They say you always remember your first. I think it’s only fitting that our inaugural Rendezvous was with Kirby. We met up with the Hamilton/Burlington singer-songwriter at one of our favourite spots, The Baltimore House, to have a chat before he played a show just down the street at Homegrown Hamilton. Kirby opened the show alongside Donovan Woods, leading up to the North American debut of British artist Benjamin Francis Leftwich. It turned out to be a fantastic show.
First things first, Avi and I did a little research, prepped our questions, and listened to his EPs, in order to get in the mindset of all things Kirby. We even ran into him a few days before, at the grand opening of Threshold Studios, and it was great to catch up with him then. Avi and I scoped out Baltimore House for an ideal spot for our Rendezvous, choosing a lounge area at the back of the Maryland Room. Even above the tunes that Baltimore co-owner Jimmy Skembaris was spinning just beside us, we managed to have our chat and film some the interview.
I said to Kirby how fitting it was that he was our first Rendezvous because he was one of the first local musicians I met, about four years ago, when I really started getting out there on the scene. At the time, he went on tour with another local act, Blind Mule. Avi and I were drawn to the touring aspect of Kirby’s career, since we’re working with a Tour motif ourselves, with this blog. When we spoke with him, Kirby was just about to embark on his tenth tour, we were impressed to note, this time out East with C.A. Smith. While recapping some of his previous tours from coast-to-coast, with tour mates such as Trevor Howard, Max Wray, The Human Race, as well as solo tours, we asked him about his very first tour and what that experience was like for him.
“The first tour I went out on [in 2008], I had to borrow my parents’ car, ’cause I didn’t have a car, and I had just quit a job in Toronto and I was actually working at my parents’ company, and I had an opportunity to tour with Ashley Slogett, who’s an artist from Burlington.
“We had this tour planned, and Ashley and I were going to go, and then I had to ask my parents very nicely to borrow their car, and they let me take it all the way out West, and we almost crashed it a few times, but I didn’t tell them that…
“It was a good experience. It was the first tour I’d ever been on and I actually made some money off of it, so I thought all tours were supposed to work like that, until I had a couple that didn’t do so well, but that’s okay; it’s kind of part of being on the road and learning.”
I asked if touring was always the goal when he set out to pursue music as a career. Kirby noted, “Above everything else, I just like to travel,” and playing music goes “hand in hand” with that. While some musicians may tire of the road, for Kirby, he says it’s the best part, and the easiest. If fact, he tours more than he writes, at this point, always feeling moved to get back on the road. For our purposes here at the Tour, we can certainly relate to the feeling of wanting to get out there and keep moving forward, wherever that may be, and it’s through that travelling, however small or grand, that we learn about ourselves and take those experiences with us to the next challenge. Kirby also blogs from the road, which made us relate to him again since we too love to document our adventures and share them.
I also wondered, given the grueling pace of touring, how much downtime the musician has to explore each city he finds himself in. “I walk as much as I can,” Kirby noted; whether he’s on tour or not, tackling a new place on foot, he says, is the best way to explore.
Being big fans of his latest release, Into the Dark, we transitioned into talking about the EP. Avi and I wanted to know about the songwriting process and the inspiration behind it. Kirby explained that this particular EP is a collection of songs created over a dedicated writing period, beginning in 2009. As a result of this prolonged period, each song came into its own and can stand alone as a separate story or theme, which is something we noticed, that each song has its own special identity. The EP was recorded in several different locations and is the first Kirby made with a full band, obviously giving it a more textured sound. When I asked if this is the musical direction he’d like to stay in, Kirby revealed that his next release will likely be a mix of what he’s done previously – less production this time around and a bit more subtle, while still not being as stripped down as his earlier material, and possibly even aiming for a full length release.
Avi picked up on some imagery in Kirby’s music as representing his inner world, such as Within These Walls, the title of this first EP, and Into the Dark, as signalling Kirby letting his listeners get a glimpse into his world. We’re always in awe of the songwriting process – wondering how it feels to expose yourself in that way, and if there is ever a hesitation about sharing too much of yourself. Kirby described his songwriting process as therapeutic; it feels like it’s his subconscious explaining things to him and making sense of whatever he’s going through. It helps to illuminate and give perspective. When it comes to revealing too much, Kirby revealed that the only hesitation he has felt was with Within These Walls; being his first EP, he naturally felt worried at first about getting too personal and it took courage to be so candid. Having released a lot of material since then, Kirby has found it’s just about being “as honest as I can,” and through that, the audience connects and is more receptive.
From there, we strolled down to Homegrown, where, outside on the patio, we ended our interview the way we always will – with the Rendezvous Rapid Fire! A series of questions I came up with, all relating in some way to our Tour, it’s our quick Q&A. Check out our Rendezvous video blog below to hear Kirby’s answers.
We managed to cover a lot of ground and learn a lot about Kirby in our fairly short chat, which is a testament to how friendly and open he is. I meant it when I said he’s one of my favourites on the Hamilton music scene and he’s someone we’re always happy to see in our travels.