“I just always wanted to perform for people, make people happy, and express myself,” explains country-rock musician Kimberly Dunn. “My passion is assisting people to feel.” Dunn concentrates on creating music that connects with people. Throughout her eight-year career as a professional musician, Dunn has played over 900 shows learning that live music is far beyond just playing the right notes or singing the right words. “Live music, for me, is about people coming together and having a good time.” Today, Dunn is arguably one of the best female country-rock musicians from Texas that is currently producing music. Not only does this young lady give a stellar performance, but she also has a fierce style and a current love affair with black leather. For our next rendition of “J.Forks Now Playing,” we are thrilled to introduce you to this fiery redhead, shine some light on her career, and delve into the influence that fashion has on her music.
“When I was between eight and ten years old... I would hold concerts for my family.” She recalls singing songs that she made up and playing various notes on her family’s organ. At the time, Dunn gravitated towards jazz music and started taking saxophone lessons. Then, when she was 14 years old, this starry-eyed, music-loving young girl had the opportunity to see the infamous jazz guitarist, Eric Johnson perform live in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. She remembers leaving that show with a new outlook on life. She claimed, “That is it! I am going to learn how to play music that makes people feel the same way that he makes me feel!” Later that year, her father gifted her an acoustic guitar for Christmas, and she dedicated her time to learning how to play the guitar alongside him. “He had never played acoustic guitar either, so growing up that was a really fun thing that my dad and I got to do together.”
“My first real performance was in my junior year of high school when I played the talent show.” Dunn wrote and performed her own song and received a flood of positive feedback. This encouraged her to seek out music as a career, thus applying to the music program of Texas A&M University to study guitar and voice. However, she was turned down from the program because she did not have formal training on the guitar. Dunn remembered saying, “‘Okay, fine! I will play the saxophone!’ And they were like, ‘Wait! You can play the saxophone?”’ The following fall, she was a freshman at Texas A&M.
While attending the university, Dunn decided to change her major to Agricultural Leadership and Development. “I switched my major, so if music did not work out, I had a fallback.” However, her love for writing and playing music prevailed and after graduating college, Kimberly released her first album, Forever on the Run. Writing, recording, and releasing this first album spanned a period of four years. The album was released in the form of two EP’s plus an additional set of more music that bundled together for an LP. This transcendence of time created for a unique first album. The first song she recorded, “Randy Rogers” was written with a broken heart while in college. This song has a traditional country twang that would make the perfect soundtrack while mourning a breakup and eating a pint of ice cream. Juxtapose this song to “Trashy Side” which was the last song recorded on the album. "Trashy Side" is a feisty, poppy rock song that makes you want to boot-up and dance. By the end of Forever on the Run, it was clear that Dunn was a young budding artist still discovering herself and her fashion. She recalls getting scolded by her publicist after wearing yoga pants on stage for the launch of the album.
Within a short time, "Trashy Side" was blowing up the Texas music scene, and Dunn was ready to push her creative boundaries. Motivated by the momentum and energy from that song, she went to work on her second album. Dunn remembers thinking, “It has to be single worthy, every single song! I want to make moments for people in this record!” While she was evolving as a musician, her style was simultaneously developing. “I had a stylist that came after the yoga pants and before the black leather shorts who helped me get to where I am today.” Her stylist encouraged her to keep a simple look, but embrace her rocker mentality. After the release of her second album, A New Smoke Show, Dunn dyed her natural blonde hair a fiery red. “Where there is smoke there is a fire, and I want to make my hair look like fire!” Today, Dunn can explain both her music and her fashion by one staple piece: a black fitted leather jacket with black studs adorned with a Chanel brooch and a “Mama Tried” pin.
“I personally think music and fashion are like a couple that dates exclusively…. I just got married in October. My husband is so smart. He is the one that is good at math and science, and I am good at music. We compliment each other. I think music and fashion do the same.” Dunn explains that now, her look is everything. She has studied artists that use fashion to help move their careers forward, such as Lady Gaga. “When Lady Gaga was first signed to a label she got a $5,000 advance. She spent all $5,000 on her bubble suit…. For me, I am a country rock girl, so I stick with black leather and black boots and let the music fill in the gap!”