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story Mike Beggs photography Steve Uhraney
To paraphrase acclaimed American folksinger Loudon Wainwright III, “they don’t stock talent, or charm on the shelves.” Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Toronto-based singer/songwriter Kim Stockwood has been gifted with plenty of both.
Speaking of gifts, she brings her I Love Santa Christmas show to Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre, Royal Bank Theatre, on December 7. She will be performing a mix of traditional (Silver Bells, Holly Jolly Christmas), and more contemporary Yuletide favourites (Dean Martin’s It’s A Marshmallow World), accompanied by Kevin Fox on guitar and cello, Aaron Collis on accordion and mandolin, (and “hopefully” Tim Bovaconti on bass).
“It’s the most fun ever,” she says, in her immediately chatty manner. “Some of the Christmas songs I love are the most difficult to learn for my band — but easier for me to sing. I truly prefer the (Ratpack Era) Christmas songs by Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra.”
“I appeared on a Christmas compilation many years ago, and we had the same songs over and over. I asked my parents what they liked, and my dad pulled out a Dean Martin record.”
But not wanting to, “Christmas them to death,” Stockwood will also be performing revised versions of Adult Contemporary/Americana radio hits like Jerk, She’s Not In Love, 12 Years Old, You And Me, and Puzzle Girl, which wove their way into the Canadian mindset in the latter half of the ‘90s.
And she’s sure to warm hearts with the title track from her album Back To The Water, which was named the 2011 East Coast Music Association Traditional Recording Of The Year. This homage to her roots features 11 carefully selected East Coast folk songs and shanties, including Thank God We’re Surrounded By Water, Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s, and St. John’s Waltz.
Stockwood co-wrote the title track over the course of a full decade, with her best friend Damnhait Doyle (an ex-bandmate in the folk supergroup Shaye, which released two fine CDs between 2003 and 2009, also teaming with Tara MacLean). In her most heartfelt tune to date, she sings, “Gotta get back to the water/gotta get back to the sea/ at the end of all my travels/ that’s where they’ll bury me.”
“It’s probably the truest thing I’ve ever done,” she says, of the record. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.“
“I feel I’m making the music I want to make, for sure. It can’t help having some honesty. And it really got out there.”
The Back To The Water project arrived with perfect timing, because the multi-tasking mother of two (Jack, 8, and Sam, 6) — and better half to music industry management type Allen Reid — admits she, “wasn’t sure what I’d do next” after Shaye’s 2009 breakup.
She even tried her hand at radio — a natural given her infectious humour — working on the 97.3 EZ Rock Morning show, in Toronto, alongside Humble Howard, and Colleen Rushholme.
But she had mixed emotions about it, particularly the early mornings.
“It was a bit of a struggle for me — being a musician,” she laughs. “And I was broken-hearted that I couldn’t see (my sons) in the morning, before they went to school.”
A bit of an unstoppable force, as CanRock history tells it, Stockwood was playing a weekly covers gig in Halifax in 1992, when she moved to Toronto to see if she could land a record deal. Without a demo tape, she wound up in the office of EMI Publishing president Mike McCarthy, impulsively pounded out two of her songs on the piano, and left with a publishing deal in pocket.
Her 1995 EMI Music Canada debut Bonovista went gold, racking up four radio singles – buoyed by the humorous international hit "Jerk." Her 1999 follow-up 12 Years Old found her maturing into an atmospheric pop songbird in the vein of Sarah McLachlan, U.S. singer Sam Phillips, and The Wild Strawberries’ Roberta Harrison.
After the (regional) success of Back To The Water, this time she knows exactly what to do next — a country torch record, in the vein of Patsy Cline.
“She’s probably my favourite singer of all time,” she adds. “I’ve got half the songs picked out. I’m excited about that.”
The December 7 showtime is 8 p.m. at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr. Ticket prices range from $28 to $45 at (905) 306-6000 or www.livingartscentre.ca. GL