Jim Abel's Music Hall

                             435 SOUTH MAGAZINE INTERVIEW January 2008

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SPOTLIGHT: JIM ABEL

Chasing the Dream
Leawood corporate executive turned singer/songwriter
          is making his mark on the Kansas City music scene.

                                                              words kalsey mccall  |  photo paul versluis

    Singer/songwriter Jim Abel may not have a record deal or a top-20 hit, but this former corporate executive and Leawood resident has made his dreams come true, proving it’s never too late to make a change.
    Growing up, Abel’s father played a significant role in the way that he would learn to appreciate music.
“My father grew up in the 20s, 30s and 40s, so he loved movie musicals,” Abel says. “To me, that particular influence is very evident in all of my music. I’ve been listening to the American Songbook since I was a kid. People like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein are high on my list of greats.”
    Abel says his unconventional musical style also draws influence from legends such as Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, Janis Ian, Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton.
    “It’s not the type of music you hear on the radio, so I really never know how people are going to react,” Abel says. “Twenty years ago, I would have called myself a folk singer, but now I’m not sure exactly what that means. I think my sound is more of what people today call ‘indie’ music. I write songs in which the lyrics matter in a big way—a much more significant way than in conventional music played on the radio.”
    Despite growing up in a musical home with an innate interest in music, Abel did not write his first song until after he graduated college and entered the demanding and high-powered world of business.
    After  attending  Wheaton  College  in Wheaton,  Ill.,  Abel  moved  to  Boston  to work for a small company doing research and development for the automotive industry at the time that the Clean Air Act came to be part of the country’s legal framework.
    “One day, while I was working in Boston, my boss asked me what I would really like to do,” Abel recalls. “I’m sure he had something totally different in mind, but I replied that I really just wanted to write songs.   He looked at meas if I were insane. Needless to say, he’s still a businessman. I write songs.”

       Abel then became part of the Austin Scholars program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University before accepting a position with a healthcare consulting firm in Chicago where he became a top-level executive at an expedited pace.
       It was then that Abel made the move back to Kansas City to care for his aging parents while working for Research Health Services. After a few years, Abel resigned from his position at the Kansas City-based company and took a year off to travel extensively.
    “Some people might say I just can’t hold a job,” Abel says with a laugh. “I just needed a break.”
    Upon his return, Abel became a full-time private investor, making the move to part-time when his son Ted was born.
    “I’ve always tried to really be around for my son,” he says. “A job with flexible hours allowed me to do that.”
    But two years ago, when Ted left home to attend college at KU, Abel picked up his dream right where he had left off so many years ago. Abel began attending meetings of the Kansas City Songwriters’ Circle, an alliance of Kansas City singers and songwriters who get together and play for one another on a regular basis.
    “When I started going to the Songwriters’ Circle, I was immediately struck by the quality of music I would hear,” he says. “There is so much good music to be heard in this city, especially out south, and the incredible thing about it is that these are not full-time musicians.  These  are  people  with  day  jobs and very full, busy lives.”
    Garnering positive encouragement from the group of singers and songwriters and gaining notoriety from others in the community, Abel began to book gigs at cafes and coffeehouses throughout the city, all the while continuing to write original music.
    “My inspiration really comes from all over,” he says. “I really can write a song   about   pretty   much  anything.

Often,    I’ll  write  a song  based on a phrase or a thought that comes to mind. I also writea lot of humorous songs, which more often than not come along based on accident or incident. For example, one time I was talking with a friend, and instead of saying ‘window of opportunity,’ I misspoke and said ‘widow of opportunity.’ And so a song—a rather funny one—was born.”
    Additionally, Abel writes songs about more serious, progressive issues such as politics and the environment.
    “I don’t want to enrage anyone, but I do want to inspire people to think,” Abel says. “I’m a product of the 60s after all. I am a unrepentant hippie.”
    Through the years, Abel has been invited to play at Kansas City hot spots such  as  the  Main  Street  Coffee  House, the  Roasterie  Café  and  was  the  first  ever singer-songwriter to play at Starbucks on the Country Club Plaza.
    Recently, Abel has begun playing gigs at Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard in Leawood as well as at Johnson County Community College. And this winter, you can catch Abel at the Daily Dose at 135th St. and Quivira Ave. on Feb. 2 from 9 p.m. to midnight. Abel also plans to play on the patio at Spin! Neopolitan Pizza in Overland Park come spring.
    But for those who can’t make it out to see him perform in person, Abel has three CDs available for purchase and is currently working on his fourth to be released in early spring  2008. His newest album will focus entirely on the concept of relationships and includes numerous pure love songs as well as a plethora of humorous numbers.
    “My wish is that everyone would realize that dreams can come true,” says Abel. “I am a living testament to that. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it and you are willing to take a risk. People get trapped in situations they don’t want to be in because they can’t see any other way, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to do the same thing your whole life. You can turn the corner. All it takes is a little courage.”

42 | 435 SOUTH MAGAZINE      

All songs, words and music, plus the entire website © 2008 and various dates by Jim Abel

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