Exclusive interview with Jim

June  2014

Jim and country music
K&M: You’ve been with Cassadee Pope for a year now with plans to continue, right?
Jim:  Yes!

K&M: She was the winner of The Voice Season 3 and crossed from alternative pop into country after the win.  Came unexpected for some of her fans who are still fuming about it and can’t accept it. But did you ever expect yourself to go country?

Jim: Not really. To me, great songs are at the core of all great music. And Cass has great songs. Also, I see Cassadee falling in the “contemporary country” lane - where there is more of a pop influence than traditional country.

Is the country music scene any different from the rock and the pop one that you’ve been part of ever since you graduated from Berklee?

Jim:  There are certainly some differences, especially in the touring schedules. It is much more of a weekend based schedule. Most country tours go from Thurs - Sun night, then head back to Nashville for Mon -Wed. It has more of a family oriented vibe.

How about the crowds?
Jim:  The crowds are great. Not really much of a difference there - apart from the cowboy boots and hats :)

Kim likes country music. Living in Calgary that is home of the Calgary Stampede makes it even more enjoyable. Marica struggles to accept it. But we both agree that Keith Urban’s music is amazing and he is a great guitarist to boot. Your opinion?

Jim: Keith Urban is pretty great. Awesome guitarist and singer, and again, great songs. I see him as more contemporary than traditional as well. 

K&M: Your favourite country musicians?

I love Vince Gill. I just think his voice is magical. There is also a new artist named Frankie Ballard who has a great song that my friend Marshall Altman produced called A Helluva Life. He’s also a great guitar player too.

K&M: Favourite country song?

  I’m a sucker for Florida Georgia Line’s hooks. They have a song called Dayum Baby that I think has a killer chorus.

K&M: Which songs of Cassadee's do you enjoy performing the most live?

  I’ve always loved Champagne and I Wish I Could Break your Heart - and This Car is one of my faves. There’s a bonus song called Edge Of A Thunderstorm that we have recently been playing - which I am really digging.

K&M: You’ve practically been living out of your suitcase in the past twelve months, playing radio stations and conference rooms, bars, clubs, backyards, restaurants, amphitheatres, hockey stadiums; sometimes all in one day.
How do you keep sane mind?

It’s debatable that my mind is sane. :) We have a great group of people out here, and it really is a great hang.

K&M: And how do you keep healthy?
Jim:  Again, that’s debatable. I TRY to not go too crazy on the junk food - but, sometimes it is unavoidable.

K&M: Do you get enough sleep?
Jim:  It’s usually not too bad. It varies.

K&M: You once quoted C.C. DeVille, “I play the same, whether I play in front of 7 people or 17!!!!” (yes, we get it!) Is it the same for you? Playing in front of 7 people in a conference room and 17 thousand?

Jim:  As any performer will tell you, it’s impossible to be unaffected by a crowd. Sometimes the smaller crowds (maybe not conference room small) can be more energetic than a massive stadium. But when a huge crowd is into it, there is rarely anything better.

K&M: Tell us how you get along with Steve Fekete? How is he like?  What do you like most about him and what annoys you the most? (We know you are best of friends with him so please do not beat about the bush!)

Jim: Steve is one of the best people you could ever tour with. He is an incredibly positive guy - and that is really helpful, especially when you run into sticky situations. He is such a great guy and one of the main reasons that I love this job is the fact that we get to hang out all the time.

K&M: Has Cassadee played any pranks on you and the band on the road and if so, what did she do?

Jim:  She’s not really that much of a prankster, partially because she is so busy. But, I can see her getting some good ones in as her schedule calms down a bit. She has a great sense of humor.

K&M: The following few are tongue in cheek questions. Please do not take offense! Do you have enough flannel shirts for the road with Cassadee this summer opening for Tim McGraw?

You can never have enough flannel on a country tour!! Actually, now that we are touring in the summer, I don’t see of lot of that happening for this tour. Too hot!!!

K&M: We saw you with a bunny hat, a beanie with earflaps, a baseball hat. Will you don a Stetson hat anytime soon?
Jim:  NEVER!

K&M: On the other side, any plans to replace your Cons with some cowboy boots?
Jim:   NE-VER!!!!!

Jim - the backing vocal
K&M:  Backing (or background) vocals is the most overlooked category in music, yet songs wouldn’t sound the same without them. Just think any Van Halen (Michael Anthony) or R.E.M (Mike Mills) song or Sting on Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing or Bryan Adams on Glass Tiger’s Don’t Forget When I’m Gone (no, that’s not Bryan in the video!) to name just a few. These songs wouldn’t be the same without those vocals.
What do you think? Any songs you want to point out?

I agree!!! Harmonies really make songs come alive. And you are right, they are too often overlooked. Think about Michale McDonald singing on all of the Steely Dan /Kenny Loggins songs (Peg, This Is It, etc.) or Chaka Kahn on Steve Winwood’s Higher Love. And the background vocal arrangement in Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know is just beautiful - and in my opinion, really “makes" the song.

K&M: You’ve been the principal backing vocal to many female singers. Established ones like Cher, Shakira, Avril Lavigne, Michele Branch... Rising stars like Cassadee... Not so famous but still great singers like Dilana Robichaux and Susie McNeil. All different voices, ranges, music styles... Yet you have that one voice of yours. How is that possible?

Jim:   I’m not sure how to answer this one. I just love singing harmonies, and I have been lucky to work with artists who like the tone of my voice - and allow me to sing with them. Because I work with a lot of female singers, I think it works to my advantage that my voice has a raspy/different quality to it - that can help thicken up a mix.

K&M: Which singer was closest to your vocal range, and therefore easiest to back up?

Jim:  Most of the singers I have worked with, have a much larger and higher range than me. I’m not sure which one or other is “easier” to back up - but, I always try to blend as best as I can with whoever I work with.

K&M: Speaking of which - what’s your vocal range?

I’m not really sure on the low end. On a good day, I can hit the B above middle C in full voice - and get to around a D in falsetto. But, again - I have to be well rested to do that :)

K&M: Any plans to do Edge Of A Thunderstorm with Cassadee live? We think it would sound awesome.
Jim:   DOING IT!

K&M: You had a few duets (or duet parts ). Dilana (Time after Time); Cher ( After All); Michelle Branch  (Get What You Give); Avril (Push and Smile) to name a few… Which is your favourite one?

Jim:   I could never pick a favorite - those are all great harmony songs!

K&M: Maybe you remember (probably not – but here it is) we described your voice as “Imagine John Mayer with more edge and twice the range where the high register has a distant resemblance but the definitive sensibility of Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red) especially during the ballads.” Do you agree or you have some other opinion?

Jim: Wow. That’a a pretty cool description!!! I agree with the Mayer part a bit. Not sure about Simply Red, though I do love his voice. On my best days, I think I have some of the qualities of Don Henley, Bryan Adams and Neill Finn - or, at least those are the guys I am hoping to sound like. Recently, I have been experimenting with some different tones, and channeling my inner Curt Smith (Tears For Fears). Once you hear some of my newest project, I think you will agree :)

Last but not least – Jim

K&M: There’s No Over You was the last song we heard from you. It was almost two years ago. Please tell us we will hear something new soon!

Jim:  I have been working on a new project/band called Flashback Reunion - and I am really excited about it. It is turning into something of a hybrid of many other styles I have experimented with before - and I am interested to see where it goes.

Actually – we are lying – we also heard “One Way Track” which we really liked.  Will you release that one?

Thanks. How did you hear that??? We actually just got a placement (background) for that song in NCIS:LA a few weeks ago!!

How is Purple Tongue Records going?

Well, right now it’s on a bit of a hiatus. With my touring schedule, fatherhood and a few other production projects in the works, it has been tough to find the time. But, I am developing a few new artists and will hopefully be getting more and more music out later in the year.