There was a time when homegrown singer-songwriter Kimberly Dunn wanted to be a veterinarian. She’s moved on to stalking Texas music star Randy Rogers.
He’s OK with it.
Dunn is pretty much resigned to being “the girl that wrote that Randy Rogers song.” And to be fair, she name-checks the Eli Young band, Granger Smith and Stoney LaRue in the song Randy Rogers, too.
The release this week of her debut EP, the five-song One Foot Over the Other (which includes the fun, catchy track Randy Rogers), confirms that running a pet hospital is not where her true future lies.
One Foot Over the Other is a first-rate Texas-country effort, more organic than slick, recorded at Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios in Austin.
It features players from Pat Green and George Strait’s bands, and was recorded and produced by her management team, Will Harrison and Scott Willson.
But that’s not to say there isn’t room in her heart for her first love.
“I love animals,” said Dunn, 23, a graduate of San Antonio’s Health Careers High School and Texas A&M University, where she earned a degree last year.
“I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I got really involved with riding horses and in the Girl Scouts. I worked at a Girl Scout camp, and I taught girls how to ride horses.”
At the same time, she quietly kept journals - which included mournful poetry and lyrics.
“I never showed anybody,” Dunn said. “I wrote songs in middle school before I played guitar.”
In high school and at A&M, Dunn played alto saxophone in the school bands.
She’s kept up her chops, but she’s quick to say that she doesn’t play her sax onstage now because “that’s not Texas country.”
“I keep telling everybody one of these days I’m gonna whip out the sax. It’s just gonna happen,” Dunn said with a giggle.
That clunky, shiny instrument actually brought her to Americana and country.
“I had been in band since the sixth grade and was really involved in it. The boys in the band played guitar and I said, ‘Hey, I play guitar, too.’”
The teenagers started using their lunch break to play guitar. “We’d plink around,” Dunn said. With her courage building, Dunn debuted an original country song, The Dance, at her junior-year talent show.
Kimberly & the Boys, as the makeshift cover band was called, soon played a few gigs.
The newcomer admits she once considered using the stage name Kimberly Sparrow, inspired by the character Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean Disney films.
“I just thought that would be hilarious,” Dunn said about her fantasy to perform a concert with Sheryl Crow and billing it as a “meeting of the birds.”
Dunn, an avid golfer, says much of her college experience in College Station revolved around seeing live music.
“Texas country really is king in College Station. It’s the mecca for Texas country,” Dunn said. “Randy Rogers or anybody that’s Texas country is popular. For the most part, if it’s got an electric guitar and a steel guitar, I call it Texas country. It definitely has its own sound and isn’t Nashville country.
Written last year, the song Randy Rogers was born in College Station. Dunn admits that the song began as a stream-of-consciousness lark about trying to forget an ex-boyfriend.
“I just pick up my guitar and start making up words,” she said. “I don’t even know what’s coming out of my mouth. My subconscious takes over, and sometimes things make sense.”
What was she feeling as she was writing it? “Holy cow, this is awesome!”
Dunn has had a chance to talk to Rogers about it. They were recently together at the announcement of the Texas Music Hall of Fame at an event in Austin.
Before that, they’d met at a meet ‘n’ greet at the rodeo. “I was so nervous,” Dunn said.
“At the (hall of fame) event, I just said, ‘I’m going to go up to him and see if he remembers me.’ I went and shook his hand. I was like, ‘Hey, Randy. I’m Kimberly Dunn. I don’t know if you remember me or not. I wrote that song about you.’
“He was just super flattered.”
Dunn, who performs Nov. 17 at Sam’s Burger Joint with Johnny Cooper, says she’s ready to tour wherever her fortunes lead. But she won’t be forgetting her hometown.
“I’m a huge Mama Margie’s fan, and those 89-cent bean-and-cheese tacos. I could eat, no joke - I’m a true San Antonian - I could eat, like, five bean-and-cheese tacos in one sitting and still be hungry.”
Can Randy Rogers top that?
This story originally appeared in the November 1, 2011 edition of the San Antonio Express-News.