Interview – Kimball Craig, the man behind the acoustic odyssey Pentamento
Kimball Kraig surprised us with Pentimento, a 17-song record filled with acoustic strums and masterful vocal harmonies. We gave the album its well-deserved spotlight, and now, the time comes to meet the mind and voice behind it. Kimball is incredibly intelligent and outspoken, talking at length about his musical projects, songwriting & recording principles, and being part of the greater whole that is Drooble. There’s a lot to learn from Kimball, so go ahead and dive into this interview.
Hello! Tell the world about yourself. How did you grow up to become the musician you are today?
Living in the land of gunfire and brimstone. Haha! But seriously, I was born in Corvallis, Oregon, to a Californian mother and a Washingtonian father. A lot happened from then to about the age 4, so I ended up living with my grandparents. They encouraged a lot of reading, learning, and structure. They supported me in school and tried to balance how much trouble I got into. I found a group of friends who wanted to make music outside of academics, when I was 15, and I just kept myself busy with it ever since.
Introduce your current musical projects and tell us what makes each one special for you!
I just finished my first solo album, Pentimento. There are maybe 5 minutes on the album that I didn’t produce myself, and everything else from top to bottom was my creation in the span of maybe 5 months. Devyn Anthony and I worked on a song that had taken root in Pentimento, and that song turned out fantastic. I’m mixing a collaboration with Nikesh Shredder, which just has some lavish instrumentation and heart to it.
I’m halfway through with my next project, called “1K tapes.” It’s kind of like a mixtape, with a lot of inspiration from the backpacker era. I’m not sure if there’ll be vocals or not. I just want something universal, that someone who appreciates modern music production can throw on and connect with.
You have been playing music for a long while! How do you find the drive and inspiration to keep going all this time?
That question takes me into a very open field. Audio and sound captivate me. I was a naive little singer at age 3, and it wasn’t for another 10 years until someone said to me, “Hey, I love the sounds you make with your face. You should do that same thing, but on a stage in front of people, and not just in the back corner of your school bus seat.”
It’s a natural feeling to express yourself in sound waves. The arrangement of physical pressures, tension, and dynamic energy is crucial to our feelings on a day to day basis. Even if no one wanted to listen to me, I’d still be making music, or doing impressions, or trying to learn the language of the people around me. It’s amazing what a sound can do.
How is your local music scene in your perspective? Do you feel like you belong there?
Well, I’m currently located in Cold Lake area, which is 3 hours away from Edmonton. As a US citizen, I can tell you I’m pretty far from the epicenters of music creation and performance, but the pride of Alberta is still alive up here. A lot of country and blues gets its day up here, which I can vibe with. I haven’t been here long enough to say if I belong or if I’ll be accepted by the music scene, but I’m not worried. It’d be nice to have a group, but I’ll just
keep making stuff on my own ’till then.
What is your all-time favorite record and how did it change you as an artist?
My attitude and understanding of an album ages drastically, which makes it hard to say for sure. But the first album I ever bought (not counting the Pokemon soundtrack in 4th grade), listened to from start to finish and grew from was “Make Yourself” by Incubus. I thought the song “Pardon Me” had such a unique energy that I couldn’t help but feel like the rest of the album would follow suit. And it did.
Incubus pulled from such an eclectic array of artists that you get this very topical reflection of what it means to be human. You love, you move, you learn and work, you find your strength and you find your dance in the war drums of life. Incubus has a crazy discography, but this album was the heart of my development in grade 6. Ha!
What are your favorite software and hardware tools for music production?
I’m operating on a highly ‘streamlined’ budget at the moment, so factor my bias in my appreciation for equipment that emphasizes versatility, pre-mixing stage. I used to have access to Cubase, and I loved it, but I’m currently running Audacity. Say what you will, but the Audacity team does a great job at updates and trying to provide for a wide range of sound projects.
It plays nicely with my HP, and my Zoom H4n, so I have no complaints. I tend to say “Have Mic; will travel.” I used to have different mics for different songs, when I was just doing lead vocals in bands. Now, I have an Audiotechnica AT 2020, an old electrovoice, and an old mic from the 70s that has a quarter inch cable attached to it, which I tend to use as an internal mic for acoustic guitars. That’s pretty much all I will use ’til I get my dream microphone.
What is your songwriting process like?
Story first, context second. Maybe the story is in a particular sound or instrument, or maybe it’s *just* the lyrics, or *just* melody. But it comes first. The context would be the vocals that surround the mix, or the instruments that serve to corroborate with the story. Maybe your chorus features a gaelic, folksy narrative. In which case, maybe a mandolin or some cheery fiddles are playing in the far back. It’s really about context for me.
Out of all the live shows you played, which one was the most memorable, and why?
It must have been one of the first gigs Oceanside Static played, back in Portland 2014. It was at this historic venue called Stumptown. The four of us had finished recording the Madrona EP and were just getting to know people in the scene. We didn’t have much other
than a lot of feelings, and we just left it all out on the floor that night. We made a lot of friends that night, and it was all very reaffirming.
What is your biggest musical goal?
Constructing a multi-level facility for music and entertainment. Akin to taking an abandoned mega-church, putting in rehearsal rooms and recording rooms in one wing, a safe room behind the main chapel for artists in the area to meet and relax, a gear and refreshments store in another wing, and two auditoriums for music and & theater/dance events in the evenings.
How has being on Drooble helped you as a musician?
Drooble was a pleasant surprise by way of connecting creators and brands I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. We often talk about the internet being a vast and complex place that will bring you all you could imagine. Although we may be in transition towards this ideal. Finding and trusting people can be difficult. Drooble has provided a place to talk to one another, listen to one another, and structure my growth and development in a beneficial way.
I’ve found new friends that have become lovely ambassadors for places you don’t hear much about in US education. Drooble has let metaphorical harmony enter a community that’s always looking to add more harmony to their lives, and I feel like this will benefit everyone in their ambitions and furthering their careers in performance. I love it!