Summer Songbird

Lou Ann Homan
Summer Songbird

Treat yourself to some live music with Ocracoke summer resident Kim France.

I was looking forward to meet Kim France. I knew where she would be staying, where she would be playing, and where she would be working, but we had not yet met.

There was a rumor that she would be performing at the Ocrafolk Opry on Wednesday evening, but I wouldn’t believe it until I actually saw her. I sold tickets at the door as usual, but didn’t see her come in. By the time intermission rolled around I began to think of Kim as just a story or a rumor. The lights dimmed in the theater and she was announced. Finally, I thought. I turned around to see her, but the upright bass she carried was larger than she was so I didn’t get a good look until she was on stage. Maybe it was her curly hair or her smile, but I realized she was exactly what I expected, until she sang. Nothing prepared me for her voice and her talent playing that bass. She sang a mountain song first and then wowed the audience with Iris DeMent’s “Our Town.” The audience was canopied in silence as we listened to her husky voice sing the story and play the notes. I became an immediate fan.

Over iced tea the next day I sat listening to Kim tell her story. Pursuing a love of anthropology and journalism, she did not become a musician until she was 24. Let me say that another way… she did not even pick up a guitar until she was 24! She credits her love affair with music to Kevin Hardy. They were sitting in a circle of music when she knew she would become a musician. Kevin gave her a guitar and taught her the three most important chords: G, C, D.

Within moments Kim said, “I was born to do this. I am going to do this.”  She began practicing every spare moment, literally locking herself into her room, leaving only to work at Ocracoke Coffee Company. With her guitar strapped to her back, and the call of the road, Kim soon found herself immersed in music in New Orleans. Again, she worked in a coffee shop as she began perfecting her style.

She credits Hurricane Floyd to the beginning of her bass career when she found herself in the Appalachian Mountains. Small gigs began coming her way, and for the first time she entertained the possibility of actually making a living as a musician.

At age 31 Kim decided that in order to be taken seriously as a musician, she needed to go back to school and get a degree in music. She rented a small apartment at the Old Country Store near Boone and enrolled in music at Appalachian State University. Kim majored in Music Industry Studies and completed her degree, graduating cum laude. Her classes introduced her to jazz music, classical music, and even copyright law. After receiving her degree, her parents finally realized it wasn’t just a hobby anymore.

Kim’s home is in Mountain City, Tennessee where she lives in a hand-built cabin complete with an old orchard. Her life in the mountains is based on music. She gives private lessons at a community school program and performs regularly with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra. This is her fifth season with the orchestra. In between these musical opportunities, Kim freelances with swing, jazz, classical, and American music.  Her schedule includes weddings, dances, festivals, and other events where music is being played.

Kim with Lou Castro and Jubal Creech at SmacNally’s.
Kim with Lou Castro and Jubal Creech at SmacNally’s.

This summer she calls Ocracoke home. She has a busy schedule and can be found playing around the village with other musicians. “Why play alone?” she says.

Perhaps you will have an opportunity to hear Kim play. Whatever it is, you will enjoy it, but if you are really lucky, she will pull out her Iris DeMent music and you will be gone.

Check her out here:

July 21 6:30-9:30  Jolly Roger-  Kim France and Marcy Brenner

July 23 4-7  SmacNally’s- Jazz with Kim,Lou, and Jubal

July 25 6:30-9:30  Jolly Roger- Kim, Marcy, and David Tweedie

July 27 7:30pm Deepwater Theater with the Women of Ocracoke

July 30 4-7 SmacNally’s- Jazz with Kim, Lou, and Jubal

August 3 6:30-9:30  Jolly Roger- Vintage vocal jazz and blues with The Mercury Dames

AUgust 4 6:30-9:30 Jolly Roger- The Mercury Dames

August 6 4-7 SmacNally’s- The Mercury Dames

August 11 6:30-9:30 Jolly Roger- Kim and Marcy 

August 13 4-7 SmacNally’s- Jazz with Kim, Lou and Jubal

August 20 4-7 SmacNally’s- Jazz with Kim on bass, Shane Chaulke on trumpet, and John Horstkamp on guitar

August 21 6:30-9:30 Jolly Roger- Jazz with Kim, Shane Chaulke and John Horstkamp

August 27 4-7 SmacNally’s- Jazz with Kim, Lou and Jubal


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