Tribe House Blog
Jimmy Balfour -The Rebel Chemist
Posted : December 6th, 2012 by Graham Ord
Jimmy Balfour is a native of Kelowna BC who is arguably one of the most creative musicians in the Okanagan Valley. His latest CD is passionate and raw, full of imagery and artistry and is perhaps made even more interesting by the fact that he is often joined on stage by his wife Nikki Balfour who is herself an amazing artist and who often performs with Jimmy interpreting the music visually (or perhaps Jimmy expresses the Art audibly? who knows?) All you can say is that it is incredibly inspiring to see them collaborate together. I had the chance to ask Jimmy some questions about his life as a performer and also his latest music project entitled THE REBEL CHEMIST.
“If you connect with something you feel like you own it in a way”
Graham: Jimmy, how long have you lived in kelowna? and where else have you lived?
Jimmy: I’ve lived in Kelowna for about 15 years. My family moved here when I was 14. Before that we lived in the Kootenays for a few years, but I was born in Williams Lake BC, and spent a good chunk of my childhood there. I’m still drawn to that landscape.
Graham: Yeah it’s beautiful up there eh? So what made you pick up the guitar initially?
Jimmy: I was always interested in different musical instruments when I was growing up. Especially stringed instruments. I started playing bass in school. I got kind of obsessed with it, and my life started to revolve around music in a lot of ways. As I got more into writing my own music, the passion I had for playing bass naturally transformed into the need to play guitar. Both of my sisters had acoustic guitars, so I was often stealing one of those for extended lengths of time while I was practicing and writing.
Graham: Can you remember the subject of the first song you wrote?
Jimmy: The first complete song I wrote was called ‘Summer Sky’. It was a sort of romantic song about being out all through a summer night. It was mostly about capturing atmosphere, emotion, and the feeling of moving through all these different vivid environments. At least that’s what I wanted it to be about. I think my approach to songwriting is still very similar to that. It’s as much about the feeling and the atmosphere as it is about the lyrical content.
Graham: Who inspired you musically in those early days.
Jimmy: I was drawn to musicians who perform out of a raw and powerful sense of freedom, and with an intense kind of energy. If I didn’t believe, or couldn’t feel their passion for what they were doing, I didn’t really connect with it. I was really into U2, Van Morrison, Jeff Buckley, and later on Bruce Springsteen. I guess the same stuff as a lot of other people, but if you connect with something you feel like you own it in a way
Jimmy: Not really, but I can give it a try! It’s more something that has to be experienced to get an idea of what it is. At the most basic level, she is a painter and I’m a musician, and we allow our crafts to collide with each other in live performances. It’s the kind of thing that requires a lot of authenticity and vulnerability from both of us, or it won’t work. We don’t fully understand it, and we’re not too interested in over thinking it, but we do know that it is powerful and that it’s an important part of our individual artistic directions.
Graham: Your latest work is called The Rebel Chemist. Were you changing anything in your approach to recording this CD in comparison to other projects you have worked on?
Jimmy: The biggest change was recording on my own. It was a huge challenge, and I learned a tremendous amount throughout the process. It also brought out new opportunities for writing, as I was able to write and record simultaneously during the entire project. Because I was recording on my own terms and within my own timeline, a flood of creative opportunity was opened up. It was a good experience.
Graham: Do you recall any particularly memorable moments during the recording?
Jimmy: Recording on your own has it’s benefits, but it can get a little lonely. So it was definitely a highlight whenever another musician was able to be part of a track. I think music is at it’s best when it’s acknowledging that communal aspect, even if it’s just two people. It brings a certain joy and diversity that you can’t get on your own. Plus, it usually involves beer or one of the spirits, so that’s good. That being said, I can remember a few magical late night songwriting sessions that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been writing on my own.
Graham: The Rebel Chemist is a texturally rich recording and is full of interesting stories. Would you say there is a theme which weaves between the songs or are they not connected thematically?
Jimmy: There was no real deliberate theme when I was writing. I was just exploring, and having fun, trying to discover some new sounds and characters. Though once I had a collection of songs, certain elements remained consistent. There’s a reoccurring theme of anticipation, that feeling of being on the edge of some adventure, or a new season. There are a few others as well, but it is what it is, and ‘The Rebel Chemist’ is made up of songs and ideas that consistently emerged over a couple years of writing and recording. Someone else might interpret them differently than me, but I like the idea of that. I like the openness.
“I’m drawn to the mystery, and through the mystery I’m drawn to truth”
Jimmy: I like this question. I’ve been waiting to be challenged on this. I feel like that song is one of the heaviest songs I’ve written, but it’s also been the most widely received, and I find that interesting. It’s sort of catchy, I guess that goes a long way. To me it’s about re-evaluating what you believe, and why. It’s an acknowledgment that I need to rediscover how I’m living in order to truly live out my faith. I need relearn how to live, and how I view the world. It’s easy to become very limited on ideas of faith and religion. I like that this is a topic that I don’t fully understand. I’m drawn to the mystery, and through the mystery I’m drawn to truth. So how does it look? I don’t know. That’s the question, and the point of the song. To start a conversation. To break the unhealthy and ignorant molds that can imprison our lives. It’s staring to sound a little pretentious isn’t it? At the end of the day, I think it’s about not being afraid of our humanness. We’re human, that’s what we are. So with that in mind, how do we truly be what we we’re made to be?
For more info on Jimmy Balfour and to purchase his music visit his website at jimmybalfour.com CD’s and download cards are available at his live shows.
Jimmy is also to be found on Facebook. Listen to The Rebel Chemist CLICK HERE
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