Kirk Thurmond on Upcoming Album, Michael Jackson's Impact
Just like the first single off his new album, Kirk Thurmond is breaking free from the rest of the pack. After initially struggling to find his footing on a solo career, Kirk pieced together a talented backing band named The Millennials, who have developed a unique sound reminiscent of late 70’s Motown. Recipients of a new record deal with international music agency DEFDISCO, Kirk and his band are putting the finishing touches on a highly anticipated debut album titled People Change full of the R&B/soul that has been lacking in the Dallas music scene. We recently caught up with Kirk Thurmond to talk about his new album and those musical influences that shaped who he is today.
How long have you been playing and when did you decide that music is what you wanted to do for your career?
Well I started playing music in general at a very early age—nobody really likes to include school band, but I would include it because that was the first time I started playing music and I haven’t stopped since.
I was a percussionist in 5th grade, but when I started writing songs I was in college. I went to Abilene Christian for a semester and that's where the rubber met the road. I started really getting into writing tunes in college, and at the same time I was pursuing a percussion degree and it just kind of took over. One day I just called my mom and was like, “Hey just kidding. I don’t want to do this. I actually want to come back home and try to be an artist.” After that, I came home, and in 2012 put a record out and it didn't do anything—a lot of lessons learned there. Two years after that is when I told myself I have to get really serious about it. We put together The Millennials, and since then, the last two years has been a whirlwind.
What do you think it is about The Millennials that pushes you to a level you couldn’t get to previously?
Well for one, they add a skill to this music that I don't have, not to say that I can’t get there, but I haven’t had that technical training that goes into a lot of stuff that they do. I play guitar by ear, I don't know it theoretically. They really helped me turn my songs into a cohesive piece of music— they elevate and polish it.
You were recently signed to the DEFDISCO label, how soon can we expect a new album?
August 26th. We actually just finished tracking everything! We had a really bare-bones project when I got signed, then they took us in the studio and helped us do all the overdubs and stuff like that. We’re going to release a new single here pretty soon, but we are treating “Break Free” and “Dancing Like You Do” like the first two singles. The album is called People Change and there is a track on the album also called that, that I wrote with Philip Creamer from Dovetail. This is the first record that I’ve collaborated with others on, including songwriters like Philip.
You have been in Dallas your whole life. What is it about this city that makes it such a great place to start a music career?
You have to realize that so much of the music that’s happening on the national scale is rooted here. When you think about it, we might not get the recognition, but if you look at the credits and who’s who and who’s from where, it all starts here. There’s Justin Bieber and Timbaland beats that were done by a drummer here. They say that 70% off all touring musicians with signed artists are from Texas, if not Dallas. Clearly this has been a sort of a semi-recognized hub of great music. It was only a matter of time before this city produced an artist instead of just a really great drummer.
We always like to ask this question because it really seems to shape an artist’s music taste. What kind of music did you parents listen to when you were growing up?
It really does. It’s funny because I answered this question recently and it really made me recognize the path I took musically. I was raised on Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson—it pretty much ruled my life. Earth, Wind and Fire was huge, as were giants like Heatwave and stuff like that, solid gold soul, just the standards, and my dad was a huge jazz fan. As I developed my own tastes in school, I was drawn to the Jason Mraz’s and John Mayer’s, and I also fell in love with Hall & Oates and The Eagles. Steely Dan is still one of my favorites—those guys have an enormous amount of music, especially when Donald Fagen went off on his own.
You talked about Michael Jackson being a big influence and I think that's definitely evident in your music. For our generation especially I feel he is so intertwined in our lives growing up listening to his music and watching his music videos...
He was the best we’d ever seen, I hadn’t seen anything like that. He really taught me how to be a performer. The guy was just walking and breathing rhythm. Recently I was watching Spike Lee’s Off The Wall documentary, and during that they mentioned Rod Temperton who was responsible for everything that was ever great about Michael’s solo career for a while. It just kind of stuck in my mind and I got mildly obsessed—and at the time I was in a writing rut creatively. I looked up everything I could find on Spotify that was written by Rod Temperton and I learned it all on guitar in one night. And, the next day I got up and wrote a song called “All In A Vision” which is my nod to Rod as a great writer and to Off The Wall as such a great record in my life. My goal is to starting honing in my sound to where it sounds like Quincy Jones produced a Neil Young record (laughter).
Kirk Thurmond & The Millennials will be performing this Wednesday, June 29th as a part of Communion Dallas’ monthly DFW showcase. Communion Music is an artist-led organization which combines elements of live promotion, publishing and recording to create a hub for artists to develop and flourish in an increasingly competitive music industry environment. Some other notable artists that have performed/ started their career on this tour include: James Bay, Sam Smith, Walk The Moon, Mumford And Sons, Hozier, George Ezra, Leon Bridges, Sturgill Simpson, and Nathaniel Rateliff. To read more on Communion Music click here.
To see more upcoming shows check out Kirk’s website and be sure to follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Also be on the lookout for Kirk’s new album People Change coming out on August 26th.