Hearing Aide: Kimberly Schad “Mystic Kingdom”

Kimberly Schad debuted her new self-produced, four-song EP, Mystic Kingdom, Friday evening at The Palace Theater, bookending her eighteen song set with the tracks from the new release. In this case I saw the concert before listening to the EP, it gave insight to the formal version and how Kimberly sees the music in a bigger picture.

She is an artist who has complete control over her music and how it’s presented. In the studio she handles all facets of the project, from vocals, piano, keys, to programming, mixing and producing, besides one tasty guitar track on “Secret” from Kevin Farrell (Hard Promises, The Hurricanes). Live, the lush stage production and instrumental ensemble represent her complete vision.

Her backing band consisted of her long-time partner Will Masiclat – keyboards, sampling and video, Travis Reed – piano, Andrew Greacen – guitar, Jim Lucas – drums and Gary Lucas – percussion. All of this tied together with her father, Tim Schad, mixing F.O.H. and her uncle, Steve Schad, as L.D.. The stage was set with flowing white drapes, an elevated, spinning riser at the center with an antique chaise lounge and access ramps on each side dressed in white. Dozens of moving light fixtures cast their colors in dramatic scenes accentuating the setting combined with a rich, full mix of ear candy for the highly receptive crowd that assembled. All of the songs performed were Kimberly’s compositions with the exception of four covers that will be noted along the way.

The show and EP opener, “Secret” has a Spanish note and feel, brought to bear through the acoustic performed by Andrew Greacen and the drums/percussion/sampling. Her vocal reading gives many hints at what was to come from her in both the concert and the EP. She has a tremendous grasp on what she feels, believes and practices. “After Midnight” is deep and proggy, while flexing her R&B and trip-hop chops. The breadth of Kimberly’s lyrical content becomes evident even more here, as she often does, speaking from her soul, deeply.

“Dirty/Money” features the piano of Travis Reed, a voice we’d hear from often through the show, a brilliant young talent who played as if he wrote the material. A deft touch with ease and a knack for the open spaces. Kimberly mixes in a taste of Drake’s “Star 67”, the code on your phone used to block your number when dialing someone. Stalker? Joker? You decide. The next song is one I’ve been told the background story for and it has twisted my listening a bit since. “Nothing But a Bitch” is a biting send-off to emotional attachment delivered with an appropriate bitch-slap. “Where R U Now?” was the first cover of the evening, the Skrillex/Diplo collab. featuring Justin Bieber is given a fittingly electro-pop read and hits right in her sweet spot.

Following a costume change, Kimberly took to the piano, solo, where her art truly comes from. Hitting on yet another mark of professionalism, that being the whole picture, the aesthetic, were well looked after. “Afterglow Confessions” is a post-show expression of love and emotion toward her muse. These moments directly after baring your soul to an audience can be some of the most reflective to an artist. One of the highlights of a show filled with them, this one stands out clearly. Travis took the stage again for Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece, “All Is Fair In Love” with more than a hint of Jennifer Hudson’s take on it. Immaculately executed, Kimberly’s voice and Travis’ piano brought the crowd to a height of exuberance, it was simply brilliant. “Look Outside” and “Twice,” a Little Dragon cover, stayed in the piano/voice form, lending clarity to the vocals and space to the piano, both flourishing within it.

“When I Think Of You,” “Might As Well Be Magic,” and “Solid Ground,” all being from Kimberly’s deep repertoire, grow and develop with time and perspective. They’re reflective of her maturing as an artist and a person, it’s remarkable to behold. “Two Weeks,” the final cover of the night, this time by FKA twigs, is emblematic of where she is now. Dream Pop, Trip-Hop, Prog R&B, Trap Nouveau, way too many different influences to pin-point, which is probably thee point.

“Fly” and “See Your Face” lead us to the final two songs of the night expressing more themes from her life. She exhibits her behind the scenes skills in tracking, sampling and triggers that become pillars of her compositions. It shows in every note. “One More Time” marks Greacen’s chance to bring his electric guitar to the ensemble, he does it well, perhaps a bit under the mix, but layering textures is what it’s all about. I’d like to hear more of him. The closer, “Mystic Kingdom”, is a signature piece that is perfect in its placement and character. It sums up much of what the performance was about and what we have to look forward to from Ms. Schad.

While Mystic Kingdom is Kimberly’s first officially released EP, it’s apparent that there is much more to be heard from her. She has plenty of material for two full length albums and her skills as a writer, performer, producer and engineer are growing in giant steps. Her consciousness toward the larger picture and vision are strengths many will never enjoy. At twenty-six, she has a very long way to go and all of the faculties to get her there. Congratulations on the magnificent work and we cannot wait to hear and see what comes next.

The EP is available for purchase on iTunes and CDbaby and can be streamed on Spotify.

Setlist: Secret, After Midnight, Dirty/ Money, Nothing But A Bitch, Where R U Now? (Skrillex/Diplo), Afterglow Confessions, All Is Fair In Love (Wonder), Look Outside, Twice (Little Dragon), When I Think Of You, Might As Well Be Magic, Solid Ground, Two Weeks (FKA twigs), Fly, See Your Face, One More Time, Mystic Kingdom

You can see many videos of the songs performed in earlier concerts on Kimberly’s Youtube page, and keep up with her on her website, Facebook and Twitter.