Breakups crack our carefully crafted shell of reality. From inside our shattered world, just before what could be the dawn of a new day, we peer out and see only darkness. That’s the time award-winning singer-songwriter Kira Small’s aptly titled album, 3 AM, was hatched. Thankfully, she toughed it out and put in the time to bask in the light. Her breakup paved the way for profound creative and... more
Breakups crack our carefully crafted shell of reality. From inside our shattered world, just before what could be the dawn of a new day, we peer out and see only darkness. That’s the time award-winning singer-songwriter Kira Small’s aptly titled album, 3 AM, was hatched. Thankfully, she toughed it out and put in the time to bask in the light. Her breakup paved the way for profound creative and personal breakthroughs.
“The breakup actually strengthened me,” the Nashville, Tennessee-based artist says. “It taught me to own my badassery. Going through this process has definitely helped me recognize it, and not be afraid to walk into a room with it hanging out unapologetically.”
Kira garnered an engaged fan base through her earthy and elegant solo albums and her supporting roles alongside some of modern music’s most esteemed names. Her signature artistry encompasses gospel, soul, country, R&B, and jazz. It’s a blue-eyed soul aesthetic that melds down home emotionality with touches of harmonic sophistication. Kira has the chops to sing jazz and soul and has lived enough life to sing the blues. This rare blend has made her an in-demand session singer with such icons as Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Peter Frampton, Wynonna Judd, Ray Price, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, Deep Purple, Ray Stevens, Jimmy Hall, Jamey Johnson and more. In addition, Kira has been featured as a live performer with Martina McBride, Radney Foster and Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), she has had a recurring role as a backup singer on ABC’s Nashville, and she spent two years as a member of Berklee College of Music’s Voice Department Faculty.
Kira has been touring as a solo artist for nearly a decade and is an Independent Music Award Winner and an International Songwriting Competition Finalist. She has released two smoldering R&B-flavored solo albums with producer Bruce Dees (James Brown, Ronnie Milsap).
Her 2010 album, Raise My Voice, was a pivotal album in her solo career. It’s a stirringly soulful release featuring Motown and Muscle Shoals studio veterans and empowering messages, exemplified by the standout track “I Will Raise My Voice.” Kira has continued this musical and personal journey on her latest project. “This record is a new version of me raising my voice, and getting beyond fear,” Kira says.
3 AM is one of those albums where an artist, in making sense of a time of personal upheaval, almost accidentally crafts a career masterpiece. Kira’s breakup was leveling, and only in processing its painful complexity and rebuilding her life could she craft such an emotionally visceral and honest album.
“The message of the album is that I learned not to harden myself. I could have shut down and said ‘screw it, I’m done,’ but this wasn’t love’s fault,” she reveals. “It strengthened me, I began to genuinely trust myself, and for the first time in my life I got angry and realized I deserved better.”
3 AM is a raw and refined album. The ten tracks brim with profound late-night musings, whiskey-guided reflection, and that sweet spot where threads of soul, jazz, and quiet fire blues interlace. “Any one of those tracks could have been written at 3 AM. It’s that time where either you wake up panicked, lost, or with an epiphany. Or if you’re up then, can’t sleep and you’ve been drinking whiskey and things are getting real—truths are coming out,” Kira says.
The album transports you to those moments in many ways. Producer Neilson Hubbard (Glen Phillips, Matthew Perryman Jones) had the ace Nashville band track live for in-the-moment emotionality, kept studio polish to minimum, and used the vocal takes that dripped the most honesty. For her part, Kira—an accomplished keyboardist—decided to delegate that role and focus on connecting with her vocals. “I just stood there and bled these things out. You can hear the cracks in my voice—these emotions didn’t come out smoothly,” Kira confides.
3 AM is powerfully sequenced as a narrative boldly chronicling her breakup. Opening the album is “Attention,” is a slow burner that conjures the tender longing of Al Green’s classic Royal Studios/Hi Records sides. The song lays bare the emotional territory in the opening lines: Don’t make me beg for your attention/I’m so tired of asking for just a little bit of your time. The ensuing tracks grapple with the painful inevitable—it’s over. Reality hits at track six, “3 AM,” the album’s emotional centerpiece. Here the lonesome organ and elegantly sparse guitar set up a backdrop for Kira’s vocals which ooze gorgeous slow-as-molasses melancholy as they attempt to make sense of the breakup. The song paints a picture of despair—you can see the smoke rings and smell the scotch. Up next, the frisky R&B track “Fire Starter” is the turnaround. “That where our protagonist says ‘f*** this’ and pulls herself up,” Kira reveals.
The story has a happy ending. 3 AM concludes with the simmering soul track “Gift That Keeps On Giving.” Here, with proverbial hand-on-her hips swagger, our leading lady tells it like it is, summing up her journey and its redemptive lessons.
Kira says: “I didn’t know how strong my heart was, but after all the pain and anger, someone new showed up and I chose to love again.”
As she embraces an authentic new life (Kira married again in May 2016) steeped in powerful growth, she reflects back on the transitional 3 AM time. “The more I tell the truth, the more I can stand behind my life and my music, and the more it all resonates with people,” she says. “Breaking through that shell, and singing honestly connects with people…even if it’s at a whiskey soaked 3 AM, and a hiccup sneaks out,” she says, laughing good-naturedly.