Audix Up Close with Kimberly Thompson
Audix endorser Kimberly Thompson has carefully crafted a world of rhythm and sound around her, rooted in a deep love for art in general, and above all, musical expression. The GRAMMY® Award-winning drummer is down-to-earth and earnest, equal parts business savvy and hardworking creativity. Born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in St. Louis, MO, she is currently based between Los Angeles and the New York City area, navigating her work with A-level artists, Broadway musicals, TV shows, recording studios, her own record label, two educational TV series for children, a busy international tour schedule, and the release of her new album.
Kimberly herself is a force of nature, as much in everyday conversation as in the realm of the music industry. Her topics of discussion run openly between the anecdotal, the personal, and the profoundly philosophical, often without warning. A female drummer in what is still largely a man's world, Thompson holds her own with grace and strength, and seems effortlessly at home in the space she has established for herself. "I think there's a lot of power in femininity," she explains. "I don't think you necessarily need to oversexualize it or sexualize it at all-just being a woman, there's so much power in it. You can be graceful and assertive. There's a certain elegance that can come with being a woman in the industry, as long as it's channeled appropriately to execute goals."
Kimberly has played music from a very young age, learning piano and singing before learning drums from her neighbor, who was in a drum line. "I started taking it very seriously at a young age," she says of learning music. "I had this incredible amount of support. I just kept studying, and it seemed to be in alignment with me and what I was trying to do." Known for her resilient work ethic, Kimberly developed her talents daily, until there was enough work in music to make her realize this could be her career. She would go on to play with major artists such as Mike Stern, whom she accompanied on a world tour. Stern wrote a song for Kimberly called KT, which appeared on his GRAMMY nominated album Who Let the Cats Out. Eventually, Thompson caught the attention of one of pop music's biggest icons-Beyoncé.
"A friend of mine passed along the audition for Beyoncé," Kimberly recalls, "so we learned the music and went over there to try it. It ended up working out." It was an intense series of auditions for an entire week, and Thompson remembers it as a powerful learning experience. "I discovered [working with Beyoncé] some of the same things I was accustomed to-the people I was working with being like family, the music being challenging, and my having the time and space to develop. That was all important. So I went in that direction, and I'm glad I did."
After her tour with Beyoncé, Kimberly decided it was time to define herself even further and create her own record label. "I kept getting offers from producers to come play drums on their label, to develop myself as an artist." But Kimberly also knew she couldn't be confined to one genre, and started searching for a way to grow as an artist and achieve goals she had set for herself. "I wanted to start my own label so I could do all kinds of music. I was playing high level pop music for the industry's number one artist, and that didn't align with jazz, and my jazz didn't align with pop and hip hop and producing tracks. So to take the pressure off myself and not lose myself, I decided to create my own label where I could have a platform to create many different kinds of music." Kimberly founded Harlem-based label ©KTMUSICPRODUCTIONS and currently has a wide variety of music in her catalogues, from hip hop beats, to classical piano compositions, to jazz drumming. "I wanted to not limit myself and enjoy creating me, basically."
Her new album, Treasures Abound, was released in April 2016 on ©KTMUSICPRODUCTIONS. The album is a tribute to the jazz greats, featuring Kimberly's own dynamic drumming and arrangements which feature timeless jazz standards, new arrangements of contemporary music, and some of Thompson's original compositions. "It was important for me to document an album that paid tribute to the greats and some of the songs that helped mold my interest in music in general-jazz, and being a child.... We have the opener for Walt Disney's Snow White (Someday My Prince Will Come), which was made into a jazz standard by Miles Davis and Bill Evans. We paid tribute to Miles Davis with Blue & Green, one of the first tunes I learned growing up in St. Louis. And then it was important to write original songs to show some of my educational and technical abilities-not only applying them on the drums, but other instrumentation." Kimberly plays the melodica on The Mathemetician and the piano on Sheets of Sound, and is the first female to record the jazz classic, Take Five.
Her album was recorded with Audix mics-Kimberly uses the Studio Elite 8. Audix has been Kimberly's mics of choice for many years, both in the studio and in her live performances. "I love Audix-they're friendly and they know how to treat their artists," she says. "And I really love the products. They're different from any other mics I've used, and some of them come with their own special tuning. I love the D2 and D4 drum microphones that go over the rack and floor toms, the SCX1 studio condenser microphones for guitars or piano or even sometimes vocals. We were recording in this 200-year-old townhouse in Harlem, and Audix helped keep my identity as far as the sound I've been developing on my instrument for the last twenty-something years."
Other Audix favorites include the FireBall V dynamic instrument microphone. "I love that you can adjust the volume and it picks up awesome quality and clarity of what's being documented. We use it for vocals and I had two settings where we used it on the album. We do a lot of pre-production here in New York City and Los Angeles-it's great for percussion, it's great for also vocalizing. It also works well with other interfaces like beatboxing machines. I've used that with a couple artists, and I love it."
For more info on Kimberly Thompson, visit www.facebook.com/KimberlyThompson and www.twitter.com/KTMUSIC. Download Treasures Abound on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/treasures-abound/id1110220437 or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01F31HAB2.