When Kimberly Dunn says she appreciates her fans, she has good reason.
The singer-songwriter, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2011, has released two EPs in the past four years, funding one through Kickstarter, the online service that facilitates donations to artists and their projects. For her first full-length disc, she relied fully on a Kickstarter campaign. Fans came through with $10,000, she says, which she used to record the album. Forever on the Run was released in October.
Dunn, who now lives in Austin, says she felt "an overwhelming sensation of love and giddiness" at the generosity.
"Like when you see your best friend, or someone that you love and it's been a long time -- I had that same feeling," she said in a recent phone interview. "Like my heart rises in my chest, and I get so elated that there are people out there -- most of them I have never met in my entire life -- and they want to help me with my dream."
The album is part-new material and part-reworked compilation. She took songs from her previous EPs -- including Randy Rogers, one of her earliest and catchiest tunes -- and recut them for the album, matching them with a batch of new tracks.
The album's first single, Trashy Side, is a sort of gloves-off throwdown with a female rival in pursuit of her man. The track was written by artist and producer Rachel Loy, and Dunn said she was initially reluctant to sing it.
"It was a pride thing," she says. "I was like, 'I don't want to put something out that I didn't write, because I feel like I'm not being honest about my fans and my music.' At the end of the day, that song fit perfectly with all the other things that I wrote, and it was just something different. And it really is fun to sing other people's songs sometimes. So it's been a really cool learning experience and a huge learning curve for me."
A Trashy bonus: It namedrops Jolene, the man-stealing, auburn-haired beauty portrayed in Dolly Parton's classic 1973 hit of the same name, which is one of Dunn's favorite songs.
"We cover Jolene every single night," she says. "If we do a set, we always cover Jolene. Trashy Side is a much meaner way of singing Jolene. It's like the sassier version of it."
Trashy Side also serves as a "stepping-off point" for her next album project, Dunn says. She calls it a move back toward her roots -- classic rock and bluegrass -- with more athletic vocals and a heavier guitar sound.
"A lot of this next record is based off of my experience touring, and what I like to perform," she says. "I like to perform those upbeat rocking songs that make people want to dance or headbang to -- maybe not headbang to, but dance. So a lot of it is going to be based on what will get people off the barstool and onto the dance floor."
Dunn has a nonprofit organization called the Dunn Good Foundation, and says her team has a different focus each month. They've played for kids at Texas Children's Hospitals and helped out at a horse refuge in the Hill Country. This month's focus is a canned-food drive to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Anyone who brings a canned item to a Dunn show this month will get a discount on merchandise, and she says she will match the can count.
"The Dunn Good Foundation is the reason that I'm still doing this," she says. "It definitely keeps me in the right mindset for sure. This music industry, it's easy to be 'all about me,' but it's really way bigger than that. It's the guys onstage that are putting their heart and soul into it. It's my team, my parents. And then on top of that, where all of that money goes to, it should go back to the people that are making us feel so great about what we're doing. That's the whole idea of the Dunn Good Foundation, giving back from our blessed perspective."