Because she has been seen singing around the area so often—frequently on bills with fellow activist performers Lee Dazey and Chris Good—Kim Elise may be thought of as principally a singer. But she is quick to point to her songwriting as well. She is a resident of the Riverside artists’ lofts.
How long have you been a performer?
Since the beginning of the ’80s.
Are you from Reno?
No. I’ve lived here 38 years, and my grandfather and grandmother lived here in the ’50s.
How did you end up here?
I was assistant regional director for H&R Block down in Southern California, and they decided wives could not be in the managerial positions, so we moved here to Reno and took over the Reno and Northern Nevada franchise.
What year was that?
[Rolling her eyes] Way back when! That was 1971.
How did you get from that to singing?
Well, I come from a musical family. My dad was pretty famous in Canada. We lived there for a while. We weren’t Canadian. I always liked to sing, but he had such a bad experience in show business that he quit in his 40s. I thought I’d never sing, always wanting to. So when I came to Reno, you know, I always liked singing, and I just decided in my mid-30s to do it. So I played at Earth Day for eight years in a row. I do an open mic at Dreamers. I’ve been hosting open mics since ’83. And I’m involved in peace, Native Americans, social justice, those kind of things.
Tell me about your music.
Well, I do a wide variety of music, but I’m a songwriter, also. And I do those themes in my songs. So I do folk. It’s pretty much folk. I do a lot of Celtic stuff. I played on a person’s breaks down at Ceol, so I want to kind of do a little more Celtic music. But I do pretty strong songs. I think they’re emotional and hard-hitting and also political, so they use your brain and your emotions together.