Derek Kinsaul
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Derek Kinsaul

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The Red Roof Sessions



Derek Kinsaul has a difficult time determining just when he learned to play guitar, "It seems like it has always just been there," he says. As a young child in Athens, GA, Kinsaul remembers listening to his dad play and mimicking his licks. After his family moved to Dothan, AL, he'd spend that time playing to Steely Dan and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the radio. "For the longest time, I was sort of a loner. I'd just sit in my room by myself and play," he recalls, "Actually, I'd probably be a lot better now if that had lasted." But Kinsaul soon began playing throughout his hometown and surrounding areas in high school and college and developed a loyal following. In the summer of 2002, he moved to Raleigh, NC to play and record. "I think Raleigh was a big step for me in terms of songwriting," Kinsaul says, "For most of my career, I'd played other artists' songs and hadn't focused as much on my own." In Raleigh, Kinsaul worked extensively in the studio on his original music and began playing his own material. "I don't really have a songwriting formula. It's all instinct for me. I try to draw on real experiences, but I take liberties. It's nice to experiment with the line between what's real and what's bullshit sometimes." After leaving Raleigh and touring throughout the southeast for three years, Kinsaul developed a core group of fans who were committed to his original songs and soulful, bluesy, new-folk sound. "I almost stopped cold the first time I played my own music and people in the crowd were singing along. I still can't believe that," Kinsaul says, remembering a show in Mobile, Ala. His evolution as a songwriter continued in the summer of 2005 when he commenced recording in Nashville. "I tried to add interesting sounds to the songs, with more emphasis on percussion and strings." After completing his sessions in Nashville, Kinsaul reluctantly packed up and moved to New York to play for new audiences and finish his debut album. "I'm the most unlikely New Yorker," he says, "I never thought I'd make it here." And although he still considers himself a misfit in New York, Kinsaul's fan base has grown exponentially since his move. "You can't underestimate the value of playing for new people. A good crowd after a few beers will always shoot you straight. There's no sugar coating or worrying about hurt feelings. If the song's good, you'll know right away. And if it sucks, you'll figure that out pretty quickly too."