It’s seems Kam Franklin has just begun to kick the door in. In just a few short years, the nascent vocalist has become a Houstonian icon on par with many who have been doing what they do for decades. Her live performances are more akin to theater, and her vocal delivery is nothing short of impeccable. Leading The Suffers to what could be called a lightning-quick ascent up the treacherous music biz totem pole, she is equally as fierce in regard to her business acumen as she is to her soaring vocals. In short, Kam is not to be fucked with.
We caught up with Kam recently to ask her a few questions before the release of the band’s latest album, Everything Here, this Friday.
Free Press Houston: Lay it on us. Best and worst things about being a creative in Houston.
Kam Franklin: My favorite part about being a creative in Houston is the comraderie. I’ve known the dudes in Los Skarnales since I was 16. I came up in the scene with The Tontons, Fat Tony, and Wild Moccasins, and I’m always quick to offer my advice to the younger acts when they ask me. From Lyric Michelle to Guilla to Andrew James, I try to stress the importance of teaming up with like-minded individuals that believe in your art. Most of the artists in Houston just want a chance to show what they can do and a guide to show them what they’re doing wrong.
My least favorite thing is the lack of health insurance for musicians. If you get sick, you’re shit outta luck. I wish we could get similar to HAAM, Austin’s answer to health insurance for musicians, in Houston.
FPH: Let’s talk about family and your early childhood years. Have any specific memories of a family member playing any particular records and how it impacted you?
KF: Outside of Gospel and Disney movie soundtracks, my earliest memories of listening to albums come from my father playing and singing along to Luther Vandross albums on repeat. “Never Too Much,” “A House is Not A Home” and his rendition of “Superstar” still live deep in my heart.
FPH: What’s the toughest part of being Kam Franklin? When do you feel most vulnerable?
KF: Hearing people pronounce my name as “Kim” when the whole reason I started going by “Kam” was to avoid mispronunciations of my government name. It’s funny.
I’m the most vulnerable onstage or after the edible has kicked in.
FPH: You have been very outspoken politically, particularly in regard to social justice issues. How does the current political environment influence your music?
KF: It is having a bigger effect on me than I could have ever imagined. I’m embarrassed, sad, and angry at what I’ve been seeing. I feel helpless at times, but I know that a lot of change is coming this November. Right now, I’m focusing all my creative energy on music that empowers people to do the impossible. We’ll see how it turns out.
FPH: Outside of singing, what’s your role in the band in regard to the social dynamic amongst 12+ members?
KF: I am the multitasker. I’m always working on a bunch of projects, while following up on others. I’m very hands on, and while I know I could easily get help from various people, it takes a lot to get me to ask for it.
FPH: I love to talk about crying. When is the last time you cried and why?
KF: After our show at Montreal Jazz Fest. We played two one-hour sets for what may have been our biggest crowds to date. When I got in the shower, my legs were aching, and I just started sobbing these tears of relief and joy. Playing that festival meant so much to me, and I guess it didn’t make sense until way afterward. Crazy shit.
FPH: What are the best/worst parts of fans recognizing you out and about?
KF: The best part is them recognizing us and their sincerity.
The worst part is not always having the time to stay and listen to them. Our schedule gets a bit gnarly!
FPH: Kam is 14 years old. She runs to her room upset over something 14 year olds get upset about (love/family/the stresses of adolescence) and puts on that current record that helps her get through. What is it?
KF: “The Best of Led Zeppelin” 2-disc set. It’s the one where they are dressed up like astronauts. I didn’t know much about them prior to that aside from a few songs, but a friend got me that cd set as a present, and I listened to it so much that year.
FPH: You are naturally a strong example of someone who both works hard and hones her talent to maximize the creative process. What advice would you give to all the young people who want to be a Kam Franklin?
KF: Work hard, read a bunch, and practice as much as possible. Romance and partying aren’t going anywhere, so don’t prioritize that over yourself and your dreams.