Macmichael starts cutting with local crew
From Halifax's "Chronicle Herald" April, 1995
Written By T. Arsenault
Kevin Macmichael has earned his rock and roll diploma. Back working in his native Dartmouth after almost a decade abroad, he's determined to help local musicians with their homework.
"For me, the nine years in England was almost like going to college," Macmichael says.
His tutor the last few years of his U.K. stay was Robert Plant, the former singer in Led Zeppelin. Macmichael co-wrote some songs on Plant's 1993 album Fate of Nations,
played on the record and was the musical director in Plant's band for the European tour that year.
Before that, Macmichael had topped pop charts around the world in 1987 with the hit (I Just) Died In Your Arms by his Grammy-nominated London-based band Cutting Crew.
With personal and business circumstances calling him back home, Macmichael has since started working with a number of local acts as a producer, songwriter and sideman.
"I had been wondering what the next move was going to be and it seemed like fate had kind of twisted my arm a bit to come home," Macmichael said quietly.
Macmichael, his wife and two children have been based from his family's cozy central Dartmouth home since October 1993 when he came home from England for the funeral of his mother.
Coincidentally, his touring work with Plant had come to a stop with a scheduled break between European and upcoming North American tour dates.
These days, Macmichael is content to immerse himself in the growing Maritime music scene and didn't worry about collecting his gold and silver discs from the Plant office.
"I've more or less divorced myself from all that. I'm not looking at Billboard every week", he said placidly.
Which contrasts markedly with the Cutting Crew days of gold records, television appearances and live performances. None of which, by the way, guaranteed when he left Nova Scotia.
"When I first went there, I didn't know what would happen. I didn't know if I'd end up in Greenland playing with Trini Lopez."
Instead, he lived on the edge of the Surrey part of London and helped make Cutting Crew a respected pop-rock act.
But when Virgin, the group's label, was bought by EMI the roster was pared. Cutting Crew was one of the acts that was cast adrift with its third album [Compus Mentus]
technically released after EMI pressed only a few copies and didn't promote it.
Enter the former Led Zeppelin singer. It turns out he and Macmichael had a mutual producer friend and Macmichael got invited to a band rehearsal very early in the genesis of Fate of Nations.
"So I went down to a rehearsal hall in Devon and Robert walked in. He's a very big guy, very gregarious, and he just holds court. He put me on the spot right off the bat," Macmichael remembered.
"He said, 'Guitar player, eh? Play me something.' So the first couple of things that came to mind, thinking he's about my age, were Bluebird by Buffalo Springfield and 805 by Moby Grape - just songs I'd picked up in my dark,
distant past. His jaw just dropped and he picked me up off the sofa and said 'Never leave me.' "
With Plant looking for a more natural sound after a couple of albums heavy in dense keyboards and guitars, Macmichael fit in nicely.
"The funny thing was, I never really was a Zeppelin fan. There were a few songs I liked. But the last thing he would have wanted was a fawning, sycophantic Led Zeppelin fan in the band."
With the album complete, Macmichael was asked to be the musical director for the touring band. In essence, the work was just beginning.
"He has such a big back catalog. As musical director for the thing, it wasn't unusual for me to get a phone call saying 'Ship of Fools. Tomorrow night. I'll see you at sound check to rehearse it.'
At that moment I've got to sit down with headphones to try and negotiate my way through this tune that I've never played before."
The Plant band kicked things off with a show in Prague. The huge Glastonbury Festival in England was a highlight, Macmichael says.
Friday night, Macmichael, with guitarist Rick Edgett, will play the Left Bank restaurant in the Brewery Market. It's a little smaller than those U.K. outdoor festivals but there's a lot less mud.
And Macmichael sounds as if he's just as happy. He intends to play what he calls a cross section of songs he's done, songs he likes and songs he hopes to record.
"I want it to be known I'm back on the scene as a singer-songwriter-producer but that doesn't mean I'm going to put a band together and go play all the clubs in the Maritimes....
I just want to have an open forum to try out new tunes and network with other people in the business."
The decision to leave for England in the first place was not taken flippantly. It was a step into the great unknown but Macmichael was compelled to take it.
"Most people thought they'd see me back in about six weeks. It wasn't all absolutely joyous when I first went over but that was the decision I made," he said.
Friend and East Coast Music Award founder Rob Cohn says that Macmichael had almost no choice but to move in the mid-'80s if he wanted to further his career.
"There were people a lot of people who thought he was nuts but there were no opportunities here," Cohn said.
Whereas it's the veritable land of opportunity now, Macmichael is participating in it by working behind the scenes more as a team player. He's producing the debut album of Linda Brooks "Under A Painted Moon" and contributed
an unused Cutting Crew song to the upcoming album of Cheryl Lescom "All The Way".
(Note: The song on Cheryl's album is "If That's The Way You Want It" which was used on Compus Mentus)
Dartmouth-based musician and producer Floyd King played with Macmichael in the Beatles-inspired bands Spice and Fast Forward from 1974 to 1984. He says Macmichael was right to go to England.
"We were sad to lose him but we certainly wished him well. Kevin's a very talented guy."
Cohn sees Macmichael contributing to the local pop scene as happening as the highly publicized alternative and Celtic fields.
"Kevin's been intimately involved in the production of Cutting Crew and Robert Plant without getting credit for it. He knows how to make a world-class pop record," Cohn said.
King, producer of the multi-award winning Divided Highway album for Terry Kelly, also looks forward to Macmichael's new involvement in the local scene.
"I think he's an asset to this area," he said.
Macmichael's rocked all over the world but even during that phase he always tried to get back annually to check on the music scene. Now he pops regularly at the ECMAs and other industry get-togethers.
"I've seen it progress and there's lots of good things happening. And I'm in a position to be able to help even better things happen. It's kind of a nice feeling."
Kevin Macmichael with Cheryl Lescom & others Oct. 5, 1995 at the Palace in Halifax.
They played a memorial concert for Chad Conrad, a local rock musician who had died.
Posted: June 9/96
THE CUTTING CREW HOMEPAGE