Kim Mitchell says Songwriter Hall of Fame honor caught him off guard
Kim Mitchell still wonders what he did to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The 69-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist, co-founder of eccentric rock band Max Webster and former radio personality Q107 said when he first heard the news of the induction – which will take place live on Global Television’s “The Morning Show” Wednesday morning – he thought it was a mistake.
“You know, you see gold records and platinum records coming in,” a disbelieving Mitchell said on the phone Friday. “You feel like you could win a Juno Prize… but it caught me off guard.
“When they put this in place, I said, ‘Are you sure? Do you have the right person? ‘ And when they said, ‘Yeah, and we’re not just inducting a few songs, we’re inducting all of your work.’ I’m like ‘What?’
“So I started to think of other people like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot – and then Kim Mitchell?” Is that so? I’m kind of the weird guy in this part of the room. I’ve always felt that in the music business: ‘Okay, he’s a weird guy playing in this weird Max Webster band.’ “
For the record, Sarnia-born Mitchell has a long list of fan favorites with both his band Max Webster – “Hangover”, “The Party”, “Diamonds Diamonds”, “Paradise Skies”, “Oh, War” – and as a solo artist – “Go for Soda”, “Lager & Ale”, “Patio Lanterns”, “Easy to Tame”, “Rock N ‘Roll Duty” and “I Am a Wild Party” – for more than the qualify for honor.
Add 13 studio albums – five with Max Webster and eight of his own which have sold a total of 1.5 million in Canada – three Juno Awards and being the only recipient of a Platinum ticket for attracting over 100,000 spectators, which he won. awarded by Kingswood Theater when it was a going concern, and Kim Mitchell’s legacy is one of the most cherished and enduring in Canadian rock music.
Mitchell – who calls his home in West Toronto a neighborhood of “kings, queens, and strudel makers” – says his induction as a designer is significant.
“A lot of feelings went through me,” he says. “I look back on decades and decades and, dare I say it, 49 years ago: writing your first song.
“You keep your head down and you write and write and the only time you look for inspiration is for inspiration. I always say to songwriters, “Keep your eyes open, keep your ears open, keep your heart open. It’s good to hurt yourself, that’s where your content comes from. ‘
“Then you put your head down and you write songs again and every once in a while it’s’ Wow, there are gold records. There are platinum records. The Songwriters Hall of Fame… Really? It was quite breathtaking. “
While Mitchell is thrilled that his entire catalog of songs has been inducted, there is a touch of melancholy to mark the occasion: Pye Dubois, the primary writing partner of Mitchell, the man who wrote the lyrics for the majority of his most famous pieces, will not be there to celebrate his colleague.
The two fell out years ago and to this day Mitchell says it’s a mystery to him why they are apart.
“I haven’t heard from Pye in decades,” he says. “I don’t really know what happened or didn’t happen; I just remember once receiving a note from a lawyer saying he didn’t want any more contact and that was the last time I heard from him. I don’t know what I did or what I didn’t do.
Mitchell said even officials from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame tried to contact Dubois.
“They tried to reach them and there was no response, so for sure, I’ll accept him on his behalf… unless he shows up at the last second.” But yes, I am grateful.
Mitchell said he admired Dubois’s words because they were difficult to pin down.
“What I liked about Pye’s work is… it wasn’t stories… it was pictures,” he explained. “He built images in your mind and images, and that’s what I loved about his work. This is what I would pass on to the writers later – I just want images from a script – to put an image in someone’s mind.
When the Mitchell-Dubois collaborations came to an abrupt end, the guitarist, singer and songwriter moved on.
But he says he does not bode ill will towards Dubois.
“Whatever Pye’s reasons are, I hope he leads a happy life,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a shame on some level that everything that was going on wasn’t sorted out, because I thought there was really good chemistry there as writers.
“Luckily I’ve made my way with other writers and got material I’m extremely proud of with guys like Jim Chevalier, who I grew up with; Andy Curran, who was with Coney Hatch, and Craig Baxter, who did the last two records with me. I love the way he throws the English language on paper.
At the end of 2020, Mitchell released “The Big Fantasize” – his first album in 13 years – on El Mocambo Records.
It was a project he never intended to do.
“I wasn’t going to jump into the fire anymore,” he said. “They were songs that were leftovers that I had written along the way, more atmospheric stuff. There was no “I’m a wild party”, it was more of a “vibe-y”. I was on tour and I was just enjoying playing live and I was like, “If I don’t do another album, it doesn’t really matter anymore; life is OK.
“But I had a major heart attack about five years ago and (former Kim Mitchell Band keyboardist and now mega producer) Greg Wells, he stopped by the house on his way back to LA.
“We went for a nice walk and he asked me if I was writing. I gave him a USB drive and a few weeks later I heard him say, ‘I love this stuff, let’s do an album.’
“So it was his fault,” he laughs.
Reflecting on his career as a songwriter, Mitchell said there is no “secret sauce” in terms of producing hits.
“We just decided to run the 12 notes,” says Mitchell. “That’s all we do and that’s all I did; throw them on paper and throw them on a guitar.
“I think quantity is more important than quality. You have to do a lot, persevere, and maintain your confidence.
“This honor is just really, really nice to me, especially in a COVID year where you are losing your mind a bit… and then it happens.”
To celebrate her induction, the Star asked Mitchell to name her five favorite songs, identified with their backing album:
1. “The Hangover” – Max Webster (“Max Webster”)
“I really liked ‘Hangover’ because it was one of the first songs we wrote. It was simple, it just popped up and I’m here, about 40 years later, and every time I stop this melody, those who have heard this song have crazy flashbacks.
2. “Diamonds Diamonds” – Max Webster (“High Class In Borrowed Shoes”)
“Crazy as Max Webster was, they had a nice side too. This song is one of the nicest. I love the bass part Mike (Tilka) came up with. There’s a really nice Terry solo ( keyboardist Terry Watkinson) mounted on it, and the pretty lyrics.
3. “The best I’ve ever had” (solo, “The Big Fantasize”)
“I’m pretty proud of the song that’s about to be released, ‘The Best I Never Had’, from my latest album, ‘The Big Fantasize’. “It was a great experience to record and to have Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry), who was in my band at 17 and has become this fantastic well-known record producer, said to me: ‘I love it. these songs: come to Los Angeles and let’s record them! ‘ And I said to him, ‘I can’t pay you, man.’ And he said, ‘Whatever, come on, these are great songs and your audience needs to hear them.’ “
4. “Rock N ‘Roll Duty” (solo, “Rockland”)
“‘Rock N’ Roll Duty ‘was probably the fastest song Pye and I ever wrote. I remember he walked upstairs, walked into my house and I was like,’ Pye, I’m going to have dinner in 20 minutes. “My wife at the time was making dinner downstairs. And he said, ‘I have that idea.’ I stand at the door and watch the lyrics. We went up to the writing room, which is the third bedroom in one of my first little houses. After 20 minutes, we went downstairs and my wife asked: “How’s it going up there?” And Pye replies, “Oh, I think we just wrote a hit.” I would never be so modest, but yeah, this whole song was done, top to bottom. . I also love him because I sat next to Steven Tyler at the Juno Awards once and he said, “Dude, this song is amazing! How come you’re not more famous? Why aren’t you? ‘isn’t that a hit in america?’ He got into this rant, so I have some cool memories attached to it.
5. “Patio Lanterns” (solo, “Shakin ‘Like a Human Being”)
“I have to include ‘Patio Lanterns’ because it was my most successful song and it wasn’t really who I was at the time. My message to other songwriters is this: don’t be afraid to write anything. If you’re a death metal songwriter and a country tune comes out, go ahead and let it go to its natural conclusion.