Respected singer-songwriter and ace producer, Chris Kirby returns with his vibrant and groove-filled new album What Goes Around
Known for his infectious grooves and old school-meets new brand of r&b, Chris Kirby is one of the more in-demand names to come from Newfoundland and Labrador this decade.
The Norris Arm native has built a reputation as the ace producer and collaborator for artists in Atlantic Canada and beyond, but on his new album What Goes Around – his first in seven years – Kirby opens his bag of tricks for a fresh and daring collection befitting his all-star status.
Kirby caught up with The Herald for a deep dive into the new album, thoughts on his island home and confidence building collaborations.
Backtracking for a moment, where did your fascination with r&b and soul music come from? It’s not strictly speaking common for the province.
It’s hard to explain really. Why does any particular music speak to anybody, you know? I grew up listening to my dad’s records. Like a lot of people when we grow the music that we have at our fingertips is the stuff that our parents have lying around.
I grew up obviously long before streaming and the Internet being a library of music. So I was listening to my dad’s records and I was hearing Cream and Traveling Wilburys and all the stuff that was kind of rock and roll. At some point or another you learn that all this stuff comes from blues music.
I guess because these singers have sort of influenced the way I was writing and performing this album, I got really into female soul singers. That’s what I sort of gravitated to. I was a big fan of Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding, Al Green and all that stuff. But I think of singers that really spoke to me the most, people like Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Etta James and I think the biggest draw for me was those were singers that just sang.
There was very little affectation to what they were saying. They just had powerful voices and they were singing it straight to them, it was effortless. And I think that’s what’s so cool about it. You know the rest of us are looking at them like how are they doing that? But to them it was just natural. That’s really the hook for me for soul music because when it’s done really well it just knocks you out. And when you really pay attention to what they’re doing it’s pretty simple. And that that’s a powerful thing.
You’ve become widely known for your collaborations with other artists, co-writes and producing credits. How did that change the way that you personally operate with your own music?
It changed my life professionally and in some other ways as well because my eyes are just constantly being opened to new points of view musically and otherwise. I’ve been really active as a producer and a songwriter for about seven years. I’ve been doing it for longer than that, but I’ve been really active and I would say more or less in demand, at least what I feel to be in I’m kind of demand. I’ve been feeling that way for about seven years, since I produced my last album Wonderizer.
In a lot of ways it has kept me from making this next album, because I’ve just been so busy working with everybody else. But it’s also prepared me for this album really well because I’ve learned where my strengths are that I should focus on in terms of my voice, in terms of my playing and I really learned a lot about more tasteful production.
I really feel like I’m staring again. I kind of feel like everything up to 2012 was like a different artist. I feel like I’m brand new right now. I’ve learned so much that I am able to come back as something brand new.
What Goes Around marks your first new album in seven years. How does this album compare to 2012’s Wonderizer?
Yeah it’s new. I mean so much about the music world is new now, so much about how I produced records in 2012 compared to how I’m producing now. It is just very different. So you’ll notice when you listen to What Goes Around you’ll notice a lot of evolution from Wonderizer to this because it’s still me singing. I’m employing more of the tools on this. You know there are some things that I was sort of teasing with or experimenting with on Wonderizer and you can tell that I’ve had a chance to really hone that stuff.
So you’ll hear the growth for sure. And you’ll hear some stuff that’s completely different, you’ll more modern production, more modern sounds, definitely better writing. I don’t ever want to make an album that’s not better than the last album. There was a seven year gap, so I knew it had better be really good.
You relocated to Nova Scotia several years back, but you still remain active with your work with local talent. How in-tune do you try to be with the local music scene in Newfoundland and Labrador?
In some ways I’m more active now with Newfoundland artists than I was before I moved. I’m still very tied to Newfoundland. I’m still very keen on helping young Newfoundland artists break out.
As a Newfoundlander being off the island, I’m trying to act like sort of liaison or some sort of a vessel to get people connected so that it’s easier for them to tour off the island or come off the island and do some kind of work. And I never had that when I was coming up and I wish I did. Maybe I’m doing it for that reason because I’m seeing an opportunity for me to do for younger artists something that I didn’t have.
For more information on the new album visit chriskirbyonline.com