There are not enough words to describe the intrinsic chemistry Kim and Scott Collins possess. The duo, better known as The Smoking Flowers, have discovered what some duos spend their entire careers trying to find: a fascinating marriage between artistic talent and subtle sensuality that pierces the attention of anyone in the same room as them. The Collins’ have devoted their entire lives to music, and the second their wild feet touch the stage they exude just how tenured they truly are. Seeing The Smoking Flowers play a show is like hearing a certain gospel for the first time; there is a sense of mystery that veils the cornerstone of truth in their songs and ultimately envelopes the soul. Both Kim and Scott embody the “counter-culture” sound of Nashville’s 90’s rock scene while presenting that embodiment in a stripped down version of what Nashville used to love.
Though their earlier albums possessed an ‘Americana’ vibe, The Smoking Flowers have longed to revisit their rock and roll roots, which describes the essence of their upcoming album. As the city waits for their newest release, The Repertoire wanted to share the following interview with The Smoking Flowers. I received the great fortune of sitting with Kim and Scott to listen to their beautiful life stories. They seem to live each moment with full abandon and a family value to dance like no one is watching. Dare I say that the Collins’ are...schooly? If that adjective does not resonate with anyone now, it will by the end of this article.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present to you The Smoking Flowers...
How did you two meet, and what brought each of you to Nashville?
Kim: I came to Nashville simply because of music. I moved here around 1988 after I graduated—specifically to Nashville in 1990— and I started singing and touring with Walk the West. That kind of introduced me to the scene here, which was definitely booming in the alternative underground rock scene. I had no plans to stay in Nashville, but 25 years later I am still here. I have been a big part of the music scene here for a long time starting in the ‘90s with my first band, Kim’s Fable, until now through this newer project [The Smoking Flowers] with Scott. We actually met when Scott was here for the summer, and I was working at the only legitimate underground rock venue, 12th and Porter. It [meeting Scott] was a moment I’d never experienced, that across the room energy type thing.
Scott: Yeah, I was living in New York City and came down to visit my brother for a few weeks and check it out. This would have been 1998 I guess, and I remember driving down Broadway and I had no idea where I was going to go. I remembered seeing a band at 12th and Porter over the holidays, and at that time it was the only counter-culture place in town. I whipped in at the last minute in the late afternoon and walked in. It was between hours and Kim worked there during the day. She happened to be the only one there. She saw me and told me I did not need to fill out an application, flirtingly. When it was time for me to go back to New York, I flew back, quit a job, broke up with a girl and moved to Nashville two weeks later. I dropped it all. I was thinking about it already, but she sealed the deal.
What is your musical origin?
Kim: I grew up in a musical family, so it has always been a huge part of my life and who I am. Since the age of five, I was involved in theater and music.
Scott: I grew up in Missouri just a couple of hours north of Memphis. My grandmother was a big music fan, so I grew up listening to a lot of the old, classic stuff, including Elvis Presley. I was three years old when Elvis died, and the city had a day of public mourning. My grandmother packed my mother and I into a Volkswagen Bug, and we drove to Memphis in the middle of August to stand with a bunch of people. We were able to walk up to Elvis’s casket and see him. I like to say that’s the moment I fell in love with music. I didn’t have a lot of musicians in my immediate family, but they loved music. My brother and I didn’t really start playing music until we were college students.
Kim was great to us when I moved here. With me coming from New York, the impression of Nashville was contemporary country and pop country. We weren’t that type of music at all, so having someone like Kim steeped deeply into the counter-culture scene here ushered us in to meet people and be a part of the 12th and Porter indie music scene.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming album...
The Smoking Flowers: We’ve been holding onto it. We released our last album, 2 Guns, on our own. We had a team (distribution, management, PR, etc.), but we were the label and it was a big undertaking. We’ve always wanted to do that to the fullest extent that we knew how, so we experienced that. It was great, but we don’t necessarily want to do it again. There’s something great about the control of everything. At the same time, as artists, it’s really hard to mix the two (the business and the art). We were really focused on those three years of touring and putting out 2 Guns. Considering that we didn’t really have any experience [on the label side], the record did really well.
However, over those three years the songs became very old news to us. We had gone through a lot of change with Kim’s cancer diagnosis and living and dealing with that. This inspired a whole new record. We went in, recorded it and have been holding onto it ever since until we find a home for it. We do not want to put it out on our own again; we want to reach a broader and different audience. This record is a different style. You can hear how each album seems to take a baby step into a different direction. We feel like this record is worthy of the next level that a bigger record label could provide.
Since we were touring so much, this new unreleased record was recorded over a year span. We would write songs and record them when we were home. As far as the whole album goes, it’s the most electrified rock and roll record that we’ve done. This duo started out as more acoustic, and it was a breath of fresh air from what we were doing in our previous bands. Now we are going back to our roots. While the “Americana” genre is at its pinnacle, we are kind of going into the other ballroom to dance.
What does the rest of the year look like you?
TSF: We finally finished the very last song on the album, so we are going to start shopping it now. We are going to take a break from touring, since we did it for so many years. It’s nice to be home. We aren’t taking too big of a break, but we are taking our time to find the right home for the album. That includes filming videos, which was never our priority before this album. We are going to do one for each song. All of the songs are separate of each other, but there is a certain tone to the album. I would say it is one step removed from a concept album.
What is your favorite venue/state to play?
Kim: I think my favorite state is Wisconsin, because I was pleasantly surprised about that state and how much music is accepted and loved there. The outpouring of support from that state blew me away. We love the Park Theatre there.
Scott: California for me is my favorite state to play. However, the most unique venue we’ve ever played was this huge Masonic temple that was built in Mobile, Alabama in the early 1900’s. It’s a big ballroom type of venue, and if you went walking through it you would get lost. We went to the top of the temple and you could tell there were some very interesting rituals that used to take place. Tom’s Tavern in Detroit would probably be the coolest place to play. Tom’s Tavern is a small dive bar. There is no stage and it doesn’t technically exist on the tax records. It’s one of the oldest bars in the United States. There is some magic in that place and it sounds great. There are some good acoustics somehow. It’s only had two owners since the 1900’s, and now the second owner is in his 70’s and is looking for someone to take over. We would die to buy it.
What is your favorite instrument that you own?
Kim: I play about 6 different instruments, but my favorite is my 1967 Ludwig drum kit, which was pretty much gifted to me. Sparkly red. I was helping a friend from Detroit move out of his storage unit and he had a collection of drums. He looked at me and said, “You know what? You should have this.” I was like, “You know what? I should!” It came out of an attic in Detroit… there is no telling who played it or what the history is. My dream drum kit.
Scott: It’s funny, I don’t own a whole bunch of instruments. Kim is the one who has so many. Eighty percent of the instruments in our house are hers. My favorite guitar that I have is a mid-sixties Harmony Meteor, which was the Harmony Keith Richards played in the early Stones stuff. Ray Davies from the Kinks played it as well. It’s a really distinct and gritty guitar. It was considered kind of a crappy guitar in that era, but even older, poorly made instruments from that era are craftily made for this era. It’s officially my brother’s guitar, but I guess I commandeered it from him somehow years ago (as he has with some of my instruments!) and have played it in every band I’ve been in except The Smoking Flowers. My brother says he is going to put it in my grave with me when I go, so I guess that makes it mine.
What would you have done professionally had you not gone into music?
Kim: I would probably be an Anthropologist or something in the sciences; that or a holistic healer, which I kind of do on the side anyway. I just began my journey as a health and wellness coach this year actually.
Scott: That’s a tough one for me. I don’t know, maybe a male prostitute? Haha. It’s hard to imagine anything but music honestly. It feels forced to even come up with something. Maybe I would be a winemaker or something artful like that; something in nature. Grow some grapes, stomp on them and make some wine. Maybe move to Italy or France and do something like that.
Kim: We have a dream to do that later in life, where he could make wine and I could make chocolates. On the weekends I can go to Paris. I will be old with long grey hair and in an evening gown singing jazz in clubs. That’s like a total dream I have that will probably come true.
Has there ever been a popular song for which you have gotten the lyrics wrong?
Kim: I did have one when I was a little girl. I had a recorder and I would put records on and sing along to it on the recorder. My brother surprised me one day as an adult
with all of those old tapes he’d kept. I was listening back to one where I was singing along to Brick House. I think I was trying to get funky with it and was singing, “ She’s a brick house, she’s mine and funky, just letting it all hang out.” I didn’t realize it was talking about a stacked woman. In my kid head I thought it was truly about a brick house.
Scott: I still don’t know what Michael Jackson was saying in that “Mama Say Mama Sah Mahsamama.” I still don’t know! I know what I think is probably wrong. It’s something with intent. I always thought it was Michael doing his stuff. It’s “Mama Say Mama Sa Mama Coosa?” Is that it?
Which movie resonates with you the most?
Kim: Amèlie. The film is just so beautiful, in the sentiment of the film itself and also in the music itself. Brilliant soundtrack. That’s when music can really enhance something. Being a musician, it [the music] really pumps me up for a movie. It’s the character you never see in a movie, but is the most important supporting role, one you can feel on another level.
Scott: I agree with all of that, but since I get to pick another one... I am a big P.T. Anderson fan in general, but one movie that had a profound impact on me was Magnolia. The use of music in that film at that time was something I had never seen done. I am a big fan of anything he’s ever done, but for some reason that film really hit me on a creative level. His mind was so...somewhere... on a genius level weaving that story together and weaving the music into it. It got so deep that there were things I was thinking about for weeks afterwards.
What is your favorite soundtrack?
Kim: Yeah Amèlie, with Yann Tierson, and Purple Rain. Purple Rain was my first soundtrack I owned and probably my all-time favorite soundtrack.
Scott: I’d like to give a shout out to Repo Man. That is a good soundtrack (one of Kim’s fave records when she was a young punk teen in the 80’s). But Amèlie is the favorite soundtrack for me too.
What album could you play on repeat without getting tired of it?
Scott: There is a bit of a difference to me between why an album profoundly influenced me and why I would listen to one all of the time. As far as something that profoundly influenced me without a doubt is Tonight’s the Night by Neil Young. It’s not an album I would listen to a lot though. It’s funny; some of the most influential stuff is like that. I could listen to The Essential Leonard Cohen collection on repeat.
An underdog album I could listen to over and over again is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’s Time (The Revelator).
Kim: A band that influenced me highly is Led Zeppelin, but it is not something I would sit down and listen to on repeat. It’s kind of harsh to listen to that over and over again just because it is so intense. Honestly, the one I don’t get tired of is Chopin and, believe it or not, influenced me as well. When I was young I was way into symphony music and classical music. I studied it purely on my own, not trained or anything, and I still listen to Chopin every day.
Where is your favorite local spot to hang out?
Kim: Our backyard! We have a magical backyard and we built a magical deck in that backyard. And our house as a whole really. We love to have friends over to entertain and just chill. We travel a lot, so the back porch is my favorite spot to go to and hole up. We’ve been there 17 years.
Scott: Yeah, our yard. That’s it. You will find us at the Juice Bar a lot though.
What is your go-to word or phrase in the English dictionary, profane or otherwise?
Scott: We have a Collins family word: “schooly.” I would need a page just to elaborate on the nuance meanings of “schooly.” Schooly is a word that can be the most complimentary, adoring word you’ve ever said about something, or it can be the complete opposite. It has to do with purity and unawareness; and pretentiousness or the lack thereof. For instance, an example of good “schooly” is Neil Young during the “Hey, Hey My, My (Into The Black)” era, or Daniel Johnston. They are the epitome of good “schooly.” However, Toby Keith would be an example of terrible “schooly”.
The word is an adjective mainly, and you hear it in the tone of the voice. There are varying degrees of how you say it; it can describe a lot of things. My brother and I started using it when I was young. Urban basketball court athletes used the word in the early 90’s to describe things on the court. It can be lighthearted or more severe… or used for extreme adoration when something is such a pure expression that you don’t care what anyone thinks. All of our close friends use it now and don’t even notice it. Kim uses that word too!