Gallatin is set to welcome back one of its favorite famous singers, Kimberley Locke, when she returns home to headline the Gallatin Eclipse Encounter on August 21. It’s a natural choice to showcase one of the town’s most unique events with one of the best and brightest to come from the area.
Born in Portland, Kimberley moved to Gallatin as a little girl. Throughout her childhood she could be seen singing around Sumner, starting with her first talent show at Rucker Stewart Elementary. She sang at church, Key-Stewart United Methodist, and then formed a group with her friends Chandra Boone, Selina Robb and Nacole Rice that became quite well known in the community, Shadz of U.
“It was really a beautiful thing to have so much love from so many different people,” Kimberley says. “They loved what we were doing. We loved what we were doing. We knew that by using our voices, we were not only uplifting ourselves, but uplifting other people. We knew we all had a gift. We individually had gifts, but collectively our gifts were much more powerful. Now that I think about it, the community support at that young age, was just amazing. You couldn’t really ask for better.”
One person Kimberley says was an inspiration was local vocal coach Vera Warrick. “She taught us from very early on, you got to practice,you got to practice, you got to practice. So after school, we were at somebody’s house practicing, every day,” she says. “I kid you not, if we all got together today, we practiced so much that we could sing a song for you and you would think that we practiced every day still.”
When Kimberley and was in junior high she couldn’t wait to audition for the high school choir, led by local music luminary James Story. Even with all of her experience she was worried she might not make the cut.
“I can remember when he showed up at the junior high school and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m meeting him today. This was the day,” she says. “It was such a big deal in my mind because I’d heard so much about the program and the choir and the cabarets and the shows. I wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted him to like me. Honestly, if I didn’t make it into choir, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”
Her talent was undeniable to the Sumner County community, it wasn’t until after she had just graduated from Belmont University when the whole country got to know Kimberley’s voice as a contestant on the wildly popular second season of American Idol where she came in third place to winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken in 2003.
“It’s full circle,” she says. “Gallatin is where I started. Gallatin is where I cut my chops, so to speak. Gallatin is where I grew up.”
While in town Kimberley will get to spend time with her family, eating some family favorites like fried catfish or the signature soft rolls at O’Charley’s.
“I have some guilty pleasures and I always want a home-cooked meal when I come home,” she says. “I always like to meet up with my friends and just hang out. So the great part about Gallatin now is that there are a lot of places to do that.”
It’s an indulgence the Celebrity Fit Club alum and onetime Jenny Craig spokesperson allows, especially as she has settled into a place of health and body acceptance after having her body discussed on a national level for years.
“My group of friends that I hung out with, we were so confident and we were so strong. But as I got into the industry and I realized there was so much focus on body image, it was not a very pleasant thing for me. When I got approached to be on Celebrity Fit Club, I did not say yes right away. After American Idol I was getting a lot of questions about what it’s like to be plus-sized in Hollywood, which, I really hadn’t given much thought to. But when you’re asked that question over and over again, it does kind of get into your brain.”
Today, Kimberley runs a coaching company, Journey to a Better You, where she helps people navigate their own weight loss. “Sometimes it’s about weight and it’s about food, and sometimes it’s just about managing your life. And I realized that all those things go together.”
Locke says the hometown performance won’t be like any other, for many different reasons. One, she’s pretty excited her nephew will be able to see her on stage for the first time. Another is the fact that many of her bandmates were also high school classmates.
But ultimately it is a way for her to show those all the people who supported her early career here what kind of woman and performer she has become.
“From Mr. Story’s perspective, and the people in our church, they’re going to get to see the grown-up Kimberley on stage, evolved,” she says. “Not the little girl that was standing in front of the church singing on Sundays. It’s just a continuation of what was started in Gallatin a very long time ago.”
Learn more about the Eclipse Encounter at visitsumnertn.com.