Kim Stockwood and CIUT's Ken Stower
Kim Stockwood and CIUT's Ken Stower

A Conversation with... Kim Stockwood

St. John’s-born pop singer/songwriter and television and radio personality Kim Stockwood has recorded an eclectic body of work over the past 12 years, but she’s most chaffed about Back To the Water, which was entirely recorded on the island of Newfoundland and can be purchased on line at Maple Music, and iTunes.

Bill King: It was November 11, 1965, in St. John’s, Newfoundland and there was a major earthquake…

Kim Stockwood: Snap and crackle.

B.K: It marked the arrival of Kim Stockwood.

K.S: You know, this is my first time at Hart House on the campus of the University of Toronto, I’ve lived here twenty years; it’s so beautiful! There’s just a great energy here. I may have to go back to school just to hang around here.

B.K: Are you looking for someone to carry your textbooks? Who carried them in St. John’s?

K.S: I did. I never relied on anyone. 

B.K: What was high school like for you?

K.S: I was pretty outgoing — I’m a little hyper. Twenty, twenty-five years ago, when I was in school, I was probably a bit scarier. I was an outgoing girl and I didn’t really know what I was meant to do on this planet. I’m a bit klutzy, I was musical and ended up in university drifting into English — my degree was in English because I got an A on an English paper, for no other reason. Then I discovered I could do some actual music stuff and played piano a bit. My singing career happened after I graduated from Memorial.

B.K: Were you singing around St. John’s or maybe Corner Brook?

K.S: Nope. I sang at my friend’s wedding and a high school graduation which was a total mistake.

B.K: Was it the choice of song?

K.S: it was the “Ode to Newfoundland.” I was playing piano and the singer got sick and couldn’t come and they said, “You’ve got to sing it.” I sang it, probably the first time I ever sang in public and never thought it was something I could do seriously. A few years later I sang a Fleetwood Mac song at a friend’s wedding — little weird things like that.

B.K: When did the mix of media thing happen? 

K.S: It came later. You know what’s incredible about your life is the way you see it. You may think I’m going to go to university; then get a job — life is going to be grand. It’s never that straight. You have to be open to that. Sometimes there is another plan than what you have in your head. You may think you are going to get from A to B in about two days yet it may take you four years. I tried to be open to all that stuff in between. For me, radio was something that oddly happened.

I graduated with an English degree and ended up filling in at a radio station copy-writing ads for on-air. I guess I was entertaining in the office and the morning show host used to come in everyday and say, “Who are you?” I’d say, “I don’t know, I’m just a fill-in for two weeks writing copy.” 

The last day before I was supposed to finish, he said, “Could you come with me.” I thought, Oh no — what’d I do? So he calls me into the general manager’s office and says, “I would like you to be my co-host on-air.” I had no radio experience. I was about to go do my masters at McGill — thinking I would do communications because it was easy for me to talk, but this opportunity presented itself and I thought, what should I do? I tend to believe things happen for a reason, so I talked to my folks and decided to try this job. I co-hosted radio for awhile.

B.K: I know you are big on weather. Did you ask to do weather in St. John’s? 

K.S: True, I’m a weather girl; I’m addicted to weather and knowing what’s happening every five minutes. I was a bit of a weather girl at Q 93 CJYQ in St. John’s and knew a lot about it. I know more now!

My parents call me from Newfoundland: “What’s it like today?” “Warm.” “But is it sunny?” My parents are coming for a visit in a couple weeks…. “Now, do you think it will be above twenty then?” “Yes! “ “Well that’s awesome ‘cause it’s only twelve here.” 

B.K: When did you land in Toronto?

K.S: Well my little life plan, the radio and then somehow at the radio station, I started singing in the hallways and somebody said, “You know, you’ve got a pretty good voice,” so I entered a contest and won. I’d probably be much further ahead if I had stuck to my plan and got my masters in communications — I’d probably be teaching here on campus. Truthfully, I don’t regret one moment. I like the way my life is going. 

B.K: What age were you when you arrived in Toronto?

K.S: I guess I was twenty-six — kind of a late start to a recording career. You know it’s hard to find an unkind Newfoundlander. 

Probably the song I’m most known for and I’m hoping Taylor Swift is going to do a remake of — but so far she hasn’t called me back and my only number one in Poland — “Jerk” and I’ve never told who it is about and probably never will — you should not tell.

I was on tour a few years ago in Newfoundland and it was amazing how many ex-boyfriends were claiming the song was about them. I’m thinking – do you really want to have a song called “Jerk” written about you? Sometimes you don’t know where songs come from. I used to shy away from writing something that kind of makes you laugh — this is way too silly. If you can crack yourself up there’s a chance you can do the same to others. I’m glad I did. I got to buy mom and dad a computer because of that song.

B.K: You’ve done a bit of stand-up…

K.S: How did you know that?

B.K: I was in the audience.

K.S: You were not. That was good. I dabbled. I was very nervous but actually did Just for Laughs in a club in Montreal. I did it my own way. I played a couple songs and told stories in between and really don’t have any idea what I did. It was fun. Mark Breslin who started Yuk Yuk’s happened to be in the audience and came up to me afterwards and said he really liked the show. We then worked together a little bit — we worked on a show. He was very, very nice to me — a great guy.

B.K: How was it standing there looking out at an audience just focused on you?

K.S; Horrifying! It’s horrifying. Shelia McCarthy, who is a great, great actress, said once that “nerves are just talent trying to get out.” As I get older I get more and more nervous. I may have to sing the anthem at an event in a couple weeks and have to get my head into this.

B.K: I would never do that!

K.S: I’ve done it many times. 

B.K: I could never remember the words. I can’t remember the second line to a basic blues song.

K.S: You could.

B.K: No, I can’t.

K.S: You’re American by birth and you know the words.

B.K: Sometimes, but mostly I make them up. I can’t remember stuff like that. I’m blocked.

K.S: It is scary, singing the anthem. Artists get in so much trouble if they change it.

B.K: Or embellish!

K.S: I got in trouble many moons ago when Vince Carter was playing for the Raptors because I changed one of the lyrics when he won the slam dunk competition. It was the first time a player for a Canadian team had won and brought the spotlight on us.

B.K: It was the dunk of all-time, the one the world remembers.

K.S: It was the most beautiful thing. I’m a huge basketball fan and had to sing the anthem after that and I changed one of the lines in honour of him and got in a lot of trouble. It was split fifty-fifty: Some people loved it and some people weren’t happy about it. There were a few people then doing that but I’m too scared to do that now. Both anthems are hard songs to sing and butterflies take over. There are some songs you know inside out and if you blank out for a second and fill in a word everyone else is going to know and they look at you like you are the worst person on the planet.

B.K: Your current recording is all about your home province.

K.S: This is my all-time favourite and least known of my recordings. I wasn’t scared anymore and decided to do exactly the music I wanted to do. I traveled home and made a record of my favourite Newfoundland songs–the ones I grew up with. If at the end of my life they say play one song you’d like people to hear from you it would probably be one song. I didn’t write it, it’s by one of the most incredible Canadian songwriters — Ron Hynes and it’s the “St. John’s Waltz.”

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