Los Angeles-based musician Kim Lenz has been cultivating her take on rockabilly since 1998, releasing three albums, including a pair for Hightone Records – one of the most influential labels in the genre –and playing hundreds of dates around the world. Already a recognized force on the roots music scene, Lenz is now poised for a breakthrough with her upcoming album Follow Me, scheduled for release on August 20th via Riley Records.
Follow Me stays true to the genre and its traditions, but Lenz also allows her recent life experiences to show through in a way that she hasn’t attempted before. While growing up in San Diego and Phoenix, Lenz was a fan of Blondie, The Pretenders, X, Big Star, and The Buzzcocks.
“I’ve always had a penchant for good pop music,” she says, but Lenz really fell in love when she moved to Los Angeles and discovered the burgeoning roots music scene there.
“It was pretty small back then,” Lenz says of the community at that time. “Big Sandy, Dave & Deke, and the Revered Horton Heat were all happening there in that small scene. Everyone was looking back and taking their own stab at what they found. It was cool.” At the time, Lenz was working in an office that piped in the Pasadena public radio station KPCC throughout the day.
“That’s how I came to know the standards and classic American songwriting,” she remembers. Armed with a musical education in the works of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, and others, Lenz moved to Dallas to finish school, and to take a chance at becoming a performer herself, playing her first show at the Bar of Soap (bar in the front, laundromat in the back.) She immediately knew that she had found her calling.
Lenz began performing regularly around town and a year later was named the Dallas Observer’s “Female Vocalist of the Year.” Flying back to L.A, she recorded a 45 that quickly found an audience among the rockabilly scene there. The call to make an album for Hightone Records came soon after.
“It did better than anyone expected,” Lenz says of her debut album. “We toured and played about 200 dates a year for three years. We were so wild back then, when I look back, I’m surprised we survived!” Lenz then took a break to start a family, and assumed that someone else would fill her shoes while she was gone. But no one had. “I was able to pick my career back up seamlessly,” she says about returning to the road. “That is one thing about this scene. Once they love you they love you forever.”
Lenz hopes that loyalty continues with Follow Me.
“This record will seem like a departure to some people,” she says. “But, it’s really the same ingredients, just mixed up in a different way.”