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KNKX Connects showcases people and places around Puget Sound. Through audio, art, photography, music and journalism — discover a new connection with Tacoma.

Talking with Tacoma musicians: Kim Archer

Kim Archer plays both original songs and covers. She's opened for Grammy winner Mary Lambert and performed throughout the region, including the state legislature and SeaTac airport.
Rosie McPherson Photography
Kim Archer
Kim Archer plays both original songs and covers. She's opened for Grammy winner Mary Lambert and performed throughout the region, including the state legislature and SeaTac airport.

Soul, funk and blues singer and guitarist Kim Archer injects energy into Tacoma's music scene on stage and off.

Archer performs solo, leads the Kim Archer Band and as part of a blues duo with guitarist Brian Feist. As an event producer, she also seeks to create opportunities for others to perform through regional events and festivals.

KNKX Music Director Carol Handley spoke with Archer about using winter to write and reflect, learning about event production, and the underground spots to see up-and-comers.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

How do you differentiate the Tacoma music scene from the region, or do you?

I believe that the Tacoma music scene, the business of the Tacoma scene is healthier than other places that I've been. Meaning people are paid better in the south end, that's been my experience.

I think that the venues in Tacoma do a really great job of working with artists, and doing their job of promoting, which I think also makes a difference.

I see a lot of people from Seattle and other areas coming to Tacoma for shows. I think it's a mix of some things. I think Tacoma is accessible to people, they can still come and the parking’s not crazy, and they can still get around. It's just a different vibe, it's a little more chill than Seattle is.

From the music standpoint, there's a lot of collaborations that happen. And I feel like we really promote each other. I see a lot of things online, where someone will say, 'Hey, Kim's got a show over here, you should check it out,' and if I see my friend's playing here, 'you should go check her out.' And so we do a lot of that cross promotion. I have garnered some new fans because of it.

It just makes you feel a part of something, which is really important, especially in these in these times.

How does the environment of the Pacific Northwest, play into your compositions?

Well, we play blues and the winter is certainly dreary!

Do you write more in the winter?

Yes, we do. We're actually working on stuff right now. The seasons here really do make a difference for us.

First of all, summer is so busy and the weather's so beautiful. Everything happens in about a three to four month timeframe, s far as festivals, and outdoor gigs. What we consider the premiere gigs, the big festivals and that kind of stuff.

By November, December, its calmed down. We're tired! We've been working, no days off, just in the grind for three months, which is great. We love it. There's nothing we'd rather be doing. But also at some point, you're like, whew, I could use a little bit of rest.

And then you start thinking about, what happened this year that was really great? What were the highlights of the summer? How do we grow? How do we improve? Where do we still need to do work? Kind of just do that and then you start making your plans for next year. That includes writing and thinking about if you're going to tour, where? What does that look like? It's definitely more of a dormant season.

Would you consider yourself only a blues musician? Or do you play with other South Sound people and in other bands or even other genres of music?

I like it all. The Kim & Brian project right now is my primary focus because I really am enjoying being an original artist. That's something that I've wanted to do for a long time and it's working really well. I'm very happy, my artist heart is happy. That really, to me is everything.

That's my primary, but I also still have the Kim Archer band, which is more of a soul funk kind of band. We still play, we play weddings, and we've got a couple of things coming up. And then I'm really into the singer-songwriter thing, too. I've been writing some ballads, stuff that's just very different than what people are used to hearing for me. I will release that at some point, too.

So I just kind of gravitate to what moves me. If it's good, it's good. People know that, you know good when you hear it, you feel it. So that's what I go for.

Who from the Tacoma area has been a mentor, or inspiration to you as a player or as a person?

I will have to say, as a player, it's gonna have to be my music partner, Brian. I have become 10 times the musician in playing with him because he is just, he's a very good musician. He's taught me things and pushed me and challenged me. That's been really good.

I do a lot of event planning and putting on different series and things during the summer. I've been doing that for a while now, but that didn't start easily. Dan Rankin, Danno, has been a huge mentor to me. He’s with the Airport Tavern and I've been working with him. He used to book us at Jazzbones when he worked there years ago.

He was not only was a booking agent, but [had] that that mindset about doing bigger things in the city. He and I did the first concert at Dune [Peninsula]. We brought in the band, Vertical Horizon, did the stages and all the stuff, it was awesome. That was big.

I've learned a lot from him about the business of putting together an event. And that's been really valuable. It's allowed me to bring open spaces to people for music and also then create opportunities for artists to play and get paid, which is really important to me as well.

What venues past or present are ones that you think our listeners should know about because of their contribution to Tacoma’s culture or current support of music?

Well, I have some favorites. I love the Spanish Ballroom. That is probably my favorite live venue in Tacoma. And I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings by saying that, because I love them all. But that room, that stage, the lights — there's just something that is big about that. It presents a group in a way that no other venue does. And that, to me, is what makes that special. And they’re booking local artists, and giving us a Saturday night here and there. They're giving us those prime nights, and they're also open to our ideas. That's so important in a scene where you have the opportunities, not just to play, but to also to help shape and create those opportunities for your fellow artists. That connection, that's really important. So I love the Spanish ballroom for that.

Then I have to go back to the Airport Tavern, because they are doing more of an underground, up-and-coming bands there. They have that back room that they've turned into this really cool venue that feels very intimate, yet the sound quality is fantastic. The energy back there is really great. And they're right next to Real Art [Tacoma] too, which also is part of that kind of underground, up-and-coming place.

Those are the two I think are really supporting the scene in a very authentic way and giving those artists who don't have other opportunities to be heard. That's where you go to see the new people coming up that you haven't heard of...then you're like, 'Wow, I didn't even know this been existed. I didn't know this sound existed here.' And yet. There it is. So that's important.

It's nice to know, what older Tacoma was like and what it is now. It's still a really awesome place and I'm still really proud to call it home and to be a part of it.

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