pace and things like that. But I’m definitely going to either move to North Carolina or move to Dallas, Texas. I’m not really an LA kind of girl. I like the low-key kind of thing.”
The adjustment was even a little more hectic than it would be for most people, because MTV offered to turn her move and the creation of her debut album into reality television. Suddenly, everywhere she went, there were cameras. Kimball did it because she knew it was good exposure for the album. It was an adjustment, but one worth making for her career.
“It was definitely different,” she admits. “You have to really focus on what you’re saying. I wasn’t trying to hide anything, but you don’t want to say anything too bad. You kind of watch what you say. But the crew was not out to get us whatsoever. They became like our family. Having the cameras around, you ended up getting really comfortable with them. So [eventually] when they weren’t filming, it was kind of weird.”
At a time in which most people her age are dealing with algebra and government, Kimball was spending her time working on an album and having her life scrutinized on TV. (Kimball is home schooled around her schedule.) It made it a bit tough to live a normal life – not that Kimball is complaining.
“I wouldn’t say a normal life. I have a great life, but it’s definitely not a normal sixteen-year-old life,” Kimball laughs.
When she signed with Epic Records, they hooked her up with producers Chris Thorn and Brad Smith, who had formerly been members of the 90s rock group Blind Melon (their biggest hit was the 1994 smash “No Rain.”) Thorn and Smith had just co-produced Anna Nalick’s album Wreck of the Day (together with former Tori Amos producer Eric Rosse.) Epic thought they would be a good fit for Kimball as well. “Because on my label it’s like all one big happy family,” Kimball laughs.
The label also fixed their new talent up with a bunch of songwriting vets as collaborators. She wrote new songs with Raine Maida (lead singer of the band Our Lady Peace) and his wife Chantal Kreviazuk (who has released solo albums as well as working with Avril Lavigne.) Other industry pros she worked with included reigning songwriter-for-hire Kara DioGuardi (who just formed the band Platinum Weird with Eurythmics mastermind Dave Stewart), producer Billy Mann and John Rich (of Big and Rich).
“It was amazing,” Kimball says enthusiastically. “I felt like I was in music college. I learned so much from these people. My next album will be even better because of everything that I’ve taken and learned from these amazing writers. I hope to be respected like they are one day. I hope to be respected like they are now. They’re great. I’d love to write with other people when I’m older. They really helped me blossom into the musician and the person and the songwriter that I am now. It really helped me find myself.”
That search has led to The Day Has Come, a surprisingly hard-edged debut album in which Kimball shows real talent as a singer and songwriter. When people hear Kimball’s backstory – because she is young, pretty and has been on TV, people sometimes underestimate her talent. However, The Day Has Come is actually a very credible rock album.
“I think that they do see my age and my credibility automatically goes down,” Kimball admits. “But, even when we play live, I have adults and people of all ages coming up to me and saying, ‘I thought this was going to be really poppy, but it’s so much rockier.’ Even the album is. Our live performances are ten times rockier than the album. I love playing live and it really does get my stuff out there. It shows that I can play the guitar. They don’t really know if it’s true or not – if I can really do all that. So right now, I’m in the phase of really proving myself. I’m gaining a lot of fans that way. It’s great.”
Musically the album is rather diverse. The first single, “Hanging On” (which also was the theme to her series) is pop. There are more rock-based tunes like “Hello Goodbye” and “Breaking Your Heart.” She shows a talent at traditional ballads with the lovely “Four Walls.” The title track has an easy acoustic vibe. “Full Circle” veers from a ballad to a more rocking song and then back. Kimball loved the fact that she was able to experiment with styles on the album.
“I didn’t want to have just one type of song on the album,” she says. “I wanted a very diverse album. But not going too crazy. I still kept the same element in each song, but I stretched each thing out to a different genre. Which I think is real cool that I’m able to do, because I’m able to grab a lot of different fans. Not just pop fans. I can get rock fans, ballad fans, things like that. Which is good. It’s not just one solid genre on the album.”
A lot of the songs are inspirational songs about making your way in life – things like “The Day Has Come,” “I Want To” and “Hanging On.” So why does that subject appeal to Kimball as a songwriter?
“It’s really a big thing in my life, because, you know, I’m young and I haven’t really experienced love,” Kimball admits. “I’m just now starting to experience some things. My next album will probably be a little bit more like that. But I have a lot of anthemic songs that I think are actually good to have because people can relate to them a lot more. It helps them get through life and writing them helped me get through life. It’s just really cool I’m able to do that for people.”
So now Kimball is hitting the road to promote her album and get her music out to the people. One way she has been getting out to the real fans is with a series of shows at local malls.
“It really is amazing,” she says, enthusiastically. “We just played one the other day and it was 2,500 people cram packed in this small mall. Just seeing how many people can come out to these shows and they can actually get everything. I can see the audience which is great, because most shows you don’t see the audience at all when the lights are shining on you. I can really interact with the audience. I do meet and greets afterwards. It’s really fun. I have a great time. Just seeing the people singing the lyrics and screaming the lyrics to “Hanging On,” seeing people cry in the audience when I come onstage. It’s really touching, and it makes me so happy that I’m able to do this for a living. It really is what I live for, to play live. It’s so fun. Most people wouldn’t think that malls are that great to play, but it’s really fun, it really is.”
Another way that she tries to break down the wall between artist and fan is through the internet. She is greatly involved in her web site and forums and she cherishes the opportunity to reach out to fans.
“I think I do it more so than other artists,” she says. “There’s always a block between the artist and the fan. There’s this hint of mysteriousness that is never solved. There’s not really that connection. That’s why it’s so great to have your galleys shown on playback because I feel like people know me and they can actually come up and talk to me. Which is one of my biggest goals – that my fans actually feel like I’m a friend. I’m not just some higher being that they will never be able to touch or see. I don’t really agree with that. I’m so glad that I’m actually a normal person to them. It’s great that I’m able to interact with them the way that we can.”
Kimball recently got a surprising opportunity when she was approached to make a commercial for Candies with legendary female rocker Pat Benatar.
“They offered for Pat to do the campaign. She’s never used her music for any type of commercial. She was very iffy about it. She didn’t want to work with any other artists, but when they mentioned my name, she said that she wanted to do it. She really liked everything that I was doing and really thought it was a good idea. So, it just kind of happened. It was an honor, it really was. It was great working with her. Of course, the clothes were great, too, that didn’t hurt,” Kimball laughs.
So now that The Day Has Come has been released to acclaim, “Hanging On” has become a hit and “The Day Has Come” is set to be released as the second single in September, Kimball is turning heads. People recognize that she is a talented singer and songwriter – not just a made-for-MTV pop star.
“People are actually starting to get it that I do play guitar and do sing,” Kimball says. “Of course, not everybody’s going to like me and that’s fine. I understand that. I don’t like every artist that’s out there, so I kind of have to take it how it is. But so far people are really understanding everything that’s going on in my life.
“I am definitely [getting used to life in the spotlight],” Kimball continues. “I didn’t really know what to expect. Everything happened naturally. So far, it’s been going really great. I couldn’t be happier.”
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 23, 2006.