Andy Kim

Andy Kim: Grounded and Grateful

Andy Kim

You would think a musician whose career includes more album sales than Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, or J. Lo* would be at least slightly affected by his massive success. You would think that someone who has had his songs covered by the likes of Bob Marley and Ike and Tina Turner might be sick of hearing his decades-old hits played over and over.

to analyze is to paralyze

But you would be mistaken in the case of Andy Kim. Fame and fortune has not changed his friendly, down-to-earth outlook on life.

The Montreal-born singer/songwriter remains solidly grounded, thanks to a stability that comes from being the third of four brothers: “I understand the pecking order.” Andy graciously assured me that being the oldest of six did not translate into a lack of groundedness: “You have your own way of understanding the hierarchy of where you are.”

“I try not to analyze. I read a quote that I think was by Martin Luther King, ‘To analyze is to paralyze,’ so sometimes I just don’t think. I just kinda live each moment as best I can, knowing the values that my mom and dad had given us and represent them at every turn.”

This man has never forgotten and will never forget that he is the third of four brothers. He understands hierarchy, and knows that he will gain very little by getting puffed up about his fame and fortune.

Does he enjoy them? Certainly.

One of Andy’s most famous songs, “Rock me Gently,” was recorded and produced independently, making Andy an indie performer. This song, written in 1974, sealed Andy’s place in music history. He was established for life. Later, to Andy’s delight, the song was featured in a Jeep Liberty commercial in 2007. It was “a gift,” says Andy emphatically about both the song and the commercial. “It’s been able to give me a phenomenally wonderful lifestyle!”

live the moment

A wonderful lifestyle that allows him to have fun and live in the moment like he does best. He told me the story of running into a fan who was so excited to have met him and who asked Andy to play at his sister’s birthday. Andy fondly remembers the experience: “There’s a reason why… it’s a reminder that I’ve been really lucky!”

Andy Kim was born into a warm and friendly family of Lebanese heritage living in an apartment building in Montreal in the early fifties. In 1969, when he was still a teenager, Andy co-wrote the very popular “Sugar Sugar”, performed by the Archies and originally presented in an animated clip featuring the characters of the Archie comics. Andy went on to cram eight other top 40 Billboard hits under his belt, including his first, “How’d we Ever Get This Way? and “Baby I Love You.”

Later in his career, Andy was named to the Billboard Hits Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and awarded two JUNO awards, one for Outstanding Achievement in the Recording Industry, and an “Indie Award” for Favourite Solo Artist.

After “Rock me Gently”, Andy’s career slowed down significantly. He had no more billboard hits after that, though he did produce some tunes under the pseudonym Baron Longfellow. For more than twenty years, the world heard very little from Andy Kim.

Then, in the late nineties, things came together once again for Andy, thanks in part to Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. BNL were big fans of Andy’s, and becoming a Canadian institution in their own right. Andy, Ed, and Stephen Page, formerly of BNL, successfully performed a song together for an Ontario music festival. Ed was instrumental in convincing Andy that he should get in the studio again. Andy was on his way to a new place in the consciousness of music fans.

you can't take canada out of the boy

In 2010, more than forty years after his first hits, Andy released Happen Again, a collection of ten songs written throughout his lifetime but never heard by the public.

“It has taken a different shape,” Andy says of the experience of recording this latest album. The world is different, the industry is different, the scene is different. And Andy is no longer a teenager.

Regardless of his age, Andy will always be Canadian, through and through. He will always be proud of his Montreal roots and all of the culture that came with his upbringing: “No matter where I went around the world, even at the beginning, I really represented my mom and dad and my brothers and then my country.”

Andy lives between LA and Toronto, and feels like he has the best of both worlds. He gets to escape Montreal winters while enjoying the warmth of southern California. But in Canada, he says, nine out of ten people will not only give you directions but take you to show you where you need to go: “It’s part of us.”

Bayfield, Ontario, where Andy will be performing on June 16th as part of the Bayfield Concert Series, is one of the places in Canada where Andy felt at home on his first visit. Ron Sexsmith, a favourite of the Bayfield Town Hall stage, invited Andy to join him in Bayfield last summer, and Andy was captivated:

Bayfield

And of course, you know I agree!

Enjoy both Bayfield and Andy Kim on June 16th. For more information, visit the Bayfield Concert Series website, or simply book your tickets at Ticketscene.ca. Tickets are also available at Ernie King Music in Goderich and The Black Dog Village Pub in Bayfield.

The last word I will leave for Andy:

“Being an icon? That’s for others to decide. I just see myself as living out this wonderful dream.”

*Don’t quote me on this. A website told me so. I chose to believe it.

dave bidini

Dave Bidini: An icon of Canadiana comes to Bayfield

dave bidini

(Disclaimer: This post is unlike any other I have ever written. Bear with me–it’s worth it.)

Have you heard of Dave Bidini? I hadn’t before last week.

Shame on me for not discovering him before. Or on whomever knew about him and didn’t tell me.

Dave and the BidiniBand are performing at the Bayfield Town Hall tonight (@ 8 pm–get your tickets at TicketScene.ca), and while I have loved every performer I’ve ever seen on that stage in the Bayfield Concert Series, I’m more excited about Dave Bidini’s appearance at The Village Bookshop before his show (@ 6 pm–casual book signing) (sorry, Pete).

Mr. Bidini is a musician. More than that, he’s a rocker. He’s a founding member of the Genie Award-winning Canadian band Rheostatics, a group that was together from 1980 to 2007 and which Wikipedia tells me was called both “iconic” and “iconoclastic.”  Four of Dave’s ten books are about music. He and music have been inseparable for much of his life. But it’s not Dave’s music that fascinates me.

He has been performing longer than he has been publishing, but he has been writing longer than he has been playing guitar. When I asked him if one of these two intertwined vocations held more meaning for him than the other, he says “the two have been very close in terms of their evolution.” So no. He’s a writer and a rocker.

dave and a guitar

And a filmmaker and a playwright and a National Post columnist and a family man and a hockey player…

This man is ironically difficult to put into words. I say ironically because he is so prolific with words. So prolific that I hesitate to believe anything I write could even do him justice, let alone commend him to my community. I will give you my impression, and then encourage you to read what others have written, as well as Dave’s own words.

D: I think the pursuit of songwriting is a little bit deeper for me in that the reasons for creating, really simply, are reasons to stay alive, to keep moving. You almost write more out of fear, I think, than anything, when you have a sort of legacy or whatever.

The highest praise I can give Dave is to tell you that every article and book excerpt I have found convinces me to read another. He has a way with words, a voice like I have never seen before. He is at once frank and intellectual, silly and smart.

S:  Fear of what?

D: I think the fear of artistic mortality, really. Also, the fear of one’s own achievements, the specter or the shadow of one’s achievements. It’s great that they exist, but also, as you get older, you want to try to do better, get stronger.

His deep, gravelly voice booms through my iPhone’s speaker, warm and rich and personal.

This man does nothing by halves, from attempting to redefine Canadian music with the Rheostatics, to relating sex and hockey in his project The Five Hole Series, to following our favourite sport around the world to Dubai, Transylvania, and Mongolia for his documentary film Hockey Nomad.

I can’t imagine this artist’s mortality getting in his way anytime soon.

D: I’ll be 49 in September, and …when it sort of comes to the realization that you’re closer to death than to birth, and [you think] of all of those miles and all of those words you’ve written and all of the art you’ve created, you’re aware of the weight of it. When you’re 24, you’re splashing around in a pool and you don’t really have anything to stand on. Now, I have something to stand on.

He has ten books, at least sixteen albums, a documentary, two plays, a column, and a brief stint as a CBC radio show host, to say nothing of a long history as a music and sports journalist, to stand on!

Home and Away

Today, I’m honoured that this icon of Canadiana will be standing on Huron County soil, in one of the best places to experience the best artists our country has to offer: Bayfield, Ontario.

D: Bayfield is one of those big small places. You would never really know it when you pull into town. That’s what makes it a super place.

~ ~ ~

The BidiniBand’s latest record is In the Rock Hall (2012).

Read this fantastic Toronto Star article about Dave and the BidiniBand.

Dave’s book Baseballissimo is being made into a movie co-written with Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote the screenplay for the recent hockey movie Goon, and whom you might know as an actor from How to Train a Dragon, Knocked Up, and
She’s Out of my League
.

Check out Dave on CBC’s Strombo show.

Watch Dave’s hockey documentary Hockey Nomad (follow the links for the rest of the parts).

Follow Dave’s column in the National Post.