Bobby Kimball, former Toto frontman: Something Else! Interview

Bobby Kimball joins Preston Frazier to discuss his powerful new solo album We’re Not in Kansas Anymore in this Something Else! Sitdown. They also delve into his celebrated reunion with Toto from a few years ago, and the challenges to balancing studio work with life on the road …

PRESTON FRAZIER: Let’s start by talking about your new solo release, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.
BOBBY KIMBALL: Yeah, I was just in Germany for quite a while performing and promoting the new album. It’s good to be back in America.

PRESTON FRAZIER: You have 11 songs on the album. Tell me about the process for developing the new material.
BOBBY KIMBALL: Mostly, John (Zaika) and Dave Barnett came up with the music and backing tracks. I took what they had and was singing along with it, and eventually came up with the lyrics. I co-wrote all the songs on the album. John and Dave were really receptive to my lyrical input, and it was a really quick process since they already had the foundations of each song.

PRESTON FRAZIER: I know you worked with John before; I believe you two collaborated on your last solo album, All I Ever Needed. How long did it take you to complete the recording and post production?
BOBBY KIMBALL: It was very quick. John and Dave were writing the album while I was on the road in Europe. I do about 200-250 dates a year. It’s been that way with me for quite some time. They recorded with the band primarily in the U.S. I started my vocals when I would visit. I’ve played a little keyboard on stage with Toto, but I’m a lyricist, primarily. With We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, I have some great ideas on how to craft the lyrics.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How long did it take you to record the vocals for the album?
BOBBY KIMBALL: To tell you the truth, I did it on and off for six months when I had brief break from being on the road. I was back and forth to Europe and would work on the vocals at Brian Bromberg’s studio, which is very near my house. I would also change lyrics on the fly during the recording session to fit what I was hearing from the band in my headset.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Your last album with Toto, did you do the lyrics?
BOBBY KIMBALL: I did a majority of the lyrics on Falling in Between.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How did this recording process differ from Falling in Between?
BOBBY KIMBALL: The biggest difference is that I was in the room with Toto as they forged the music. Simon Phillips is a genius; he engineered the album, and had a major hand in the production. The band did not have any songs when they began recording. We went to Simon’s wonderful studio. Simon is a great producer and drummer. The band would jam for about five or six hours, playing different grooves. Simon had his Pro Tools on and recorded all the jams. He directed his assistant engineer what to capture; he was standing next to Simon’s drum kit. Simon would give the guy cues as to what section would be good for a verse or chorus. He would pull out good intros, outros, chorus – all by visual cues.

After the jam, Simon would review each, and assembled the best parts of the songs, intro, verse, chorus and outros. He’d basically pull the song together. Then he’d make a CD of the track for the band. When that was done he give me the CD in the control room. I would then work on the lyrics for each song for 16-18 hours. I wrote the lyrics for eight of the 11 songs on Falling in Between. It was fun! I like that album and I wrote every word for the title track. When we finished, I thought, “This would be a damn good name for the album.”

PRESTON FRAZIER: It’s a fantastic album, and your vocals on the title track are amazing.
BOBBY KIMBALL: Yeah, I’m proud of that.

PRESTON FRAZIER: On We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, where all the tracks already completed?
BOBBY KIMBALL: Yes, the tracks were almost completely done. I didn’t do any backing vocals, because the tracks were recorded while I was on tour. Even the overdubs where done. They had guide lyrics, but I changed most of them. I was happy that they completed that for me. I love my new album. I appreciate the fan support. I’ve gotten lots of great feedback on Falling in Between, and also some great support from We’re Not in Kansas Anymore. I have been touring so much that the album was a challenge. I’m very proud of the vocals.

The challenge with touring and using house engineers and monitor mixing is that sometimes I can’t hear myself on stage and it makes the vocal hard. There were a bunch of gigs I couldn’t hear myself. When I was with Toto, the live shows were excellently produced. The sound man was really incredible. The monitor mix makes things easy. A bad mixer will cause you to rip your voice to pieces. I was having a few issues with the stage sound for a while. I think We’re Not in Kansas Anymore represents my vocals at their finest. I think fans of my Toto years and my solo stuff will love it.

Like Toto? Then you’ll love ‘Toto Tuesdays,’ a song-by-song feature that explores the band’s rich musical history – from the early days with Bobby Kimball to the present. Click here to check it out.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier