Jim Abel's Music Hall

                                                        The Lee's Summit Journal June 13, 2008

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Friday, Jun. 13, 2008

Former executive trades briefcase for guitar case

By Brett Dalton

The Journal Staff

 

Looking at him now, it’s hard to imagine Jim Abel wearing in a nice suit, carrying a briefcase and sitting through board meeting after board meeting.

It’s been so long since he’s lived that life, Abel probably has a hard time imagining himself in that way, too.

Now he’s just a man with a guitar, spilling his soul as he plays small to mid-size venues throughout the Kansas City area. A child of the 1960s, Abel said he’s now channeling his inner flower child that was somewhat suppressed during his years as a business executive in Chicago and Kansas City.

“I’m a hippie,” the Leawood, Kan., resident said. “I was a hippie in the ’60s and I’m still a hippie today. A lot of my music is colored like that.”

A songwriter since his youth, Abel recently released “Thunder,” his first professionally produced album. The record was released on May 27 and can now be found in most of the Borders stores throughout the metro area. He can also be heard online at www.kccafe.net, an Internet-based radio station that plays only local artists.

Next week, Abel will bring his unique style of folk and alternative music to Lee’s Summit. On Friday, June 20, Abel will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. at JP Coffee, located at 3390 S.W. Fascination Drive near the Metropolitan Community College–Longview campus.

Jim Abel playing outdoors
photo by Martha Gershun

June is a busy month for Abel, as the Lee’s Summit gig will be one of 12 shows this month. In a “normal” month, he said he plays around six or seven shows. With the new album out, those numbers may continue to increase.

“I had been playing a lot,” he said. “I would go to various coffee houses and bars and people started asking about a CD. The songs I was playing weren’t currently on a CD, so I thought I better jack it up a bit.”

Abel said his “Thunder” album is a collection of love songs — although he prefers to describe them as relationship songs. He said the songs discuss love and the more intricate parts of relationships — not simply the mushy stuff.

“I write songs that I think have a hopeful outlook — an optimistic outlook,” he said.

Completely content with his life now, Abel lets out a sigh when asked to talk about his former life as regional executive for a not-for-profit hospital company in Chicago. It was a busy life full of traveling, meetings and making important decisions. It was a fun life, he said, but one far different than his current reality.

“I enjoyed being an executive, but it was high pressure,” he said. “Being a performer, all the pressure comes from within. Whether it be picking up the guitar and practicing or having an idea and seeing if you can turn it into song. There are so many things you have to do, so I pretty much have to be a self-starter.”

Abel came back home to the Kansas City area — he grew up in Independence — after his stint in Chicago. He worked for a while with Research Medical Center before taking some time off to travel. He then had a son and became a stay-at-home father “for the next 18 to 20 years.”

He began to really dabble in the music business around 2003 and has released four independent albums since that time. Much of his music — inspired by artists such as Woody Guthrie, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan — can be heard for free at his Web site, www.wordsandmusic.us.

While keeping involved in the world of investing, Abel is at peace in his studio or on stage. For him, he finds solace in his music.

“I really care about the music,” he said. “I love to write music. I’m a good performer and connect well with the audience, but what I think I’m best at is writing songs. I write songs that are intelligent, that appeal to people and that move people. I make them think a little bit, and I also make them laugh.”

He doesn’t aspire to sellout huge arenas — although he wouldn’t mind playing Sprint Center or Madison Square Garden. Ideally, he’d be in the audience listening to his own songs.

“For me, what would be wonderful is if I could sell my music and have other performers perform it,” he said. “Then my music gets a wide distribution.

“But I would still perform,” he said, “because that’s how you perfect your craft.”

Abel said it’s fair to ask why a former corporate executive now spends a lot of his time playing music in bookstores and coffee bars. The answer, however, isn’t too simple.

“It’s really like asking any writer why he writes,” he said. “You do it because you feel like you have something to say or you have a song inside that wants to get out.”

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