1. What does it mean to be selected as a top ten finalist for this competition?
It means everything! It’s such an incredible honor to be selected for such an amazing competition. To be featured in the top 10 along with all of these other great songwriters is a dream come true. Seriously can’t wait to meet everyone!
2. How did you select the songs for the Wildflower contest and are they based on any memories or experiences?
The two songs I selected were from my most recent EP, entitled Starting Over. In terms of song content, they’re total opposites. Starting Over is about a moment we’ve all had in getting over a relationship and not knowing what to do. While we’re in the midst of a breakup, the only thing we can think about doing is going to a bar, ordering a drink (or three), and wondering what we could’ve done differently. In a sense, it’s about getting through that emotional hangover. My Everyone is the complete opposite of that – it’s a love song! It expressed how I was feeling at the time about someone I cared about deeply.
3. When did you begin playing the piano and how many other instruments do you play?
I began playing the piano when I was about five or six years old. Growing up, I studied classical, playing in numerous competitions and learned the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. I never thought I would go on to play the piano for a living. When I was 16, however, my friend invited me to a Ben Folds concert, and I was completely blown away seeing what he could do on the keys. Everything switched for me that night. I came home from the show and fell in love with the instrument once again. I learned every song that Ben Folds had written at the time, using his transcription books to make sure I played every note.
I did try to learn the guitar when I was in college, but that seemed to be an entire other beast to tackle. I was fine sticking with the piano and mastering that instrument. I did go on to get a masters in film music composition, so I have written for several other instruments though you won’t see me picking up a violin or a clarinet anytime soon!
4. Do you have any pre-show superstitious habits, calming techniques, or plain old good luck charms?
If you see me before a show, I probably won’t be able to talk that much. I like to get focused on what I’m about to do and go through the show in my head. As long as I’m able to do that, I should be fine.
5. How would you describe your storytelling style?
I internalize most of what I see, though I don’t necessarily express it at the time. Through my songs, I’ve been able to give the listeners a peek into what’s going on in my brain. When my parents, my sister, and I are together, I’m essentially the quietest one of the bunch. Through my music though, I’m able to tell stories and creatively embellish them through my lyrics.
6. Where is the best place to experience songwriting utopia?
I would have to say it’s in the shower! I’ve come up with several melodies while I’m rinsing off, and the acoustics in the bathroom are pretty top notch! Luckily, my sister knows this about me and bought me a waterproof notepad so I could write out my ideas.
7. Do you have a favorite quote, lyric, or credo that you live by?
Paul McCartney said it best.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
8. What do hope the judges feel when you perform for them this weekend?
I hope they understand the amount of work it took to get to this point and appreciate our ability to come out here and perform these songs. I’m really looking forward to seeing my fellow songwriters play! I hope the songs that I’m performing will touch them emotionally, whether they’ve been through a breakup and reached for a drink, or have loved someone beyond belief.
9. How long did it take to recover from brain surgery and how did this impact your career?
During a 24-hour radio music fest at Monmouth University, I traveled down from New York City to play backup piano for my friend, David Rothschild, and then do my own set right after him. Each artist had an hour where you played for the first half, and then went in for a radio interview during the second half while the next artist set up. While I was setting up for my own show during David’s interview, I suddenly had a debilitating headache and eventually wasn’t able to communicate with anyone. I ended up having a stroke that night due to a burst aneurysm and an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) near the speech center in my brain. I was lucky enough to have friends around me that were able to call 911 and get me to a hospital. Despite not remembering the next week of my life, I slowly came to in a hospital in Philadelphia. After staying there for two solid weeks, followed by two more weeks of speech, physical, and occupational therapy, I was scheduled to have radiation treatment. My parents were not a big fan of having radiation done to my brain, so we sought out a second opinion and were able to have brain surgery up at New York Presbyterian Hospital with Dr. Robert Solomon. On April 22nd, 2015, the surgery was a success and I began recovering immediately.
For a month, I wasn’t able to run anywhere or lift anything greater than 5 pounds. But as soon as I had made it through that month, I was free to do whatever. It’s strange to say now, since this obviously wasn’t a concern at the time, but I’m lucky that my aneurysm was on the left side of my brain, since all of my creative stuff is on the right. Had it been on my right, I would’ve lost everything – my piano, my singing. I recovered during the summer in New Jersey and eventually played Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, in August of that year. Getting back on stage meant the world to me, and it also reassured me that I could still continue to do what I loved.
10. Why the decision to move from New York to Nashville and where exactly is “home?”
Home for me has always been North Carolina, though my parents are finally moving up to Pennsylvania by the end of this year. Ultimately, the decision to move from New York to Nashville was somewhat related to my brain aneurysm/AVM recovery. I realized I didn’t have to move back to the craziness of New York! Immediately after surgery, everything intensified in terms of sound so that I was able to hear several conversations at once. It was difficult for me to focus especially on the streets of New York City.
Once I considered Nashville, everything kind of worked out to my advantage. It is a much quieter town than New York City and besides, everyone is so much nicer!
Kevin Chambers will be competing with other top finalists on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. on the UnitedHealthcare Singer Songwriter Stage located inside the Eisemann Center at the 25th Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival. Kevin will also perform on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. on the CityLine Stage.
Additional information about the Wildflower! Performing Songwriter Contest, and the full list of Top 10 Finalists, may be found on the website: http://www.wildflowerfestival.com/songwriter-contest-workshop/. #WAMFest2017