The Sum of Our Parts: Celebrating the Impact and Influence of Shotgun Jimmie

From an early career in the legendary Shotgun & Jaybird, to a solo career that has spanned over a decade, to collaborations with major and minor mainstays of an ever-changing independent arts scene, Jim Kilpatrick, better known by his stage name Shotgun Jimmie, has consistently held a place in the hearts and ears of listeners across Canada. As his career as an influential artist continues to reach new bounds, a “fan-driven tribute” compilation named Cha Cha Cha: The Songs of Shotgun Jimmie was launched by Comin’ Around Records, with covers of his solo material from the likes of Frederick Squire, Misha Bower, Jon McKiel and many more.

Ryan Wheeler, founder of Comin’ Around Records and a dedicated fan of Shotgun Jimmie, began the project over a year ago. He was inspired by the community of musicians and fans who have collaborated or have been influenced by the illustrious artist over the course of his career. Before he could start compiling the songs and contributors, Wheeler reached out to Kilpatrick to make sure he was aware of the tribute.

“Ryan wrote me and pitched the idea of doing the compilation,” says Kilpatrick. “I wrote him back and said that I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea. I thought that the idea of doing it was tribute enough to me. It was nice to know that someone was thinking that.”

However, Wheeler was persistent in following through with the tribute to honor Kilpatrick’s career, and Kilpatrick relented to the project at a distance.

“Throughout the whole thing, I haven’t been involved at all. He [wrote] me every once in awhile and made it known to people [that I would not be involved with the project,]” says Kilpatrick. “He was trying to be really sensitive to the situation with everyone. It worked really well for him, for me and for everyone across the board.”

Wheeler compiled a list of 40 musicians and artists who had collaborated and worked with Kilpatrick in the past, and others that were fans or influenced by the artist’s career over the years.

“I set about e-mailing people to ask if they would be involved, and I had a feeling that a lot of these bands would be interested since Jimmie has a lot of respect from them,” says Ryan Wheeler. “It wasn’t too difficult, rather quickly in fact, to round up participants. I had a lot of positive response very quickly.”

“The response was about 30 or 40 that replied right away that they would be totally into it. Some sent in songs right away with a reply within a few days. The first few songs, like Adrian Teacher and Spencer Burton, came in so quickly. I wish I reached out to more, but it was such a positive response from the first 40 that it was quite a pile of tracks to begin with.”

Steve Haley, a musician based in Sackville, NB who regularly performs with Banded Stilts, Heat Vision, and as a solo artist, was one of the artists who was eager to contribute a song to the tribute compilation.

“I’ve been a huge [Shotgun] Jimmie fan for a long time and was honored to be able to give my take on a song of his,” says Haley. “Transistor Sister came out approximately around the time I first moved to Sackville. Those songs are tied up with that time period for me.”

Haley covered the song “King of Kreuzberg” from Transistor Sister, and like many of the artists featured on the tribute, developed his own interpretation of the song. Haley’s adaptation reflects a sombre tone that was inspired by Kilpatrick’s original juxtaposition of optimistic singing paired with pensive lyrics.

“A lot of things were in flux when I first landed in Sackville and I was unsure as to whether this was going to be the right move for me and my partner. Even though a lot of the lines in the song are contemplative and questioning, they sound so positive coming from Jimmie. I wanted to cast a bit of an uncertain shadow on some of the songs musings.”

To Kilpatrick, these reinterpretations of his music were an invigorating experience when he was able to listen to the full compilation for the first time.

“The first time I listened to it, I didn’t look at the track listing,” says Kilpatrick. “[Ryan Wheeler] sent me a list of all of the songs and all of the people, and everything combined into one file. I didn’t open up the document with all of the information [identifying the musicians/songs], I just put it on my phone and went out to shovel the driveway.”

“I was just listening and it was a fun treat because I didn’t know any of the people involved or any of the songs they were doing right away. A song would start and I would think “this sounds catchy” or “this sounds familiar”. At that point, I wouldn’t really know what song it was but something would cue me to figure it out.”

The process of absorbing these songs from a new or different perspective enabled Kilpatrick to reflect on his career from a fresh view.

“I now have a permanently new relationship with the songs on the compilation. When the whole thing finished, I had so many thoughts of “nobody did this song!” or “why did nobody cover this one?””

Some of the songs on the tribute even featured new arrangements of original material, such as Catriona Sturton’s cover of “Warbler Song”.

“It was a song I started but I thought it was a neat idea to have the song stop dead in its tracks. She then finished the song [in her cover], which I thought was such a cool move. I wrote her and asked her to send me half of one of her songs so that I could write the other half of it.”

Kilpatrick’s eagerness to become engaged with the artists and community who contributed is a true reflection of why Wheeler felt so compelled to create the compilation dedicated to him in the first place. In fact, Kilpatrick and Wheeler have decided that the sales of the tribute compilation will directly benefit the Dawson City Music Festival – a town and festival that helped start Kilpatrick’s own musical roots.

“We never had Dawson City Music Festival as the overall goal [when the project began], but it was to eventually reveal the tribute to Jimmie and ask him where he’d like the funds to go,” says Wheeler. “He settled on Dawson City Music Festival as a result of that, in the Songwriter-in-Residence program there.”

Not only is the compilation giving back to a historic festival, but Kilpatrick has taken it upon himself to write back to each of the artists’ involved with the project as thanks.

“I just started writing letters individually, but it’s thirty letters so it’s a lot to write,” says Kilpatrick.

With a laugh, Kilpatrick captures in good spirits the musician we see every few months on the stage of our favourite pubs.

“It sounds like they like the songs and they like me so they wanted to participate. It’s interesting because I don’t think I am a particularly “cool” artist, so their intentions are very likely genuine!”

Cha Cha Cha: The Songs of Jimmie Kilpatrick is available digitally and physically via Comin’ Around Records.

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