Prolific L.A.-based songwriter Kari Kimmel has placed an impressive 650-plus songs in television shows (The Walking Dead, The Office) and major films (World War Z, Southpaw) and composed more than a dozen theme songs, including “Where You Belong,” which opens the hit TV series, The Fosters. With her strong pop music sensibilities, Kimmel has an uncanny ability to write quickly, which is an asset in her field.
“After doing this long enough, you understand what works and what doesn’t. The production can’t be too distracting, the lyrics can’t be too specific, but still must be interesting,” Kimmel says. “And now I watch film and TV differently. Before, I watched to be entertained. Now I specifically notice the music, and why it works.”
In the mid-2000s, when Kimmel was still just an aspiring songwriter in Florida, a friend of her mother’s pointed her to a radio and records convention in Los Angeles, where Kimmel passed out copies of her demo. Babysitting back at home, she got a call from a guy who was interviewing for jobs at different record labels and wanted to play her demo at the interviews. Kimmel was offered deals from three labels, and subsequently moved to L.A. where she found she had a knack for writing music that paired well with film.
“Most songs I write are written in 15 to 30 minutes,” Kimmel says of her high musical output. “If it doesn’t happen that quickly, I’m generally over it and move on. I think I have a bit of ADD where I have to be completely engaged––and not feel like it’s work. For me, writing songs should be a freeing experience and an outlet.”
Over the past decade, Kimmel has been dropped, scooped up and dropped again by various labels, as well as urged to stick to one genre. Kimmel says learning to trust her instincts was a process, but ultimately one of the best things she could do for her own career. “In the end, I did what I wanted,” she says. “I had labels and management and publishing telling me to stick with a genre. I never listened, and it’s helped so much because I write in so many different genres, and they fit so many types of projects. What I did for The Walking Dead, for example, is completely night-and-day from what I wrote for The Fosters.”