Just about every local musician plays a cover tune or two, and Chris Kirby is hoping to encourage them to pick local ones.
Kirby, the award-winning “Vampire Hotel” rhythm and blues musician, is producing “Whose Song is it, Anyway?” a show at Bianca’s in downtown St. John’s Jan. 21 that will see him and four other artists — Matt Hornell, Sean Panting, Jerry Stamp and Kalem Mahoney — performing each other’s songs.
“I’m trying to promote peer support in our local musical community in a new way,” Kirby explained.
Kirby came up with the idea for the show more than a year ago, after participating in a songwriters’ circle at Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival called The Bluesman’s Apprentice: Kirby, the apprentice, was grouped with four seasoned bluesmen, and they jammed on their original songs together.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I took it one step further and people played songs by their contemporaries on stage, and instead of hearing the stories behind the songs, like we normally hear in a songwriters’ circle, this year we hear how the song inspires your peers. You get an artist’s view of their friends as a fellow listener.”
In deciding who to invite for the show, Kirby said he tried to pick artists with a varied range of styles, as well as those whose music he finds inspiring.
Singer/songwriter/producer Mahoney plays with The Monday Nights; Stamp, former frontman for King Nancy, is a solo artist; Hornell performs with his folk-roots band Matt Hornell and the Diamond Minds; and Panting is a veteran musician who performs solo and with the Sean Panting Band, as well as an actor, most recently seen on “Republic of Doyle.”
All part of the fun
The men are keeping their song choices a secret, as much as they can, until they hit the stage. They’ve all agreed to be open-minded about each other’s interpretations of their songs, and are allowing each other to be as creative as they want with them.
“I tell them, don’t worry about it, you can just say the words over whatever chords you want, and have it sound completely different. That’s the name of the game,” Kirby explained. “That’s the beauty of songwriting: a songwriter might have one idea in their head and the listener might have a totally different interpretation. When you think of it, the meaning of the song is really in the ear of the beholder.”
"I’m trying to promote peer support in our local musical community in a new way." - Chris Kirby
Kirby said he’s not worried his own tunes will get butchered, given the company.
“I don’t foresee it happening, because the people on the show are professional and they can do no wrong. Someone might play a version of my song and I might go, ‘Well, that’s not that great,’ but the crowd might love it, you know? It might stay in their set and it might do well for them and better for me, because my song is heard more.”
Kirby said not only would he welcome one of the other musicians adding one of his tunes to their usual sets — he would love it.
He heard Nova Scotia’s Charlie A’Court, with whom he toured in the fall, perform a version of one of his songs at a gig last November, and was impressed.
“He just nailed it and I thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw. It was giving me a glimpse into what I was in for (with this show), and I got exponentially more excited.”
Kirby’s already organizing another “Whose Song is it Anyway?” circle for the East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in April, to which he has invited one musician from each of the Atlantic provinces. If all goes well, he hopes to make it a regular series locally, with plans to take it on the road.
“I might try to get it filmed or recorded at some point. There are really endless options when it comes to something like this, and what I’m most looking forward to is introducing this new idea and promoting my peers and getting myself promoted by my peers. I think it might turn into something cool.”
There are just 70 tickets for “Whose Song is it Anyway?” and they’re available for $20 at Bianca’s and Fred’s Records, and for $18 on Kirby’s website at www.chriskirbyonline.com.