The first thing that gets you about country singer Kimberly Dunn is her friendly and spunky personality. Then, when she starts strumming her guitar and singing in a country voice both tender and powerful, you’re hooked.
That’s what happened to Scott Willson and Will Harrison of Up and Out Artists in November 2010. The managers met San Antonio native Dunn backstage at a Battle of the Bands contest at Texas A&M, where Dunn was a senior.
“We had a great talk about music,” says Dunn, who had played alto sax in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, but longed for a career singing her own songs. Harrison remembers thinking that “if her music has as much charisma as she does personally, she’ll really have something.”
The only solo acoustic contestant out of 30 acts in the Battle, Dunn walked onstage with confidence, kicked off her high heels with a laugh and started into a guitar riff, as she stomped out a rhythm on the stage’s hollow floor. It was only her fourth live performance as a singer-songwriter (the first three were the preliminary rounds) and yet Dunn had an instant hold on the audience. She ended up winning the contest.
“We knew from the first downbeat that we wanted to get involved with Kimberly,” says Harrison, who also works as an engineer at Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Recording Studio in Austin. Dunn recorded her debut EP, One Foot Over The Other, at Bismeaux, with Harrison producing.
Everything seems to be happening fast, but it’s going according to a plan Dunn conceived while attending Northside Health Careers High School, a magnet school in San Antonio. Dunn wanted to be a veterinarian at a young age, but after seeing Eric Johnson in concert when she was 13, and buying a guitar the next day, she switched her long-term goal to a music career.
“I decided that I would concentrate on graduating from A&M where her parents and two sisters also attended, and then I would spend the next years pursuing music full time.” Dunn graduated August 14, her 23rd birthday, with a degree in agricultural leadership and a minor in music, and is ready to make her mark on Texas Country.
Her calling card to the male-dominated scene, which some call “red dirt music,” is a bittersweet yet feisty song about the healing powers of music called “Randy Rogers.” In it, Dunn looks back on a romance gone sour and recalls the music of that once-blissful time. Besides Rogers, others mentioned in the catchy chorus include Eli Young Band, Granger Smith and Stoney LaRue.