By Brent Thompson
Kim and Scott Collins are partners in every sense of the word. The married couple – known musically as The Smoking Flowers – performs strictly as a duo and owns the record label Bandaloop Music. Equal parts alt-country, punk and classic rock, The Smoking Flowers’ sound is timeless and fresh at the same time. The band recently released two albums – 2018’s Let’s Die Together and the 2019 acoustic outing Snowball Out Of Hell. On Saturday, August 10, The Smoking Flowers will perform at Marty’s PM. Recently, Kim and Scott spoke with us by phone from their East Nashville home.
Birmingham Stages: Kim and Scott, thanks for your time. We are really enjoying Let’s Die Together.
Kim Collins: We’re still touring for it. We just put out another record but (Let’s Die Together) is still the focus.
Birmingham Stages: Were the songs on Let’s Die Together and Snowball Out Of Hell newer compositions, older ones or a mixture of both?
Scott Collins: The material on Let’s Die Together was definitely the newest stuff that we had written at the time of recording. It was the lion’s share of our live shows and it still is. On the acoustic record we put out a couple of weeks ago, there are songs that are different versions of songs on Let’s Die Together, but they’re acoustic presentations of them. Some of the songs on that record were old, lost gems that we rediscovered.
Birmingham Stages: How do older songs resurface and eventually become relevant to you?
Kim: Sometimes it’s just, “Oh, you remember that song?” It’s not that we don’t have any new ideas – we go back so deep in songwriting. I’m 30 years deep on material and Scott is 20 years. We have a back catalog and sometimes you don’t want an old song just sitting there collecting dust, so there’s no rhyme or reason to it.
Scott: I feel some songs are like wine – you lay them down in the cellar and 10 or 20 years – lyrically or musically – they make more sense or they’re more relevant to your personal life and that was the case for those. When a couple of these songs were originally conceived, I was singing them and sometimes letting a female sing the song gives the song a whole different identity.
Birmingham Stages: A difficult part of a touring musician’s life is going on the road and leaving loved ones behind. As a married couple, that situation obviously doesn’t apply to you. If you will, talk about the unique experience of being a married, touring couple.
Kim: Living in Nashville, I’ve seen the challenges of so many friends in relationships with musicians. What it creates for us is that we get this lifestyle together. As dreamers and lovers of travel, it’s ideal for us. Not everybody can play together, live together and go on the road together, but it makes us stronger together. It’s been a beautiful discovery.
Scott: We’re more and more grateful the older we get – it’s a special blessing to have.
Birmingham Stages: With only two of you in the band, how would you describe your musical approach? Though bands such as yours, Shovels & Rope and The White Stripes have recorded and performed as duos, it’s still an uncommon setup.
Scott: The live focus is on the vocal performance and dynamics. It’s something that’s scary at first, but after 10 years of touring it’s like method acting almost – we just react to one another. That’s nice because you never just go through the motions – you can really be in the moment.
Kim: I will say that I try to trick Scott [laughs] like taking it down dynamically where we’ve never done it before just for own good and it translates to the audience. We’ve gotten good at following each other. In not having other players, we’re able to do that more freely.
Birmingham Stages: You both play several instruments. Which instrument do you typically use for songwriting?
Kim: Mostly guitar.
Scott: I will say it comes in handy with songwriting. You can start something on guitar, but when you play it on piano or mandolin it can reveal entirely different things about the song. So, it’s nice being able to do that.
Kim: I like to even hash it out on drums to give it a certain rhythm or vibe and that can help you go in a different direction.
Birmingham Stages: As label owners, you are a great example of the freedom available to artists in today’s music industry. How do you reconcile the pros and cons of today’s climate in the era of iTunes, Youtube and satellite radio?
Kim: There are a lot of pros, but the one con I’ve found is not being able to reach a larger audience when you own your own label. The larger labels have access to late night shows and Saturday Night Live or getting [an artist] to open for a big band – you can’t do that without a big label.
Scott: If you choose to do the indie thing, you have to realize it’s the arena you’re playing in and go for that and build your audience on a club and theatre level. But artistically, the pro is you never have to answer to anyone. You can really blaze your own trail.
The Smoking Flowers will perform at Marty’s PM on Saturday, August 10. For more information, call (205) 939-0045 or visit www.martyspm.com.