Stockwood, Kim (Contemporary Musicians)
Canadian pop singer/songwriter Kim Stockwood was first propelled into the international spotlight with the global popularity of the humorous single "Jerk,"from her debut album Bonavista in 1995, and she continued to engage listeners with her sophomore release, 12 Years Old in 1999. Stephen Cooke of the Halifax Herald described her work as "irresistible" and "unabashed," and her dazzling personality proved to be as compelling and entertaining as her music. She landed her first record contract without a demo tape; she simply jumped up on a piano stool in the office of Mike McCarty, president of EMI Publishing, and belted out two singles, while scuffing his piano stool with her cowboy boots in the process. She was immediately signed to the EMI label, and proceeded to pour her heart and soul into two albums with favorable results. She told Billboard's Larry LeBlanc, "[12 Years Old] is a really smart record with some good pop tunes. Since my first album, I've written with so many people and written so much on my own. I'm pretty proud where I've come to [as a songwriter]."
Stockwood was raised in St. John's, Newfoundland, and earned a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1986 from Memorial University in her hometown. She was coaxed into performing for amateur night in 1988 at the folk club Bridget's, in St. John's, and sang songs by Sinead O'Connor, Velvet Underground, and Patsy Cline. Her performance that evening so impressed the club's owner that he asked her to return and to perform again. She soon put together a band in order to work weekends at local bars, and performed cover songs along with a few of her own original songs. She told LeBlanc, "In the beginning, after a couple of Guinnesses, I'd sing Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley.... In the past couple of years, I've done ok (touring). I've been able to pay my phone bill."
Stockwood moved to Toronto in 1993 to further her career, and within two months of relocating, she landed a deal with EMI Music Publishing Canada. She was signed with EMI Music Canada within a year. Her career break has been attributed to her "whirling dervish" personality, since she landed a deal without a demo tape and spent only one hour with a music executive at EMI. It's the kind of break that many musicians dream of, yet few would be confident enough to attempt. Stockwood's exuberant personality also landed her a spot as a host for 1997's pre-Juno awards ceremony, as well as a spot as a correspondent for CTV's E channel. Stockwood's debut release for EMI, Bonavista, turned to gold and contained four high-charting singles, including the single "Jerk." The song was popular on the music charts in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Poland, the United States, Switzerland, and Sweden. Stockwood earned a 1996 Juno nomination for Best New Artist, and emerged as a new artist with songwriting depth and passion, as well as an expressive, talented vocalist. Bonavista sparked excitement, due to its eclectic mix of pop ballads, country, and country-rock fusion. Her sophomore release, 12 Years Old, was generally hailed a more cohesive and coherent effort, and emphasized the vulnerability we all retain and feel most acutely at the age of twelve. Stockwood's sophomore release is a significant creative step forward from her debut, when she viewed herself more as a singer than singer/songwriter. She told LeBlanc, "The first album was all over the place."
Stockwood's longtime writing partner, Naoise Sheridan, accredits Stockwood with having an intuitive sense of a hook, and the Stockwood/Sheridan collaboration resulted in five hit singles on Bonavista; "Enough Love" was the winner of a Socan Airplay Award. Sheridan is credited with writing seven of the tracks on 12 Years Old. Stockwood's debut release Bonavista was produced by Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Ashely Maclsaac), and 12 Years Old was produced by Wojewoda, with the exception of the title track, which was produced by English songwriter/producer Peter Vettese (Annie Lennox, Seal, The Cure) and Mike Shipley (Aerosmith, Shania Twain, Joni Mitchell). In addition, Randy Bachman and pop artist Glen Tillbrook of Squeeze collaborated with Stockwood on 12 Years Old, as did New York City-based songwriter Abenna Frempong (Vanessa Williams). The musical tone of 12 Years Old ranges from bubbly pop to languid, romantic love songs, and twangy country-inspired ballads.
Cooke wrote, "The not-so-secret 'hidden track' (on 12 Years Old), 'Will I Ever,' that appears unannounced at the disc's end...(is) an unabashed paean to her homeland and family, complete with cameos by her grandparents on accordion and harmonica." The Celtic-styled "Will I Ever" was written with Bachman, and features her father, Leslie, on accordion, her 85-year old grandmother Blanch Stockwood on harmonica, and assorted dear friends and family members singing backup. She told LeBlanc, "Musically the track is so different from the rest of the album, but the song is very personal to me."
Stockwood opened Van Morrison's Maritime Concerts in 1998, and the two musicians struck up an unlikely friendship. Stockwood anticipated touring more extensively to support 12 Years Old throughout 1999, and has proven to be adept at knowing exactly how to cater to an audience. Whether any of the tracks on 12 Years Old will also become international hits remained to be seen shortly after its release in 1999, but Stockwood acknowledged that the effervescent "Puzzle Girl," written with Sheridan, is the most likely follow-up track to the earlier success of "Jerk". She told Billboard's LeBlanc she was somewhat apprehensive of its release due to the fact that it's a mainstream pop single, and she wants to be remembered for her more substantial, in-depth material. She said, "(The label and management) think 'Puzzle Girl' is a hit, but a lot of great songs are on ( 12 Years Old). The song should be on the album, but I want to be remembered for more." Considering how quickly Stockwood has adapted and learned as her career has blossomed, she will no doubt have ample time in the future to present new material and to continue to write songs that reflect her honest, open heart.
Bonavista, EMI Music Canada, 1995.
12 Years Old, EMI Music Canada, 1999.
Billboard, February 27, 1999.
Calgary Sun, July 8, 1997.
Halifax Herald, April 22, 1999.
Toronto Sun, March 30, 1999.
B. Kimberly Taylor