At a show I watched fairly recently (back when live music shows were still a thing), I witnessed a display of flashiness and soul unlike anything I had ever seen. The singer had immaculate pitch—and she created one of the most unique and pleasurable concert experiences I’ve ever experienced.
I got to meet the artist after the show, and her name was Keisha D—this year’s choice, by readers of the Independent, as the Best Local Musician.
I spoke to “Keisha D” Mimms over the phone recently—and had the pleasure of telling her about her win.
“Oh my goodness. That was worth waking up and taking a shower for!” Mimms said. “We’ve had COVID going on, and most people know I’ve been quite ill. Just to be thought of, and not forgotten, after trying to give something to them that they would enjoy—that just means a lot.”
Throughout her career, Mimms said she’s always strived to make her performances positive.
“I started singing at 13, and all I ever wanted to do was perform,” Mimms said. “I’ve been so blessed, because I’ve been able to do it since I was a kid, and travel and give back to communities. I did missionary work where I was a featured vocalist in different spots. It started out with singing ministry, and then I got into the classics and some pop music. It was always a positive spin.”
Keisha D has now been performing in the Coachella Valley for more than two decades.
“I didn’t come here to start a music career,” Mimms said. “I came here to slow down. I had always done real estate; my parents always told me to have a backup. I did commercial real estate with my family’s business. When I came out here, I ran a brokerage firm. I got started singing again through volunteering for a dance-team program. They would do musicals, and I would help with the musicals, and sing. The mothers would always ask if I was a professional, or why I wasn’t singing out here. The next thing you know, one of the mothers told me to do the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call. I didn’t even know what that was, so I looked it up. I got my entry in at 4:45—and it was a 5 o’clock cutoff time. I stood there in the office filling out forms and making sure I got in. I ended up winning for best vocals. That’s what really got me started here, singing those nights and having people go, ’Who’s that girl?’ Once I won, people started calling, and the McCallum asked for my permission to give my phone number out.
“After that, I hit the ground running. I was saying, ‘Sure I can sing for this; sure I can sing for that.’ The mayor of Palm Springs would ask me to sing at an event. I’ve even sung for his own wedding anniversary. I just started booking for all types of functions. Then I started working at a school, mentoring for music, theater and dance.”
Keisha D has kept performing despite struggles with serious illnesses.
“I’m under doctors’ care,” Mimms said. “It’s complicated, because there are so many things going on at once. I have pancreatic issues, and now I’m really suffering terribly with autoimmune disease, and it’s debilitating. I thought fighting with pancreatic cancer was brutal, but this has become outrageous. I’m still plugging away, though! They’re keeping me as comfortable as possible, and hopefully I’ll be able to do what I have to do until it’s time.
“I really need all the positives, because I live in pain every day. It’s a bit devastating. I look at footage from last year, and I’m onstage going back and forth, dancing, singing and laughing. Today, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s difficult, but I’m positive that I still can do what I can do. I’m doing some virtual concerts, where now I just sit with my band. It’s a little more calm—not as much gyrating.”
The pandemic has not stopped Mimms from using her music as a positive force: Recent virtual concerts have benefited other musicians.
“When I’m asked, I’ll do things at Frankie’s (Old World Italian Bakery and Café),” she said. “They are doing this thing called Project Bread, where they help musicians who don’t have income and are struggling. Some of us other musicians are going in and performing, and people are donating gift cards and money. Any musician can go over there and ask for $50 for groceries, or whatever they need. I’ve been doing shows for that cause. I’ll be performing there again Dec. 18.”
Her Keisha D Scholarship Fund, via the Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District, benefits “under-served minority students who are interested in pursuing their education in music and performing arts.”
“When I became sick, I realized I may not be singing or performing that much, so I wanted to leave something that would be ongoing forever,” Mimms said. “That’s when I created the Keisha D Scholarship Fund, when I realized that a lot of these kids in school don’t have the opportunity to get everything they need for college.
“It’s through the Palm Springs Unified School District. Every year, seniors can apply for the music scholarship and are allotted a certain amount of money, as long as they are going to a four-year university and have an acceptance letter. Anybody can go there (to www.psusdfoundation.net/donate) and donate any time they want. We always need to keep funds in there. My first recipient was Oliver Trinidad; he’s a horn player, and he went to Biola University. I wanted to be able to put something out there that will make a difference for young people.”
Keisha D expressed sadness about the way in which artists have been treated during the pandemic.
“It has been really difficult,” Mimms said. “Never in my lifetime would I think I’d see something like this, where we are not allowed to sing out in public—then to be told that musicians, on the totem pole of essential, are last. There are a lot of ways to do this thing safely, and keep us on the mark, especially if you’re doing things outside. I wish they would let us at least set up some Plexiglass and give the musicians an opportunity to get back out there. Then again, I understand, and my doctor just told me I can’t even go out, because it’s that bad right now.
“It’s really funny, because I laugh at some of the artists who said that they couldn’t perform without an (in-person) audience in front of them. They must not be real performers then. It’s like television: How many times have you watched a live concert on TV and had a great time, because you got to see the artist you love performing? If you have the resources to do a virtual show, then get out there and reinvent yourself! There were over 3,000 views at my livestream show at Frankie’s, and I had many people say how great it was to see me, or how happy I made them. That’s what it’s about.”
Both fans and people unfamiliar with Keisha D can look forward to experiencing her talents on an upcoming live album.
“We’ve taken all the different venues I’ve sung at, cleaned up the music, and put it into a CD,” Mimms said. “Part of the proceeds will go to the Kiesha D Scholarship Fund, and another part will go to all of the musicians who participated in it. It was supposed to come out in October, but that didn’t happen, so now we’re shooting for January.”