Kim Mitchell Grants "Wishes" For New Music
By David DeRocco
When the stage lights came on at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre marking the end of the KIM MITCHELL show March 11th, I really didn’t think it was going to be the last live concert I’d see in 2020. Wanting the COVID-19 pandemic to be over so we can all get back to enjoying the things we love seems like wishful thinking – which is appropriate given the fact that “Wishes” is the title of the surprise new single recently released by Mitchell, the multi-platinum, JUNO Award winning rock music icon and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee.
Released this summer, “Wishes” is a beautiful track inspired by the A.C. Child’s poem of the same name. It’s a poignant plea for the simpler things in life, an appropriate message during a global pandemic when people around the world are reconsidering what’s truly important in their lives. The emotional acoustic track is the first taste of Kim’s highly anticipated forthcoming new album, THE BIG FANTASIZE. Slated for release in November, the album is Kim’s 13th studio offering and the first full-length recording since 2007’s Ain’t Life Amazing. Co-produced by close friend Greg Wells (Keith Urban, Adele, Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots), THE BIG FANTASIZE is a musically expansive collection of Kim Mitchell tunes that showcases his strength as a well-seasoned songwriter. In support of the release, Kim took the time to chat with GoBeWeekly about the album, getting back on stage and
GoBe: Good to see some good things happening during the time of Covid. It looks like the new album The Big Fantasize is coming together nicely if the first single is any indication.
KIM: Yes, it is. We’re going to release another track soon, a live version of “Rockland Wonderland.”
GoBe: How far are we away from getting the entire album?
GoBe: An early Christmas present for fans!
KIM: Well, ya. We just want to get it out. I wasn’t thinking about Christmas or anything like that. I guess that just works out.
GoBe: What’s the story behind the title, The Big Fantasize.
KIM: It’s not a deep thing at all. We had a bunch of things that we were just floating around and that one sort of caught my eye, The Big Fantasize. We had about a dozen titles we were looking at. I just like that because we’re all dreaming, you know. We’re living in the moment but as human beings we’re always fantasizing about something big, something bigger. I just liked it.
GoBe: That certainly is in perfect sync with the first single, “Wishes,” which is just a beautiful pining for life’s simpler things. The sentiments in this song are those of someone who has learned the lessons of what is important in life. Do you think you could have written that song as a younger man?
KIM: I’m not sure. Probably not. I don’t think as a younger dude I would have sat down and written something like that. That’s a good question. There’s stuff that we would never be able to write in our youth that we can now after a lifetime of experience and living life. By then you’ve been kicked in the crotch a few times.
GoBe: So are any of the wishes reflected in that poem and song the same three wishes you were alluding to in the song “Easy To Tame.” Or were those a wholly different set of wishes.
KIM: (laughing) Yea, “Easy To Tame” is under lock and key, those wishes. All we said decades ago was ‘they begin with the letter H and we’re never telling what they are.’ So it’s up to you, the listener, to decide what they may be.
GoBe: I kind of figured these wishes were a little more idealistic than the three mentioned in “Easy to Tame.”
- Nine times out of ten it’s not really peachy writing, you know.
GoBe: I get it, we’ll leave those alone. I will say I was kind of intrigued to find out this song was a bit of a struggle to complete. Your press says out of the 150 or so songs you’ve written, this one took the longest to come together. Why was that?
KIM: I’m not sure, I just know the song felt a bit awkward the whole time. The part that I wrote I wrote right away. I wrote the verses right away. I liked them, although I actually changed the verses quite recently near the end of the writing process, the second half of the verses I switched the chords up a little bit. I just knew that musically it just didn’t feel complete. Every time I came at the song I couldn’t find the part where I said, that’s it! I didn’t have that “ah-ha” moment, it’s done. It was all, nah, that doesn’t really fit. I was always walking around like that. Some people would go, wow that’s a beautiful song. And I’d say, yea it’s not done. What do you mean? I was like, it’s not complete. I don’t know. It just took as long as it took. One day the chorus came and the solo came and it all happened within an hour or two. And I was like, ‘there, that really feels like it belongs.’
GoBe: It is a beautiful song. Are you jonsing to play live and get some of these new songs road-tested?
KIM: Wow, is a ten pound robin fat? (laughs) Yeah, there was a while there where I was fine not playing. It was sort of the first time in my life I dropped my shoulders and wasn’t in a hurry to get out. And then about a month ago, I’ll be honest with you, I was like, ‘oh man, this is wearing thin, I would love to get out and do some gigging.’ But I would never want to put my audience at risk. And I don’t want to play a drive-in. The last thing I want to hear at the end of my songs is horns honking or be staring at fucking car headlights.
GoBe: Yes, not the best concert venue for an intimate collection of new songs.
KIM: Rock and roll and what I do, including playing some of these songs, I’m not going to play the whole album. I’ll cherry pick a song or two from it. People want to hear what they know, so I’m all good with that.
GoBe: The song titles I’ve seen seem to reflect a particular theme. It looks like there was some time of reflection woven into song titles like “Georgian Bay,” “Best I Never Had,” “2up2beDown,” and “Summer Lovers Autumn Wine.” Were they written recently.
KIM: No, they were written over the ten years, 13 years since the last record. Some of them were quite recent. “Georgian Bay” is an early one. “Old Marriage Waltz” is an early one. “Time to Stay” is more recent. “Red Horizon” was written a while ago, but it was just an unfinished tune and an idea that got finished recently.
GoBe: What prompted the production of the album? Why now?
KIM: Well, good question. I really wasn’t even planning on making another record. I was happy just playing my gigs, playing “Rockland Wonderland,” “All We Are,” “Wild Party,” “Patio Lanterns,” “Lager and Ale.” There are lots of songs for myself and my audience, for me to be a musician and be satisfied just playing my stuff. But then Greg Wells my producer came along and heard these songs and said, ‘geez man, this is a side of you that you haven’t done enough of. Let’s record this.’ I said ‘you’re Greg Wells and you want to record this?’ He was like, ‘yes, come on to Los Angeles, let’s record this.’ So it was kind of his fault.
GoBe: When did you go to L.A.? When did the process start?
KIM: We started a couple years ago.
GoBe: At this stage of your life and career, when you lay new music down, what’s the initial underlying emotion upon completion. Is it a sense ‘glad that’s done,’ or do you recognize there’s always that phase two of playing, marketing, and talking to guys like me?
KIM: For me, the creative part is the lovely part. It’s the journey, it’s the hang, it’s recording with other people. All that’s a beautiful thing. Once all that’s done, it’s mixed emotions. It’s a let-down, it’s glad it’s over, because it’s hard work. It’s really exhaustive hard work, but I don’t mind doing this though. I always like talking and yacking to people. After years in the music business I’m sick of talking about myself, but generally it’s just a conversation about music mostly, so I’m happy to do all this.
GoBe: I don’t know if you ever think about it, but you are an iconic Canadian musician with fans across this country. You are much beloved and your music means a lot to a generation of music lovers. With the induction to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, have you had a chance to really sit and just reconcile your career and what it means.
- That’s a fantastic question. I never did until recently. Probably this year was the first time I’ve sort of been looking over my career going, “geez, I did okay.” I’m a pretty self-deprecating kind of guy, but I also know like every human being, we’re on the planet to do something for humankind or the planet. I’m really proud for what I’ve done. It was a conversation that happened with a buddy of mine that made me realize that. One day I went to see this specialist, this doctor. I was so impressed with all the stuff on his wall, things he’s been awarded. And he just seemed so smart. And my friend went, ‘dude, that’s great, but don’t discount what you’ve done. You’re making it seem like you’re not worthy. You’ve made a huge contribution to the Canadian music scene. You’ve turned on hundreds of thousands of people at shows over the decades. People have come to see you play and you made them happy. That’s just as cool as what any doctor’s going to do to your eyes or whatever the heck the specialist is looking at.’ So I sort of started to reflect on it then. It was like, wow, I guess I have done some nice stuff. I don’t have an ego wall to remind me of that, a wall in the house full of gold and platinum records. I do have one triple platinum award up that I’ve always taken with me for “Shakin’ Like a Human Being.” That’s kind of it.
GoBe: Given the first single, it’s safe to say the one thing we all wish for is more time. Not everyone gets it. We recently lost one of our own Niagara natives last week with the passing of Brighton Rock’s Gerry McGhee. Just wondering if you knew him and had any thoughts.
KIM: I didn’t personally know him but we’ve done many shows with Brighton Rock. We probably did speak over the years. I was sorry to hear that.
GoBe: We’re of an age where a lot of the big names, the guys in the Stones and The Who and other legends will all be going soon.
KIM: Yes, it’s going to happen. It’s a part of life. I try not to dwell on it or get all uptight about it. It’s part of aging, acknowledging that and accepting that. I feel that same stuff that everybody else does at my age, somewhat ‘oh oh.’ Ian Thomas said it best. He just looked at me and said, ‘duck!’
GoBe: So lastly, what’s your favourite song on the album. What should we all be looking for as Kim’s favourite song.
KIM: I can’t pick a favourite. It’s a funny thing right now. You’re going to have to ask me that in a couple of years. When I put my album on at home, I end up listening to the whole record. I’m not sitting there going, this one is wearing thin on me. I think one of the more intense ones is one called “Best I Never Had.” I’ve not going to say it’s my favourite, but it’s a pretty intense song. It’s got some intense energy in it. It’s not a fast, hard rocker. It’s just got some intense emotion in it without sounding too vein popping in the throat.