For songwriter and lyricist Kim Hairston, working in the music industry isn’t something that’s been a lifelong career.
In fact, the 61-year-old only began writing lyrics professionally about eight years ago. Before that, she had (and still owns) her own web design business. But music has been around nearly all her life.
Hairston’s mother was a piano teacher and she got her into classical music.
“I used to play the piano and classical guilds, those are contests where you play your special piece and the judges judge you,” she says.
Some of her early inspiration is old school — Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the like.
Hairston, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S.A., considers herself a “background listener of music,” in that “I’ll listen to a song and I’ll pick out every single instrument in the song — when they flow in and out, when certain instruments come in and out of the song — it’s just something that I started doing at a young age.”
That young age also had her moving around a lot as a Military B.R.A.T. due to her father’s career in the U.S. Army.
“We traveled to Germany and Austria and of course all over the United States and we settled here in Colorado Springs,” she says.
Hairston had been writing poetry for as long as she could remember.
“I would do it in class when I was in junior high school and high school,” she says. “I still have books and books of poems but about eight years ago, I was like, I wonder what it would be like to go into a music studio and put some of my poems to music.”
I’ll listen to a song and I’ll pick out every single instrument in the song — when they flow in and out, when certain instruments come in and out of the song — it’s just something that I started doing at a young age.Kim Hairston
When she asked a friend to look at her poems, that friend noted her poetry had a “lyrical” tone.
“And I was like, ‘Oh’ and she was like, ‘Yeah you should go in the studio sometime.’ And I did,” according to Hairston.
Hairston says she was in Denver, Colo. at the time and her daughter was getting ready to graduate from college.
“I called the Spot Studios up there and I talked to Glenn Sawyer, who was a producer up there,” she says, adding: “And he was like, ‘Yeah come on in, let’s talk.’ And he looked at some of my lyrics and it was like, ‘Yeah you know I know someone, his name is Mawule and let me connect you with him and see if you guys can work something out.’”
Not soon after, Hairston’s debut song came out, titled “What Love Doesn’t Look Like” and it featured Mawule on vocals.
“And after that moment, I was like, this is what I want to do,” she says. “And I started going back to Spot Studios, my daughter graduated from college and we moved back to Colorado Springs. And we had to move back to Colorado Springs anyway because my mom was not doing well at that time.”
While Hairston’s mother passed away several years later, she did get to hear her daughter’s debut album.
“I am so incredibly blessed that she got to hear my debut song come out; it got on the radio fortunately,” Hairston says.
Hairston on more collaborations with Nigerian artists
That debut song led to more work with producers like Jarrod Headly, Tony Mirabella and Egar Boi.
Not only that, in addition to Mawule, Hairston has had the opportunity to work with other major Afrobeat and Afro Gospel singers in Nigeria.
It all started with her waking up at the same time every night and writing down lyrics.
“I started writing these lyrics over and over and I wrote a song called ‘Walk by Faith,’” she says. The song made her think it would be best performed with an Afrobeat.
“I started looking up different Afro gospel artists and I came across a man called Quiz the Great. And I’m a firm believer [in] ‘You don’t ask, you don’t get.’”
Consequently, Hairston reached out to Quiz the Great, who lives thousands of miles away in Nigeria.
“Seven thousand miles away we connected,” she says. Within a month, the song was fully written, produced and released.
When another Hairston thought up another song, she got a hold of Quiz again.
I’m a firm believer [in] ‘You don’t ask, you don’t get.’Kim Hairston
“And he’s like, ‘You know what? Let me get somebody on this with us,’ and his name was Miracle Paul,” she says. “And he was just signed to a record label. And I said ‘sure.’ So another song came out and it was called ‘Your Blessing.’”
About a month later, Hairston wrote another tune called “New Chapter,” and she collaborated with Quiz, Miracle Paul and Missionary Souljah to put the song together.
That third song culminated in a trilogy called “The Faith Project,” according to Hairston.
“It’s absolutely insane at this point. I’m on my fifth song. I’m getting a different artist getting a hold of me to do songs. And it’s absolutely been amazing,” she says.
For Hairston, Afrobeat music has a special place in her heart.
“It’s soulful,” she says. “It gets us soulful. And it’s Christ-driven, it’s Holy Spirit-driven, It’s meaningful.”
Music is my life, music is my jam, music is my vibe.Ki Hairston
At 61 years old and with a bunch more published songs under her belt, Hairston doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon.
“I want this to be an inspiration that you are never too old to follow your dreams. Age is just a number,” she says.
To learn more about Kim Hairston’s music and hear clips, go to kimhairstonmusic.com or check out the video below.