Universal Music Group Nashville
Due out this spring, Kip's debut album, 'Drive Me Crazy,' stays true to traditional country but with a modern edge, thanks to his eclectic influences and to his gritty, yet versatile voice. The former college basketball and golf star co-wrote every track on the project, drawing from life experiences and finding a bright side to failed relationships.
"I am not drawn to the fairytale kind of love," says the bachelor, who moved to Nashville in 2004. "I am drawn to the real-life experiences between a woman and a man. I try to sing about the way it is, but yet at the same time, what you can hope for between a couple."
Kip already has a taste of success with his first love, country music, as his new single, 'Somethin' 'Bout a Truck,' is his first Top 30 hit (and climbing). The charismatic musician sat down with The Boot to talk about family, famous friends and finding faith in his talent.
You joke about "sleeping in the pews" while your mom played piano in church. But I'm guessing she was actually a big musical influence on you.
She was. She played the organ and piano for First Baptist Church until I was in the eighth grade. She also started teaching piano at the house, and it was all girls. I was 100 percent boy and thought piano was for sissies. I didn't want to take it ... even though I did, but I didn't want anyone to see me take it. Now I just want to kick myself. I had such a great teacher right there at my disposal and didn't take it. I gravitated to the guitar ... My brother was a great guitar player. That's when I started lugging around a guitar.
'Somethin' 'Bout a Truck' is a true story -- real girl, real truck. So let's get you an endorsement deal here. What kind of truck?
[laughs] It was a Chevy. This song was just one of those things ... I was writing that day with Dan Couch, and we got to talking about high school. I had this little box car and by the time I got it passed down to me from my brothers, it had hundreds of thousands of miles on it already. I'd been going after this girl for awhile and got her to go out with me ... but she didn't seem real excited about the car. Poor me! On one occasion, it broke down, so I asked my dad, "Pop, I need your truck." He said sure, so I took it to pick her up ... It was like I picked up a whole other human. She was vibrant and all about me; she was all over me from the beginning of the date. I came back inside and tossed my dad the keys and said, "There's something about a truck." He said, "That's what we're writing today!"
Is there also a true story behind 'Crazy One More Time'?
That's my favorite on the record. It's a special song for me. Everyone, whether you are married or have a boyfriend or girlfriend, there's always someone who has a hold of your heart. You learn to let it go, but there's always a place in your heart. For me, it was someone I went to college with and we had an amazing bond, but I left. I traveled around and moved to Hawaii [and then] to Nashville ... We went through years of not talking, but I ran into her and we never missed a beat from the minute we saw each other. We were wild for each other, but I was only in town for a couple days. We went "crazy one more time" together.
(Watch Kip perform 'Crazy One More Time' here.)
You've already developed the reputation as a brilliant lyricist. So what normally comes first in your writing process: the lyrics or the melody?
It all varies. With 'Crazy One More Time,' I had that guitar riff and just wanted to sit and let it marinate. I feel like a lot of times songwriters just rush to get a song done. I never wanted to be that guy. I listen to it over and over again. I put my headphones on and figure out what I want to write about. With that particular song, the lyrics happened to come out at 2:00 in the morning. More times, I come up with the guitar riff and the lyrics come out at the same time.
A Music Row critic called you the "hillbilly Springsteen."
I couldn't believe he said that about me. I don't think I could get a better compliment.
Do you read reviews? Would we ever catch you googling yourself?
I'll be honest, I don't ... I'm scared to read a lot of the stuff. My manager will forward stuff to me. I won't look at charts or articles because I'm so passionate about it. If someone is bashing me, I'd rather not read it. I want to stick to what I believe in and what I'm doing.
You are great friends with Keifer Thompson and have some co-writes on Thompson Square's debut album. After struggling together for so many years to get record deals, it must be surreal to watch each other succeed around the same time.
Keifer is one of my best friends. He's one-of-a-kind. We would hang all around town together for a long time, and we used to write together at least once a week for years. He was a bouncer for a little bar behind my studio, and I would go back and drink a beer with him and hang out and talk. We tried to keep our spirits up. This town can get you down and kick you in the teeth a lot. We leaned on each other through some tough times. He'll always be special to me for that reason.
Another one of your best buddies, Brett James, produced this album. He's one of the most celebrated producers and songwriters in Nashville. What did you learn from him during the recording process?
Brett was smart enough to realize I had a raw, uncanny way of saying things. He helped me craft that and understand that there is somewhat of a formula to write. More than anything, he let me have a long leash when a lot of producers and publishers wouldn't have allowed that. I wrote this album with a lot of unknown guys nobody has ever heard of. He didn't try to throw me in a room with big-named writers, because it would've sounded like someone else's project.
What has surprised you the most about this business so far?
How much I've been gone. At one point in a three month span, I saw my house seven days. That was the funny side of it. The serious side of it is, I had so many mixed stories about radio tours and what to expect. What I have found is there are so many programmers who love good music, love what they do and are thriving for good music. They are super passionate, and it's been an amazing experience.