It originally started as a heartwarming one-off for a very good cause at a very thoughtful time of year. Now 14 years in, iconic singer Andy Kim still makes time for the Andy Kim Christmas Show. And while charities reap the benefits from such shows, Kim says the annual event fills up his spiritual gas tank.
“It was so successful and I didn’t think about it after you celebrate the success and we were able to collect money for children’s charities which was the purpose,” he says. “The premise is nobody gets paid, just come and sing two songs. But I never thought it would be anything other than a moment in time. So I said, ‘Well okay I’ll do it one more time.’ I do it myself. I don’t call on someone to do it for me. I have no staff basically.
“But it’s the love of what I’m doing. It’s filled with joy and anxiety because for me I’ve always felt deep down inside we are very blessed to be musicians and very blessed to know that we’re lucky. So if a community of artists can come together and make it all feel okay for a couple of hours and collect money for a children’s charity then you’re using your heartbeats to do some good.”
The show, set for Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Dec. 5, features another stellar lineup this year. Broken Social Scene, Billy Talent, Ron Sexsmith and Bif Naked are some of the musicians confirmed while comedian Russell Peters hosts this year’s event.
“If you’re available I’ll find a way to make it work,” Kim says of a possible glut of musicians wanting to appear. “I just can’t explain it. It’s a beautiful experience, it helps me get through this time, the love that everybody brings to what we’re doing.”
Kim is also hosting similar shows in Montreal and Burlington this year. Proceeds from the Toronto concert go to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) Gifts of Light program.
“I’ve often thought about the fact that this 2018 was 50 years ago that I had my first international hit record (‘Sugar, Sugar’) and for me, the passage of time has been one day at a time. I think about the fact that a lot of things have changed in our country and in the cities of Toronto and Montreal and all Canadian cities. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is there are people in trouble. And we can try and help those people in trouble because they need the help and maybe they don’t have the ability to reach out for it.”
The event often has Kim reflecting on his Montreal childhood and going to Jean-Talon Market to get a Christmas tree with his mother and brother.
“We’d walk the two blocks home and up three flights of stairs,” he says. “I was the one that pretended that I was helping but it was really my mom and my kid brother Michael that did all the heavy lifting. I was cheering everybody on. It was kind of those memories that have always stayed with me.”
As for a possible benefit CD highlighting past performances, Kim says all the previous Toronto shows have been recorded with a more likely scenario being a documentary on the “homegrown Canadian talent giving up their time” for the worthwhile cause.
The legend is also working on new material, the follow-up to his 2015 album It’s Decided. The singer says he’s reunited with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew on the new material. Kim says Drew has “one of the most unique spirits” he’s ever encountered and served as an inspiration both in 2015 and again into 2019.
“Everything I learned in the Brill Building (iconic New York City songwriting locale) was broken by Kevin Drew,” Kim says. “He didn’t come with any rules. He came with the spirit of the music of the song. ‘Let’s go into the studio and see what happens.’ You never go into the studio and see what happens! But Kevin does. It’s almost like he took a spiritual hand and connected it to mine. When I hear that album it’s completely different from anything, anything that I’ve ever done.”
He also says the recording process is a far cry from the days when a record went from concept to record store shelves in two or three weeks.
“I think the song to me is always the most important part of anything that you do in music, to me it’s the song,” he says. “Making the record involves me making very quick decisions. I come from another place where I say, ‘You either like it or you don’t?’ And if you like it keep it in the mix. If you don’t just erase it, don’t hide it. I’ve come to believe that to have a better life, lessen your options.”
Another highlight for Kim in 2018 was being inducted on to Canada’s Walk of Fame. He says it was a very moving honour for him.
“It was pretty emotional,” he says. “I told someone recently that John Lennon gave me my gold record for ‘Rock Me Gently’ but this induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame is really incredible. Look I’m the son of immigrants, my parents came here to have a family. And their children were born here, they chose Canada as a place to raise their kids.”
Finally seeing how it is a Christmas show I’d be remiss to not ask Kim his favourite Christmas songs.
“I remember singing in church,” he says. I was an altar boy growing up in Montreal so I would sing Silent Night although I haven’t done it at my shows at all. That and White Christmas, those are the two songs that take me away to my childhood. Montreal had too much white in its Christmas when I was growing up but it’s funny how music just takes you back.”