Kim Mitchell still loves performing in front of an audience.
The travel? Maybe not so much.
“To quote Keith Richards, the two hours onstage are amazing (but) I wouldn’t wish the rest of it on anyone,” he says in a telephone interview from southern Ontario.
“But do I get tired of it? No. I must admit, I still love it. I’ve always loved what I do – strapping on a guitar and playing kinda loud. My whole thing is to try to bring some escape, some happiness, for a couple of hours.”
The veteran Canadian rocker, who rose to prominence in the 1970s with the band Max Webster before embarking on a successful solo career that started in the mid-1980s, will be the Friday night headliner (Aug. 2) at the 2019 Riverfront Jubilee.
Mitchell’s songs are all over classic rock radio stations, and you can easily picture the teenagers of the late 1980s, who grew up and had children of their own, passing along Mitchell’s songs to a younger generation.
“It kind of freaks me out to see kids in their 20s – at my age, to me they’re kids – singing my songs, and it’s humbling to be a piece of fabric in the music they listen to.”
He only makes it to Atlantic Canada once or twice a year, but sings the virtues of east coasters and the general friendliness of the people – whenever the subject comes up with people in central and western Canada.
“I’ll tell them they need to go to the east coast at least once, to see how we should be treating each other.”
Three songs with Kim Mitchell:
GO FOR SODA
Mitchell and his then-songwriting partner Pye DuBois (he’d been in Max Webster and wrote the lyrics to most of Mitchell’s hits) were at a party one night, and the vibe wasn’t really happening. Mitchell turned to DuBois and said ‘what do you want to do? Should we get out of here?’.
“And Pye says, ‘let’s go for soda – nobody hurts and nobody cries.”
Mitchell immediately loved the line, and that’s how the song was born. It became Mitchell’s only hit in the U.S. and is arguably his best-known song.
“You know when you’re arguing with someone and you can’t resolve it, and you just throw your arms up in the air?” Mitchell says. “That’s what that song’s about.”
• • •
Patio Lanterns almost never saw the light of day. When Mitchell and his band were recording it for his 1986 album Shakin’ Like a Human Being, it was a difficult process.
“I think we spent a couple of days trying to get the right take on that song,” he says, “It took me three more days to sing it, and it took a long time to mix it. To this day, I want to re-record the vocals. I wanted to take that song off the record.”
Luckily for his fans, it made the cut, and remains a staple of rock radio, more than 30 years later.
“It was a real experience for Pye,” Mitchells says of the song’s lyrical content. “And he did date a person named Joy.”
(the verse referencing Joy goes:
“And I was stuck on Joy, that was her name
We didn't talk much
She was a nervous girl
I was a nervous boy”)
“I think it connected with something in everyone – having that first date, that first kiss.”
• • •
EASY TO TAME
“It has more of a country-ish feel, a little bit different,” he says of Easy To Tame.
It might not have felt like a Kim Mitchell song to him, but he rolled with it, climbing on the wave to see where it took him.
“It was one of those times when I said, “I’m just gonna let this happen.”
Mitchell was living in an apartment and was doing some songwriting for Shakin’ Like a Human Being, and one day his mother dropped in for a visit.
“The memories that come with that song. I played some of my songs for her that day, and she got up and started dancing to Easy To Tame. She’s long gone now, but I can still see my mother dancing in my apartment.”