Early last week, Dallas soul singer Kirk Thurmond was quietly signed with British record label DEFDISCO. This announcement comes on the heels of Kirk Thurmond & the Millennials' debut single “Break Free” from their upcoming album People Change, Thurmond’s first-ever solo tour and a couple of shows with the legendary Lee Fields & the Expressions. But Thurmond’s recent success is no mere flash-in-the-pan.
Thurmond says he could always find comfort in music. His trek into that field began with elementary school music band, where, Thurmond says, he was immediately drawn to percussion and performing. “My mom says I was always quite the performer as a kid. Me and my brothers were all taught to sing by my father, who is a great singer,” Thurmond says. “So, it was always there, but I guess it took form a lot easier and was more accessible in school band.”
During his sophomore year of high school, Thurmond borrowed a friend’s guitar for the summer. "That turned into a year," he says. "And when I gave it back to him I was way better than he was, and he was pissed off."
By then, he was writing songs. Thurmond cites his main rock-pop influences — like the Eagles and Kenny Loggins — but those eventually began to meld with the music of his childhood: soul.
“I kind of made this musical journey — starting on guitar, figuring out how that worked and getting obsessed with Steely Dan and shit like that,” Thurmond says. “Once I got down to the brass tacks of writing and had already written all of my terrible songs to figure out I couldn’t be Jason Mraz, I just circled back around to artists like Earth Wind & Fire and Stevie [Ray Vaughan], Michael Jackson.”
By 2012 Thurmond had finished college and released his debut, full-length solo album, Only Love, a concoction of soul, R&B and pop drenched in warm melodies and smooth guitar riffs. About a year later, Thurmond was joined by six more like-minded creatives [percussionist Gino Inglehart, guitarist Mike Clowes, Cris Brenham on the keys, bassist Jay Sanford and background vocalists, Chanese Jones and Jamall Houston] and Kirk Thurmond & the Millennials was born.
While Thurmond says he’s always been more of a solo artist, he insists the Millennials are a big part of the reason he’s been signed by a record label. “I’m getting signed right now because of the music that I am creating,” Thurmond insists. “And I wouldn’t be creating the music I am creating without Kirk Thurmond and the Millennials.”
According to DEFDISCO’s VP of Creative Services, Cliff Simms, Thurmond was an obvious choice for addition to their label. “He’s one of those artists that’s such a major talent here — he’s very different, stylistically, than anyone else we’ve got,” says Simms.
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Simms shared with us that DEFDISCO has a strict rule that they won’t sign anyone unless they want to be signed. So, about halfway through their meeting, Thurmond says he realized Simms had yet to mentioned a record deal; that’s when he took action. “Right towards the end of [the meeting], I was like, OK, enough about this artist services shit,” Thurmond laughs. “I literally said, word for word: 'What is it going to take for me to put this next record out on DEFDISCO?'
The rest is history, albeit just about a week old.
“Never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d be setting up my own meeting and asking for a record deal," Thurmond says. For now, at least, it’s business as usual for Thurmond. Kirk Thurmond & the Millennials are gearing up for their appearance at this year's Homegrown Fest, as well as putting the finishing touches on their debut album People Change, which is slated to be released later this year.
“If you want to be somebody of some substance around here, don’t overexpose yourself," he says. "Make your performance a commodity — make your performance something special.”