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- Posted on Jun 17th 2010 3:30PM by Nick Flanagan
How did you approach the making of 'I Forgot To Mention?'
I'm really a fan of music. I've always been interested in what's going out there. I went out to the studio with the purpose of just having a band and cutting it live, doing the vocals as live as possible. I'm really excited that we kind of captured something, and I'm hoping whatever it is we captured, people can relate to.
Can you tell me a little bit about your beginnings?
I never really thought about it. All I knew was that for the environment I lived in, the family I grew up with, the music that was played came from a faraway land, the US. I'm sure the Beatles felt the same way, whether it was listening to Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers or Elvis or any of their influences. I think my environment was shaped by what my older brothers played and what I was able to hear on WKBW and WABC in New York, late at night.
Just all the great sounds and all the great music. Early on I became excited about the sounds of all the majestic productions of Phil Spector and the songwriters of the Brill Building, who I am very honoured to have learned so much from. I was influenced not so much by my immediate surroundings, but by the dream from another planet, which was rock and roll of the late '60s and '70s. It's always been a wonderful feeling to eventually meet people like Roy Orbison, and to meet John Lennon -- who gave me my first gold record -- and being part of the Brill Building heritage.
To me that really kind of signifies what is important to me, and that is songwriting, and songs and songwriters. That's basically who I am in a nutshell.
How did you get the courage to leave Montreal as a teen and go it alone in New York?
When you're a teenager, the world is yours and nobody knows what you're going through, basically. You don't listen to advice. I just had this burning desire ever since I was 12 years-old to do this, and I just found a way to do this. As an adult, one looks back and says, "Oh my god, we were so young." Well the truth is when you're a teenager, you're immortal. You can do what you want to do and nothing is going to go wrong. There's a certain bravado that a teenager has, and it's not based on experience, so basically ignorance is bliss at that point.
I was fortunate enough that I was taller than most teenagers in the neighbourhood, I was really so strong in my belief. The belief was only in my head, but it was real to me. I had relatives that lived an hour and a half away from New York, so if I got into any problems [I could call them]. My mom and dad made me call them collect every 15 minutes.
What is your particular songwriting method?
I come from the belief that you can't teach songwriting. You can teach a craft, and you can hear the craft if it's only craft, but if I can paraphrase Sir Paul McCartney when he was asked how he and John wrote all those great songs, he said "I don't know, it was just magic." The truth is that's how it starts. You're inspired to write something or sing something or come up with a lyric, but the craft doesn't start yet -- the ability and the feeling that you've heard something that you hold onto and say "I think I've got something, I don't know what it is but I think I got something." That to me is the important part of knowing what you have. Songs represent your take on life, your take on something you've been inspired by.
You don't like the word 'bubblegum', do you?
Well, y'know, first of all, that's a derogatory term, especially in 1969. ['Sugar, Sugar'] turned out to be the song of the year and the record of the year. It turned out to be a song that Ike and Tina [Turner] recorded and Bob Marley recorded. So if you're looking at the song, the song was written for a Saturday morning television show. I thought I was writing 'She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah,' because if you look at 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and 'She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah' and 'Teddy Bear' and 'All Shook Up,' those songs [line up] with 'Sugar, Sugar.' Those are songs that make you feel a certain way. They weren't written for any other purpose than how the songwriter was feeling. I think with 'Sugar, Sugar' -- who knew it would become this iconic song? In 1969, the year of Woodstock and the Vietnam war, to have a song that hearkened back to the early 1960s in spirit was maybe not expected.
Maybe it was healthy.
Yes. It's an interesting thing when you sell millions and millions and millions of records around the world -- that means that these people have actually gone and purchased something that they want to be a part of and take home and play as many times as they can play. And then someone decided, "Well, it's uncool" -- that's a little bit of an absurd thought to me.
What music inspires you at the moment?
Anyone who wants to be inspired, who loves what music can do to you, go out and get the new Broken Social Scene. It's just brilliant. I do this charity Christmas show every year at the Mod Club in Toronto, and the guys were there this year and kinda previewed one of their songs. I just stood there with my mouth open. You can hear the inspiration. You marvel at the craft, but it's the inspiration that gets me in awe.
Andy Kim plays the Horseshoe Tavern on Thurs. June 17 as part of NXNE.