The Michigan-bred songwriter now based in Nashville has turned heads with her fetching songs and returns to her home state for shows this summer. One of Local Spins’ ‘Emerging Artists to Watch,’ plus videos.
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When I meet with Chloe Kimes at my home for our first interview, it’s a summer day in 2022 – the kind of afternoon where the air is pleasantly humid, like a gentle embrace.
We decide, on a whim, to venture out into Grand Rapids’ West Side by foot while we talk. We wander into a grocery store and wander out with kombucha. Then we find ourselves at a local watering hole, shooting the breeze over a couple of salted rim margaritas.
“I am never opposed to stumbling into a margarita. Are you kidding?” Kimes says as we get situated at a sidewalk table.
She’s just arrived in town from Cincinnati to play Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on the day we meet, touring behind her self-titled debut album which had already earned airplay in Tennessee for the lead single, “Stand to Gain.”
Kimes is sporting her “tour fit” – tan overalls and 30-year-old cowboy boots handed down from her mother. She had some early reservations about wearing cowboy boots and being a country songwriter. Too predictably Nashvillian perhaps. The first time her mother offered Kimes the boots, she turned them down. Now they’re a wardrobe staple.
“It’s kind of funny. For a long time, I was like ‘I don’t want to wear cowboy boots because I don’t want people to just assume I’m a country artist.’ After long enough down in Nashville, man, there’s something so great about them,” she concedes.
“I just wanted a really good boot for the day and that I could wear for shows as well. You can dress them up, you can dress them down. I’ve been wearing them for all my shows.
Kimes has a bit of the South in her speaking voice, but it’s really at play when she’s performing. I remember seeing her play a homecoming show Ludington at The Mitten Bar. The room was shoulder to shoulder and filled with the runaway country refrains that Kimes and her band have so carefully crafted.
LUDINGTON: ‘AN AMAZING COMMUNITY’ AND A GOOD PLACE TO GROW UP
“Ludington is an amazing community to return to. They continue to support me even though I’m in Nashville,” Kimes says of her hometown.
“Every year, I look forward to the Ludington State Park summer concert on the beach. It’s so much fun. It’s a really good place to have grown up and to be from and a great community to have in my corner.”
Kimes moved to Nashville in 2016, but returns home to Michigan to perform regularly. Indeed, she’ll once again play the Ludington State Park summer concert series on July 18.
“It is a very important concert to me and I always try to promote this one the most, as it raises donations for the park,” she says.
Another high-profile Michigan date for Kimes this summer: July 20 at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo.
Upon moving to Nashville, she attended college at Middle Tennessee State University to study music and graduated in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.
These days, Kimes is a full-time musician, balancing a consistent touring schedule with writing and recording. She also performs on Broadway in Nashville, a stretch that’s home to dozens of honky-tonks frequented by crowds of tourists each year.
But sharing her own art is the focus. Her self-titled record comes alive with the slightest subtleties. Kimes has a way of delivering lines with just the right inflection that gives them weight beyond the page. Then there’s the lush Americana instrumentation: warm acoustic guitars, upright bass, layers of sweeping pedal steel guitar.
Even National Public Radio took notice: In 2022, it named her one of “10 Nashville Artists on the Rise.”
“It’s been a quiet winter. I’ve been thinking about writing my new project,” says Kimes, who notes that her band and “the big green van” will hit the road again later this year.
“I’m not fixated on the second album, but I’m starting to get back into writing after dedicating so much of my time to the release of that record. So that’s very exciting.”
VIDEO: Chloe Kimes, “Stand to Gain” (La Calle Session)
VIDEO: Chloe Kimes, “Roasted Peppers” (Live)
PHOTO GALLERY: Chloe Kimes, Grace Theisen at Tip Top Deluxe (2022)
Photos by Bryan Bolea
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