How Andy Kim & Kevin Drew's Collaborative New Album 'It's Decided' Became A Success Story [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Andy Kim doesn't waste a heartbeat. If you have the honor to speak with him, it is because he felt you were worth those precious moments. Because that's all we are. That's all time is on this earth. Heartbeats. And we might as well feel something.
The moment you meet Kim, it's clear that he transcends the day-to-day buzz that has everyone self-obsessed and competing against one another. He has an aura that is almost shamanic, like he knows something that you don't. But he is welcoming. He isn't "The Man Who Wrote The Archies' Famous 1969 Hit 'Sugar, Sugar.'" He is an artist who feels and who is human. Therefore, he defines his success by standards of humanity -- not fame, not big business, not finances. Almost immediately he puts you at ease. He loves. He loves simply and for the sake that humans love other humans.
It's Decided is not only the title of Kim's most recently effort, a collaboration with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, but it's also Kim's mantra of sorts.
It is all decided.
You can stop worrying.
There's freedom in giving up control.
His relationship with Drew is a unique one, but it started the way all relationships do. They met each other at some point, enjoyed each other's company, continued to bump into each other at events such as Kim's annual Christmas benefit, spent more time around each other, and eventually a friendship blossomed. Then, somewhere along the road, they decided that it would be cool to make music together.
Their musical partnership was born from a human partnership, which makes It's Decided a work of love. It was also a project that came at an opportune time for both of them.
Disenchanted with making music, Drew, 38, no longer wanted to be a part of Broken Social Scene (or any group for that matter, hence his two solo albums Spirit If... and Darlings). Meanwhile, Kim had faded out of the limelight decades ago and was desperately looking to be a part of something, to belong somewhere.
"He so badly wanted to be a part of something, and I so badly didn't want to be a part of anything," Drew explained. "And I think that's why we're here and why you're hearing this [album]."
Drew was able to provide Kim an accepting community that cared about what they were creating and about the people creating it. This was an invaluable experience for Kim, who was attempting to find his place in an ever-changing music landscape that seemed to have forgotten him.
But his album with Drew is more than the narrative of their relationship and the love story that has been played out in every interview they've given. It's Decided marks more than a milestone in the career of a musician -- it marks a milestone in the life of a human being, living out the human experience.
It's Decided is a new chapter in the story of Kim, who was born in Montreal to Lebanese immigrants, moved to New York City to pursue a career in music, worked in the famed Brill Building compound, wrote hits such as "Sugar, Sugar," "Rock Me Gently," and "Shoot 'Em Up Baby," disappeared from the public eye in the late '70s, reappeared under the name Baron Longfellow in the '80s, came out of retirement and performed at charity events in the aughts, and released his first album in over 20 years, Happen Again, in 2010.
Rather than revitalize that former life, Kim and Drew started fresh with this collaborative effort.
"It became apparent to us to that the only way we were going to really get behind this was not to go back into his life, but to start with this album together and to tell people, whoever wanted to hear or read, that we made this record as a sweet little story about two different people," Drew said.
But what does this new album mean within the context of Kim's legacy? The 62-year-old has naturally pondered the definition of success over the course of his life, this new era included. When I asked him how he measures it, he asked me if I remembered who won the Academy Award for Best Actor or Actress from a year ago. I say I don't know, and I prove his point.
If winning an Academy Award or a Grammy is supposed to be the crowning glory of a career in the arts, and people can't remember it a year later, then what value does it really have? Does the validation of a third party really matter?
Therefore, Kim defines success by a better measure -- happiness.
"If success is to be happy and peaceful, then all this other stuff is all bullsh*t," he explained. "Here are two people who cared enough about being together that they created something. If [people] get it, it's good. If they don't get it, it's also good because we didn't do it for anyone else.
"I got involved in this magical moment and reaped the rewards the beyond rewards. If something happens with it, I'm fine. We did the David Letterman show on his last few weeks on the air, that's pretty cool, man; I'm honored to come here and do that.
"To ask what else you got? Well, I don't know what else we got. We made a record. It's a beautiful record with beautiful songs."
When I asked Kim to recall a defining moment in his life, he said it was hearing Paul McCartney answer an interview question about how he wrote a particular song. McCartney had replied to the interviewer that he didn't know -- that it was magic. That idea freed Kim. Music is magic. Success isn't in numbers.
So all that needs to be said about It's Decided is that it is an authentic product of two authentic beings not trying to do anything but enjoy each other's company and express their thoughts on life through words and sounds.
When you think of legendary musicians who have countless hits but remain unhappy, it becomes evident that Kim has the right attitude at this point in his career, regardless of superficial success.
The moment you succeed is the moment you start measuring yourself against your own happiness. Everything is ephemeral. So when you walk to your gravesite and see the headstone and feel comfort, as Kim describes on his song "Sail On," then it's clear that you have found success.
Drew similarly defines success in terms of happiness, but has learned from Kim how to grasp it more firmly.
"Andy lives in no competition with anyone else, where I obviously do. I look to what other people do," Drew explained. "But I think that success, the success that Andy is talking about, this record, most people told us it was going nowhere. But it's a guy looking back at life, and it was fantastic to me.
"Do you know how amazing it was to be involved with a record that didn't have to do with a man and a woman breaking up? It was next level sh*t. Wow, this is actually about a man burying his folks, living life, the ups and downs, the things that have happened. Cancer surrounded us while we were making this record. People died. We had all kinds of shootings going on the summer we started. Shootings everywhere, kids getting killed.
"And it's been really refreshing to me after putting out how many records I've put out, to have an actual real love story to it. To have the history of Andy and to have the history that I've made so far within the world I live, and to come together. This is a success story. It just is."