East Nashville's The Smoking Flowers Smolder and Blossom in Wake of Cancer Battle
The first two albums by alt-country duo The Smoking Flowers helped give shape to the continually evolving East Nashville sound. And, when their third album comes out in 2015, husband-and-wife musicians Scott and Kim Collins will celebrate it, in part, as a triumph over breast cancer. The couple worked with a board-certified physician to successfully treat the disease into remission without pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy, or radiation.
At first glance, Kim appears delicate, fragile even, in a becoming sort of way. Then, when she talks about her battle with breast cancer, the perception of fragility evaporates.
“When you’re treating cancer holistically, you are treating the whole body non-toxically, not just the tumor,” Kim says. “You’re not killing your immune system, as with traditional treatments.”
And when she sings the songs she and Scott wrote in the wake of the diagnosis that came in January 2012, she’s defiant. It would be easy to mistake the song “Outlive Me” from their forthcoming release as punches in the air at the memory of a former love interest. The lyrics take on a new gravity when her true target — cancer — is known.
You are a hurricane, I am a beach.
You ain’t gonna outlive me.
Arms around your demons, hugging them like a friend.
You ain’t gonna outlive me.
“I wrote that song as a fuck-you to cancer itself,” Kim says. It’s worth noting that the song is upbeat, if not danceable. And that’s by design.
“It’s not a somber album,” Scott says. “Its tone is triumphant and fist-in-the-air. It’s driving-100-MPH-in-a-convertible kind of stuff. Our truest selves have finally come out fully.”
Kim is sinewy, she smiles a lot, and she’s beautiful — her dark hair falls well past her posture-perfect shoulders. She wears earth-tone breezy, blousy layers, and faded jeans in their East Nashville cottage, which boasts charming purple shutters and a red front door. Scott mills about the kitchen a full foot above Kim, even when she’s wearing cowboy boots. He’s rugged, stylishly unshaven, wears contemporary glasses, and parts his tussled, curly bangs down the middle. His subdued cowboy-snap shirt with silver-tipped point collar and a colorful tailored jacket suit his lanky frame. His jacket sleeves deliberately stop short of his wrists so his shirt cuffs receive ample visibility. His look is decidedly neither Nudie nor Manuel, and it makes a forward-facing case for what New Nashville’s look might aspire to be.
Kim plays guitar, mandolin, drums, and accordion, which not only adds variety to their sound, it’s an economic windfall when they hit the road — there are no roadies, managers, or backing band to pay.
“Growing up, I was playing various instruments anyway,” Kim says. “But it didn’t really come to fruition until I was playing in a band in a supporting role. I don’t like just standing there singing and doing nothing else.”
The couple shares singing responsibilities, too — often featuring creative arrangements that break from the ask-and-answer duet mold or strict harmonizing formulas. And, despite being born from a potentially life-ending diagnosis, the lyrics from their forthcoming album sell optimism every bit as much as the rock-and-roll beat they ride.
We can roll a snowball out of Hell
And I can be with you, ’til the end
For more information on The Smoking Flowers, visit www.thesmokingflowers.com.
-- by Skip Anderson