My name is Billy Kemp, and I’m a music and song maker. I’ve been playing guitar for forty-five years and also play the banjo, bass, harmonica, piano and anything I can get a sound out of. I live in Liberty, Tennessee with my wife, Sue, a banjo gal, our cat, Minnie and our dog, Mavis. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent much of my time on the road, averaging five or six tours annually, which took me all over the United States, Canada and the British Isles. I like hearing the ways people talk, especially their different accents. And then there are all of the stories.
Playing music is on the schedule everyday. I religiously follow an instruction that was given to me by the great jazz and flamenco guitarist Charlie Byrd, when he was sixty-five. He told me: “Practice your scales everyday. I still do.” And I still do as well.
Billy in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame February, 2017 Photo by Kim Peery Sherman
Making things out of music is what I like to do – I’m fascinated by the life-cycle of songs; which are first written, then recorded, and finally shared with an audience, at which point a whole new journey begins…
Over the past forty years I’ve recorded five solo albums and written over two hundred songs. I’ve performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and played loud electric guitar on international rock tours. I have worn the hat of producer, facilitator, teacher and composer. I established and ran a successful studio in the mid-Atlantic area for fifteen years, facilitated a music program at the Baltimore City Detention Center for five years, taught at the University of Maryland Baltimore County for ten years and composed music for Maryland Public Television.
Billy in the tambourine at the Baltimore City Detention Center, 2002 Photo by Sam Holden
Some things I like to do other than music are: yoga, walking, cooking, reading, making black walnut ink, writing with a dip pen and playing in the dirt or at least outside. My sister recently told a friend that “my brother always wanted to be a farmer” and there may be some truth in that. I can say, like the farmer, I am always hopeful.