If you’ve ever heard St. Louis chanteuse Kim Massie perform, you know her talent is as big as her personality. An entertainment fixture at local clubs, casinos and community festivals, Massie is a tour de force.
She recently traded her blonde coif for a fiery red hairdo and is looking forward to the release of her new CD. “This is Grammy material,” she declares. “I want a Grammy!” The album of all-original music is five years in the making, and reflects Massie’s command of all musical genres: gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, rock n’ roll, country and pop. “It took a while but I’m excited that it’s finally done!”
Massie was born in St. Louis but moved to Lorain, Ohio as a young girl. She recalls ‘singing and dancing all the time’ when she was little. “I remember my mom singing around the house and I’d think, What a beautiful voice! I wish I could sing like that, she says. “I grew up, and loved, listening to gospel music. Both my parents sang in church, and when I got older, I sang in the choir with my mother.” Needless to say, young Kim received plenty of encouragement from her musically inclined parents, but she singles out a childhood mentor for actually lighting the fire. “I was a member of a special girls’ choir in school, and my music teacher took a special interest in me, that really does make a difference.”
But it took some time to get her singing career off the ground. “All those years that I lived in Lorain, things never seemed to happen. I had a full-time job as a nurses’ aid for eight years, so singing was only part-time,” she says. But her luck began to turn when the karaoke craze came around. “I entered contests, and even won trips to the Caribbean and Las Vegas!”
In fact, Massie says it was karaoke that helped pave the way for her in St. Louis, after she moved back here in 1999. “I was doing karaoke at the Casino Queen, and the host told me about all these different nightclubs I needed to check out.” Her first stop was 1860’s Hard Shell Cafe & Bar. “I went there for months, just to listen. After a while, I was invited to sit in with the band,” she says. Her first steady job was a performing gig at The Beale on Broadway. More opportunities soon followed at other venues, including a jam session with legendary saxophonist and blues artist Oliver Sain.
At first, Massie thought she’d focus primarily on the blues, gospel and R&B, but something told her to cast a wider net. “During some of my earlier gigs, we were just doing the blues, and I got a little frustrated with it,” she explains. “Growing up, I listened to everything, not just gospel or blues. I knew so much more, and I wanted to experience it all.” Her desire to explore other musical genres eventually led to what’s now considered the highlight of every Kim Massie show: having the audience pick the songs. “When you ask the audience what they want to hear, you engage them and learn about them. They’ll tell you things like, ‘My mother loved that song’ or ‘It was the song we danced to at our wedding,’” she says. “Some people request a certain song just because they had a bad day. For them, to hear me sing it makes a difference, and that gives me such satisfaction.”
The soulful songstress is known for giving her all on stage, whether she’s belting out an Aretha Franklin tune or performing one of the best renditions of Etta James’ At Last. “I was a teenage mom on Welfare with three kids. Imagine all the drama that came with that. I feel that I have a lot to say,” she says. “Experience is a big part of who I am. It taught me to tell a story with my songs, and paint a picture every time I sing.”