Q&A with Alternative Pop and Rock singer-songwriter Kim Tillman

Kim Tillman is an LA based Alternative Pop and Rock singer-songwriter who just released the new single 'Overboard'. She's a well-traveled artist, with guitar in hand, and is also one-half of the band Tragic Gadget.  We connected with Kim to find out how she got started playing guitar, how she and her band mate Chris Lorentz came together to form Tragic Gadget, her successful tour, and much more.

Carlton Boyd

How did you get started playing guitar and how long have you been playing?

The first time I ever remember playing guitar was at my great uncle Stanley's house. We were at a family party. I was little. I found the guitar in his den and got totally lost in playing with it. When I was finally ready to stop playing, I had no idea how much time had passed. Stanley was an artist and a poet and a generally sweet dude. I've always gotten the impression from my family that he and I had a lot in common. He passed when I was about 11 years old, and I was given his guitar, like, passed down from one artist to another. I've pretty much always had one nearby since then.  

Tell us about your latest single 'Overboard'; who produced it and how did the song come about?

Overboard is a song I wrote with some musician friends of mine that I know through working on the Tragic Gadget EP in LA. The song was written by Ben Masters, Tushar Apte, Chris Lorentz and me over the course of a couple of delirious nights in a former studio in the heart of Hollywood. (Or maybe it was at Ben's place. Sessions can start to blend together after a while...) Ben engineered and mixed his drums, Tushar engineered and produced the vocals on the track, and he and Chris both worked on our final mix. We'd heard Icona Pop was looking for song submissions and felt like that was stylistically in our wheelhouse. So we set out to write a sort of upbeat but serious song. Overboard is a song about saving yourself. But I'd say its as much about not diving in after someone as it is about like, Eric Cartman when he eats all the gold in the flooded cave and becomes too heavy to swim to safety. Y'know, there's just no rescuing that dude. 

How did you get cast in the upcoming CG animated series Book of Mojo?

Chris and I had been working on a some songs for an EP and had it in our heads that it would be ridiculously cool if we could make an animated video for one of our songs. We reached out to Tim and Abe at Chinese Takeout Films with an idea for a music video about a bee in love with a distant flower. We ran a kickstarter and managed to get this gorgeous animated video out into the world. Not long after the video campaign ended, Tim mentioned to me that a friend of his had just moved to LA and needed a voice for the main character of his webcomic turned animation project he'd been writing about a runaway teen witch and a rock golem. The words "rock golem" rang a little bell in my D&D loving heart, and I agreed to audition for it ASAP.   

Tell us about your band Tragic Gadget? How did you and your band mate Chris Lorentz connect?

I'm in a band called Tragic Gadget. It's made up of myself and Chris Lorentz and a sort of rotating constellation of killer musicians that we're friends with. Chris's main instrument is bass, but he plays all sorts of instruments and also produces. I'll usually write a lot of the top line and sing vox (on vox on vox) but you'll catch me here and there playing guitar or keys on different songs of ours. We make songs that are often described as alt-pop or indie pop, but I think description we both like the most is Anxiety Pop. It's like functionally, structurally, pop music, but there tends to be a tinge of this other nagging grown up thing that tugs at our songs from underneath. 

I used to host this open mic on campus where people could come and perform whatever they were working on at the time. Our college was so small that the arts community was damn near anybody on campus who made art in some way so we all pretty much knew each other. Chris and I had a bunch of friends in common, mostly musicians, and we performed together a few times at the open mic. He and some mutual friends of ours moved to LA after college. They were trying to get me to move down here too, but I wasn't having any of it. Ultimately, they lured me down here for Chris's birthday several years ago, gave me a tour of the city and answered all my questions about life in LA. And that was kind of it for me. Really soon after moving into town, Chris played me a song he was working on which was an early instrumental version of Crane Song. I jotted down some lyrics on an envelope and sang him my ideas. I think it was really clear to us both right away that it was something we wanted to keep doing. 

What was your experience like hitting the road as part of the Blackesque: The Queerotic Music Tour?

Blackesque was great. It was hard. I loved it. It was my first tour and it was exhausting. And as soon as we really got out on the road I was so excited to be traveling. And it just made me want to do so much more traveling. Right now I'm in a period of my life when I think I could really enjoy being on the road a lot more and Blackesque was my first opportunity to test out my songs in front of total strangers and see if I'm built for tour. I knew it'd be a challenge and the last thing I wanted was to learn the hard way a thousand miles away from home that I'm not very good at looking after myself, but what I realized is that no matter how tired or hungry or cranky I felt during different parts of tour, I always felt prepared when I hit the stage. Performing turned out to be a really important way for me to feel centered, because you realize to some degree that its the one thing you can control. I came away with a lot of real simple highlights; all just nice moments in very different places: sitting on the floor listening to vinyl records in Flagstaff, dinner with our hosts in Seattle, wandering around the rose gardens in Portland, singing for Carol Queen in San Francisco. I got a chance to travel around and share my favorite thing in the world with people. It's hard work, but its the best work. And in response, a lot of the people we met went out of their way to share with us too (meals, gear, places to stay, good advice). I felt enriched by it, and I can't wait to go out and do it again.     

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