A song in her soul
For all the accolades she’s received — a singer/songwriter award from Lawrence and increased demand to perform across the state, etc. — Damaris Kunkler still isn’t comfortable calling herself a genuine singer/songwriter.
You could have fooled the large crowd that gathered at Iola’s Timeout Tavern last weekend to celebrate the launch of Kunkler’s debut, self-published CD, “Come Sit By My Fire,” which consists of tunes and ballads she’s written over the past 20 years or so.
The capacity crowd hooted and hollered to each of Kunkler’s songs, all of which she performed solo on her acoustic guitar.
“As for the performing part, it’s something I enjoy,” Kunkler said, “and I enjoy meeting lots of people.”
So popular was the performance, Kunkler nearly sold out of all 100 CDs she brought with her to the performance.
”Gotta order more,” she laughed. “That was cool.”
The CD is the latest in a journey that started at childhood, when Kunkler’s father, Leon, would sing to her each night before bed.
“Some dads would read to their kids,” she said. “Mine would play ‘House of the Rising Sun.”
Eventually, Leon taught his daughter how to play.
“Once you get a few chords down, you can play almost anything,” he told her.
She took to it quickly, but largely kept the music to herself.
KUNKLER’S history with music belies her energetic personality.
While she’s never been shy about meeting new people, she shied away from performing her music in front of anyone. “The music,” she figured, “was just for me.”
For the next 20 years, Kunkler would play, usually at home, and only for her kids, son Arion and daughter Elysia. (Two of the songs in her debut CD are lullabies she’d written for each.)
That changed about seven years ago — on her 40th birthday, to be exact.
“I decided I wanted to do something that scared me,” she laughed. “I thought I could go skydiving or something, but then I figured I wanted to do something that would stick with me.”
So Kunkler decided to take her music to the public.
She began performing in front of friends, then in front of small groups around town.
Funny thing is, she began to enjoy the experience, particularly when meeting other locals in the music scene.
“My confidence grew as I met them, and they encouraged me so much,” she said.
Damaris Kunkler autographs one of her CDs during a launch party April 6 at Timeout Tavern.
KUNKLER was content to do just that. Perform on weekends, or whenever she had spare time.
That changed when her older brother, Lenny, fell ill last fall.
“He was touch and go for a while, and it really hit me that we never know what the future holds,” she said. “And my kids are getting older, and I wanted to do something for them.”
Arion graduated from high school a few years back. Elysia is a junior this year at Iola High School.
Kunkler decided to turn some of her favorite songs into a CD, largely as a gift to her children.
“These were the songs that spoke to me,” she said.
She sat down with Tate McCoy of Eureka, one of her new friends in the music world, and recorded the songs last fall in McCoy’s recording studio.
Her original goal, to have the CD ready by Christmas, came and went, so Kunkler set her sights on another deadline: her 47th birthday.
Mission accomplished. The CD release party came one day after her birthday.
Along the way, Kunkler received more than words of encouragement for her music.
She took first place in March at a singer/songwriter competition in Lawrence, which earns her the right to record another CD in the near future.
And she has other live performances on the way as well, starting next weekend as part of the Owl Creek Jamboree Music Festival at Chanute Elks Lake. Kunkler is slated to appear Friday.
She also has started up her own music page on Facebook, simply titled “Damaris.”
For those interested in purchasing a copy of “Come Sit By My Fire,” check out her Facebook page. Digital downloads will be available soon as well.
SO NOW, is Kunkler comfortable with calling herself a musician?
“I I know what my lane is,” she chuckled. “You can call me a singer/songwriter/musician.”
That said, she isn’t looking to become the next Beyonce.
“I love music, but if I didn’t perform, that’s fine,” she said. “I’m a mom. That’s what I do.”