The Telegram's 20 Questions with Kalem Mahoney

Josh Pennell
Published on June 16, 2014
St. John’s singer and songwriter Kalem Maloney took time out to answer The Telegram’s 20 Questions. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Kalem Mahoney got his start in music young and it wasn't just about playing in basements and garages. At 15, he started the rock band Gearbox with his friends with Mahoney taking on the lion's share of the writing.
But this wasn't just a pass time. These kids wanted to gig right away, despite that they were years away from being old enough to get into the bars.

"The first handful of times we had to get notes from our parents. But after we played a few times, we developed a bit of a reputation I guess. They booked us and we played," Mahoney says.

"Drive used to get us to open for them all the time and that was kind of the bridge between being young and going out and doing our own thing."

Gearbox eventually disbanded three albums and a hell of a lot of shows later. But Mahoney didn't waver from the musical road he was on. He says even though it's a tough racket, his parents didn't try and talk him out of it.

"Honestly, not really. Maybe a couple of conversations going 'Are you sure?' But once it was what it was they've been nothing but supportive. My father has said a number of times that he's quite pleased with the fact that one of his children is a historian and one is a musician. He thinks they're pretty important careers. And Mom supports it. She always has."

Today, Mahoney is the writer, singer and rhythm guitar player for The Monday Nights, a band that still rocks, but in a much different way than Gearbox.

It's not as heavy on the eardrums, but it can be heavy in the heart. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on thier second album, "Goodnight Monday Night."

What is your name?

Kalem Patrick John Mahoney.


When were you born?

September 7, 1979.


What is your profession?

Singer. Songwriter. Producer.


How long have you been writing music?

Almost 20 years. Probably about 19 years or so? I wrote the first Gearbox tunes in 1995.


Who’s your favourite songwriter?

At the moment I would have to say Nick Lowe. His songs never let me down. The last four or five years probably for sure.


What makes a good song?

I think an approach that can say a deep meaningful thing without it sounding pretentious. A way to get across darkness in a light kind of way. Fewer words. I think that’s what I like about it. Getting to the point.


If you came back as an animal

which one would you be?

A lynx. Because they’re out there but you don’t see them very much.


If you could spend a day with one person

living or dead who would it be?

I would have to say Dermott O’Reilly. I think we’d have a pretty awesome day. I think we’d have a great chat. Jam a few tunes. A few pints. Maybe him and Jesus Christ. That would be a good day.


If you had to do another profession, which would it be?

Perhaps writing for The Telegram.


Who’s somebody you admire?

I admire most of my friends and my family. All the people that I keep around me. I admire my father for what he’s done with his life. And I admire my mother for what she’s done with her life. And I admire my sister for what she’s done with hers. All of my close friends, I admire them all for various reasons.


How many albums have you released?

There are five that I’ve written and sang. There are five others that I produced for other people.


How would you describe the music

of The Monday Nights?

There’s a little bit of folk. There’s more rock right now. I think it’s kind of getting across sensitive ideas without being apologetic. It’s therapeutic to just kind of get out a little bit of darkness of how you’re feeling in a catchy, feel good sonically nice way. I think it’s a heart on your sleeve kind of confession. I would describe The Monday Nights music as a confession.

How does the second Monday Nights album

differ from the first?

Much more intense. It’s much more of a band album. The first one was more like the songs were done. They were completely structured and arranged and we played them. With this one I sometimes didn’t even finish certain songs because I wanted it to expand with the band. So it’s much more of a collaboration with the five of us for sure. It’s a little darker. And it’s a little bit more loud but not necessarily heavy. Just a little bit less apologetic.


When will it be coming out?

The end of the summer. September at the latest.


What has been the scariest moment of your life?

Honestly, the scariest moments of my life have been losing Dermott O’Reilly and my Aunt Marie. Losing somebody very close and coming to terms with how to move forward with that.


What’s your favourite place to write?

I like writing in hotel rooms. Because nothing else goes on in those rooms. Write in the living room and you pick up a book.

Try writing in your bedroom. Hotel rooms are anonymous. They’re not connected to other things that you do there. They’re not connected to sleeping or eating. I like the anonymous places because you lose yourself into what you’re doing more. There’s no distractions in those places.


Why do you think you gravitated towards music?

I think a lot of it had to do with playing music with your best friends at first when we were young. Then as things went on I got more opportunity from it and I just kept going with that instead of stopping to do anything else. I took on whatever I could. It felt really good. Playing with your friends is a really great feeling. But I also think it’s important. A world without music wouldn’t be that great.


Who do you think is the best living band

in the world right now?

That’s a really hard question. The last two Arcade Fire albums I’ve been addicted to a little bit at different times. They’re not something that I would normally gravitate towards, but I just can’t help but love everything that they do. I like what they’re all about even though it’s not really my style to like what they’re about but it works for them. They have a real great thing going on that I appreciate.


What’s your favourite meal?

My mother’s Sunday dinner. The gravy train. And Dominos.


What’s your favourite city to visit?

I love San Francisco. I’ve spent a lot of time there over my life and I’ve always really loved how that city has made me feel.