Exclusive interview with Jim
K&M: As usual, let’s start with what you have been up to in the past six months?
Jim: Well, let’s see... It’s been a crazy ride. I guess the highlights would be playing the Olympics with Avril, then doing Leno for the 11th time for her Alice song . Working with Weezer again as their musical director. And working with Shakira over the past 2 months has been incredible. We played 2 Rock N Rio shows, the Ellen TV show, and the World Cup Kickoff concert in South Africa! I also got to sing some backgrounds on her new record (which I sang in Spanish). The Awesomeness record was released on iTunes and we played a few shows which has been a blast as well. I’ve also written and produced a number of songs with other artists which will hopefully be out soon.
K&M: What’s going on with your solo record?
Jim: Unfortunately, not as much as I would like. The record is in an odd state. It is mostly finished, but since it was halted for a while - we need to make some production adjustments, as well as finish recording the remainder of the vocals. Also, the label situation (like many others in these turbulent economic times) has become unclear as to how to proceed. All of this, along with my normal work schedule has made it difficult to focus on. Basically, the record is on hold indefinitely. But, I assure you - it will get finished at some point. It may not be what it started out to be - or have the same songs or number of songs that was originally intended - but the ones that I feel are still holding up will get completed someday. I’m just not sure when. It’s tough because I really love a lot of what is there. Hopefully I can get back to it soon.
K&M:Is the Jim McGorman solo record anything like The Awesomeness?
Jim: Not really, no. It is much more organic in production. There are live drums and live bass on almost every track - and it is not strictly an 80’s influenced group of songs. That is not to say that it doesn’t have some 80’s vibe. The solo record has a heavy R&B influence. We were going for a Thriller vibe on a few of the songs - which was very fun and challenging.
K&M:Was The Awesomeness something you planned or was it the spur of the moment thing?
Jim:The Awesomeness evolved out of some writing sessions with Michelle Featherstone. We were writing for some other projects for a while - and one day we needed a break from writing the “emotional sad songs”. I came up with the title for Dance Demander, and it all started there.
K&M:What is your favourite The Awesomeness song? Or the most fun to perform?
Jim: Though it is always tough to choose one, I am pretty partial to Sticky Situation. I love the hook to it - and I am proud of how were we able to work out the double lead vocal arrangement. It’s also very fun to play live.
K&M:Your alter-ego in The Awesomeness, Val Derringer, what was the inspiration behind choosing the name?
Jim: We came up with it at lunch one day. I’ve always thought Val was kind of a funny/cool name. Someone else came up with the Derringer.
K&M: Any more plans for upcoming new music or shows booked with The Awesomeness? It would be a crying shame to drop that – it’s so good...
Jim: Thanks. I am sure we will play again soon. Right now, we are all over the place - working on various projects in and out of town. But, I’m sure we’ll figure something out soon.
K&M: How did the Shakira gig come about?
Jim:Like, most jobs, it was word of mouth. I am friends with a few of the guys who played with her. One of them called me and said that she was looking for someone like me for some upcoming shows. I was available, and it worked out great.
K&M: You have been on the road with Shakira over the past month or so. How is this type of tour different from other artists you have toured with?
Jim: It’s not really much different. The main difference was rehearsing so much out of the country. Normally, acts rehearse in LA, then go out and start doing shows. But since Shakira does not live in the US, she likes to rehearse out of the country.
K&M: At the recent Rock in Rio shows with Shakira, you played in front of 80,000 people. What was that experience like for you? What was the largest crowd you have performed for?
Jim: It was great. I have done a few festival shows like that before. It’s odd, but sometimes the more people that are there, the less personal it is. Normally, a band will have done a number of smaller shows first and been on tour a while. That was not the case here. Our first show together was in front of 35K people. The Madrid show may have been the largest crowd I have seen. It’s hard to say for sure.
K&M: During the Rock in Rio Festivals you played the banjo during the track "Gypsy". http://www.sunfired.net/Jim/clips/2010/ShakiraGipsyLisbon.wmv. Can you share with us the differences between playing the banjo compared to guitar?
Jim: That was actually not a banjo. it’s called a banjitar - I’m not sure how you spell it (K&M: You spelled it correctly, Jim!) It looks and sounds like a banjo, but it has 6 strings and is laid out exactly like a guitar. It is very heavy and it is a bit uncomfortable, but it has a cool sound and was fun to try something new.
K&M:Were you excited about performing at World Cup Kick Off in Johannesburg or it was just another gig?
Jim: Playing the World Cup was very exciting. It was broadcast all over the world - and that is always cool to be a part of. It was definitely not just another gig.
K&M:What are your plans for the second part of 2010?
Jim:I don’t really have set plans. Hopefully, I will continue to play live, write songs and produce records.
K&M: When are you completely satisfied with your work? It can be anything: songwriter; producer; keyboard player; guitarist; vocalist...
Jim: When I run out of time and money.
K&M: What's the first song you ever remember hearing on the radio or TV?
Jim: That was much too long ago to remember.
K&M: Are there any songs you've heard and said, "I wish I had written that"?
Jim: There are thousands. But to be specific, I always thought that “Careless Whisper” by Wham (written by George Michael as a teenager) was an amazing lyric. Especially for someone at such a young age. “I’m never gonna dance again - guilty feet have got no rhythm”. Man, what a great line.
K&M: How old were you when you started writing music?
Jim: I think I tried to write a pop song at 14 or 15. It was a pretty bad Journey/Bon Jovi knock-off called Break These Chains - ouch. But, you gotta start somewhere.
K&M: In high school, did you have a band? If so, what was the name?
Jim: I had a few - and they were very cheesy - they will not be mentioned here.
K&M: Did you perform mostly cover songs or original material?
Jim: We did mostly covers - and threw in some originals along the way. We did a lot of Hair rock. Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, etc. Growing up in Jersey in the mid 80’s, Jon Bon Jovi was KING.
K&M: Who influenced you the most in your early years?
Jim: My dad was a big influence on the fundamentals of music. He wasn’t really into the hair bands, but more for the piano/song stuff. I also got a lot from my friends. Because I had some talent, I was usually playing with the older kids in school. I was playing with Seniors and Juniors when I was a freshman, and they introduced me to what was hip at the time.
K&M: How about now?
Jim: I try to look around - see what other people are up to. England is always a great place to look. For some reason, I feel that the English bands and producers are usually a step ahead of us over here.
K&M: What are you listening to lately?
Jim: I love the new B.O.B song with Bruno Mars - Nothin’ On You.
K&M: How many songs on your iPod? As usual – please give us the names of the first three that come up on shuffle.
Jim: It’s tough because there are so many songs for work that come up - Avril, Shakira, Weezer, etc. Though I love their music, it isn’t really a fair representation of what I am listening to. I still love Wilco, Phil Collins and Prince just as much as I always have.
K&M: Speaking of three – your top three:
• Female singers
• Male singers
Jim: Off the top of my head - I am sure I will change my mind later, here are 4:
Aretha Franklin, Sheryl Crow, Annie Lennox, Chaka Kahn???
Bono, Michael Jackson, Springsteen, Sinatra? There is no way to choose an order.
K&M: Stemming from the last one, please indulge the sunfired Van Halen fan: Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth?
Jim: That is really hard to say. People always want to debate that, but I think it’s crazy. They are so different. They both have amazing voices - and with completely different characteristics (tone and personality wise). Honestly, I really love them both. That’s why I think Van Halen is one of the greatest rock bands ever. They were able to achieve making amazing records and massive sales with two polar opposite frontmen. That’s pretty rare.
K&M: The new Katy Perry track “California Gurls” is being coined as the summer anthem of 2010. Do you predict it will have the same level of success as “I Kissed A Girl” from the summer of 2008?
Jim: I’m not sure if it will be as big as “I Kissed A Girl” because it is very hard to duplicate the success of a breakout song for an artist. Kissed a Girl introduced Katy Perry to the world. That being said, California Girls will surely be a big song for her. It’s got a great hook and once again, Dr. Luke has knocked the production out of the park.
K&M: You’ve worked with Bret Michaels quite a bit. Is he anything like he was portrayed on The Celebrity Apprentice: treating everyone with respect; humble; funny; self-deprecating... or it was all staged?
Jim: Honestly, I haven’t seen The Apprentice. I have watched a number of the Rock Of Love shows. And based on what is shown there, what you see is what you get. I always describe Bret as the guy in high school that everybody wants to be friends with. He is the captain of the football team who can still relate to the nerds. He’s the Ferris Beuller of Rock 'n' Roll. He’s a great guy who is as genuine as he is passionate. I can’t say enough good things about Bret.
K&M: Were you concerned about Bret more than for the next guy and did his health plight affect you in any way?
Jim: Of course I was concerned for Bret, He is my friend - and one of the people I respect the most in this business. I am very happy to see him recovering and out there doing his thing again.
K&M: During the most recent shows with Shakira, you have been wearing some new guitar straps from Red Monkey Designs. Were you involved in designing the type of style and look you wanted to achieve with the straps?
Jim: How did you know that? That’s great that they are getting their name out there! I have been working with Torry (the owner) and Doug (designer) for years now. They are a very cool co. and are committed to making great straps that rock. A few months ago, we met up and discussed what new things we could do - and the result is what you are seeing me use on stage now.
K&M: For the Canadian contingent at sunfired: this year you performed during the closing ceremonies at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics with Avril. Did you have the opportunity to take in any of the Olympic celebrations while in Vancouver? If so, which ones?
Jim: Unfortunately, we didn’t reallly get to go to the games. But, the coolest thing was watching the Finals hockey game USA vs. Canada. We were in a huge outdoor tent with a thousand Canadians, and the few band members from the US and I were the ONLY ONES rooting for the USA. It was really fun. What an exciting game. I am not a huge hockey fan, but it was hard not to get caught up in the moment of it all. Pushing an overtime was amazing. In the end, I was happy the Canada won. The games were held there - plus I know how much Canadians LOVE their hockey.
K&M: You are a self-proclaimed Apple enthusiast. Did you pick up the new iPad? If so, in your view, how does it compare to other Apple related products?
Jim: Not yet - but I feel a trip to the store coming on soon.
K&M: As a teenager, what was your first part-time job? If any, what other jobs did you have during your teen years?
Jim: I worked for my step father in his doctor’s office for a while filing charts, etc. It was very fun, but it could have been worse. I also worked in a deli as a stock boy for a few short weeks until they asked me to use the slicer. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a musician and I was terrified of cutting my fingers. I quit the next day.
K&M: What was the last book you read?
Jim: Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby
K&M: If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Jim: Not much - if I changed something, who knows how that might affect where I am now?????
K&M: What do you do to relax?
Jim: The usual - movies, sports, tv, play piano, surf the web.
K&M: Who was your sports hero when you were a kid? How about now?
Jim: I loved Mike Schmidt - the third baseman from the Phillies. He was tough and clutch. I also loved Allen Iverson - all heart.
K&M: Do you have any nerdy traits?
Jim: Too many to list.
K&M: Do you have a good luck charm?
Jim: My family
K&M: Lastly: What would you like to see more on sunfired? What would you like to see less?
Jim: Me inside the easter eggs and pumpkins could be toned down a bit - hehehehehe. Other than that, it’s all great! (K&M: Thanks Jim!)