Twenty years after winning the SOCAN Prize for best songwriting and earning a Juno nomination for her bestselling debut album, Bonavista, Kim Stockwood's name has all but disappeared from most people's minds. But her two biggest hits, “Jerk” and “Enough Love,” weren't just ubiquitous — they were among the best songs of 1995 and 1996.
The Canadian landscape was pretty crowded with amazing music in the mid-'90s, but throwing elbows for room against powerhouses like Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan, Stockwood arrived with two totally different songs that centred on strong women expressing agency over themselves. On "Enough Love," Stockwood sings candidly about trying to change to suit her partner and walks the listener through the whole journey of realizing the flaw in that plan.
"Now I've finally come to see,
What you wanted me to be.
Just makes me sad,
So how can I be what you want me to be,
When I like me,
Ya know I really like me.
And that's enough love,
Yes I've found enough love,
'Cause I've found enough love,
Her major breakthrough, "Jerk," takes a decidedly different approach, but Stockwood balances humour and frustration without shortchanging either, and the schoolyard taunt of the chorus was perfectly catchy, silly and scathing in just the right combination.
"How I've waited for today
When I could finally say
You are such a jerk
There are other words
But they just don't work."
CBC Music spoke with Stockwood about writing “Jerk” and “Enough Love,” the unlikely journey of her first record, coming up alongside Alanis Morissette and Stockwood's craziest celebrity encounter from the mid-’90s.
Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me about these songs. I really appreciate it.
Thank you! I haven’t thought about those songs in ages, and when I knew I was going to be talking about them with you today, I actually got out the guitar and played “She’s Not in Love” for the first time in, I don’t know, maybe four years? That was the first single, “Enough Love” is the second. [Then “Jerk.”]
"Enough Love," I swear, one: I’ve never forgotten it at all. I’ve always loved it. But two: it was this affirmation anthem for me.
I love that — in your email you said, "Talk to me about two of my biggest hits," I love that you included "Enough Love" [laughs]. Like, really? That was one of my biggest hits? That makes me happy because of what it was about. I literally, about 15 minutes ago, just sang it very quietly. My two sons are home today, and I don’t want them coming out and embarrassing me, like, "What are you doing?" Was it 20 years ago?
Yeah, 21. I remember writing it and, I guess I’m kinda proud that that was what I was writing about then. Truthfully, even today, I think about it and it’s the one thing I would say to a 16-year-old. Out of everything. I would say, "Listen, you have to like who you are and you will never be able to force someone to completely get you. Either they do or they don’t. And you can try and change yourself to fit into what someone else thinks you should be, but it’s just not worth it. Especially if you like yourself. Obviously we all have work to do on our lovely selves to try and make ourselves better, but when you get to the point where you like yourself, you gotta stop trying to change to suit somebody else." I have not thought about that in a long time, but yeah, I would say that again today!
Yes! And honestly, "Enough Love" is one of the most important songs of my life.
Thank you! What are you, the sign I’ve been looking for lately? [Laughs] I’m trying to figure out what I’ll do next with my life, like, maybe I’ll go back and do my master's, maybe I’ll write a book, maybe I’ll go to cooking school. I’m obsessed with the news and politics, so maybe I’ll go do a political science master's, I don’t know. Or, maybe I’ll do some more singing and writing.
Do you remember what prompted you to write "Enough Love"?
Songwriting is very strange. Sometimes it comes from being in a certain relationship or a certain mood. My mentor was Ron Hynes [he died in 2015]. Just an incredible songwriter, probably one of the best, and he used to say that songs, he would just reach up and grab them. Like they were just coming out of the sky or the universe and you just got lucky…. With "Enough Love," I remember playing the first couple lines of that verse. I was in a relationship and yeah, I didn’t feel good. Through the course of writing that song, I got it. I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It was my ‘Aha!’ moment truthfully at the end of that song and I was writing with my co-writer, Naoise [Sheridan], and I went, "Oh, wait now, it really isn’t me! I’m OK! I’ve been trying to be something I’m not, and I’ve been trying to make someone love me who may never love me. And that’s OK, because one day I will find someone. And I did." [Laughs] It’s a great feeling to know in your life you’re happy with who you are. Trying to make someone love you who doesn’t — it’s not good. It’s that physiological feeling of a pit in your stomach at all times. Like, why do I have that pit? And it’s 'cause you’re going against something that’s not natural. And I remember singing the first lines of "Enough Love" in frustration, because what else can I do? Then I realized nothing. Nothing. And sometimes you have to walk away.
I don’t know if you’ve felt this way before, but particularly as a woman, the world tries to condition you to fix stuff and stay in things that are maybe a little toxic because you’re supposed to be a "nurturer."
I would say that the number-one person you should nurture is your own being. And if that’s not taken care of, you’re not going to be able to take care of anybody. And as I get older — I turned 50 in November, and I can’t believe that I’m 50 — but I embrace so many things about my life and what comes with age, but as you get older, you still have to fight against, "Will I be what they want me to be? Or, will I do what’s right for me and what’s good for me? Am I going to take care of myself?" You have to try constantly to love yourself. And you’re not always in love with yourself. It’s a process, and sometimes you don’t know until you’re in something if you’re giving more than you’re getting. It might take a year, it might take more, who knows?
Did you write "Jerk" after "Enough Love"?
You know what? I actually did! The craziest thing about that song is it was so meant to be. Bonavista had come out July or August ’95. "Enough Love" was on the record. About seven months after it came out, Naoise and I wrote "Jerk." It was swimming around and we had a melody for the chorus but I tried to jam so many words in that chorus. It was just so ridiculous, nothing suited it. I truly believe you can’t force it, you have to wait 'til it shows up, until it feels completely natural. I would work on it every day, but it was like, "What. Is. This. Chorus?!"
Eventually when the chorus happened, it was a bit of a jerk. I sang it and Naoise was like, "That’s great!" And I was like, "Yeah, right. Like I’m going to go out and sing a chorus of ‘You jerk.’ How stupid is that?" He said, "No, no, no! It’s so great!" The minute I settled into it and started singing it a bit, it cracked me up. And it made me feel sooo good! [Laughs] And I was like, "Well, if it makes me feel good…." You know, the catharsis of that, well … I probably had some really beautiful, lovely, lyrical words that I tried to squash in that chorus, but it was not going. Then the minute I sing this ridiculous, "You jerk, you jerk, you are such a jerk," it was bread and butter [laughs]. It was kinda like, my hands in the air, "I can’t believe that’s what belongs in this chorus," but it did.
I went to play my A&R guy, Tim Tromley, a couple new songs and one of them was "Jerk." I just sang it and he just looked at me when it was done, and he was like, "This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to record ‘Jerk’ and we’re going to record another song, and we’re going to put them on your record." I said, "What do you mean on my record? My record’s already out." He said, "We’re going to take two songs off, and we’re going to add these two, and we’re going to re-release it." How do you do that? Who does that? I’d never heard of anything like that…. If you said that to someone today, they’d be like, "He did what?" But it was really courageous of him to take the gamble on it, and hallelujah. He knew that this song needed to be out there and he went for it.
Having it re-released with "Jerk" while Alanis Morissette had just come out with Jagged Little Pill — and her trajectory was '95-'96 as well — did you feel like there was space for you still alongside this meteoric thing that was happening?
Truthfully, never thought about it. I hope artists never feel like that, because if you let that creep in, you’ll never do something for fear of, "Oh, well there’s a whole bunch of people doing that." The only thing I thought was, "Is ‘Jerk’ actually going to get on the radio? Come on." But then, I’m going, "Hey, Alanis says the f-word in hers.’ And Meredith Brooks had that song, ‘Bitch,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey! Maybe I have a shot!" [Laughs]
Everyone was talking to me about the song, and I was like, "Wow, this is what it’s like to have a hit!" It was everywhere and anyone that knew me was coming up and saying, "I love your new song! I love it!" It was a big mushroom that just kept spreading and spreading.
I don’t know if it was the same for you, being on the other side, but as a fan, being a 16-year-old girl in that particular time, when there were so many cool, strong women articulating a real variety of feelings, and having these really strong statements and personalities, it felt like magic.
I look at it now and I look at the artists now, and some of the women, there seem to be this new crop — and I’m not saying I was one of those smart, inspiring artists — but there seem to be more and more today that are happening. Alessia Cara is so smart. You watch some of these shows, and I’m not a prude by any means, but you watch a girl come out in cool clothes and Converse sneakers and you’re like, OK! This is cool and different because everybody else has underwear on. Today, that is exciting, that there is this new crop, and back in '95-'96 it was like that, too. I had met Alanis just before she went to L.A. When that record came out, it was such an incredibly bold, smart, I-am-not-afraid-to-say-exactly-how-I-feel — It was so inspiring! And then comes my little "Jerk" song [laughs].
What was the craziest situation you found yourself in the major thrust of those years?
Craziest ... oh, good lord, there are a few. This story is just because I’m such a fan of Nicolas Cage.
I don’t even know where this is going, but I am very excited.
I ruined the punchline though! My publisher at the time, and this is before the first record, he called and said, “I want you to go to the Hotel Intercontinental and write with one of our writers who’s in town from L.A. His name is Phil Roy and he’s a great writer and I want you to go write with him." I’m like, "OK, cool." So, off I go to some guy’s hotel room. He was lovely. I said, "Look, I started this song and I don’t really know what the chorus is." He helped me finish it. When I get to his room, there’s a treadmill and all these garbage bags with N.C. marked on them on masking tape. I’m like, "What is this?"
He says, "Oh, my friend’s in town making a movie and this is all his stuff." I didn’t think anything of it. We wrote a song, finished our work, had a little rum and coke and the phone rings. He goes, "Oh, OK man. Cool." He asked, "Do you wanna go down to the bar? My friend just got back." I said, "Sure." I’m sitting, facing the bartender, and all of a sudden I hear this voice behind me. In my head, it was, like, "Hey peanut." I was like, N.C., N.C., Nicolas Cage! It was one of those things where I was like, I have 15 seconds to not completely embarrass myself. I was a huge fan, I loved Moonstruck. In my head, it took me 40 minutes to turn around, but it was actually three seconds, and there he was in all his glory. A lovely man.
Over the next couple days, I went back to work on more songs, and he was there when I was walking down the hall. I’m like, "Oh, no." He was sitting in a chair, jeans and a white T-shirt, his arm up over his head, just talking to his buddy. He said, "Hey! Good to see you!" or something, I don’t even remember, and I said, "Hey! Can I use your bathroom?" [Laughs] Just ridiculous, I was so nervous. I ended up writing a song about it, and the first line goes, [sings] "Nicolas, I’m usually not like this/ I know you’re just a guy/ why am I so terrified?" But I never recorded it and I never will, but it was just so ridiculous [laughs].
Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner
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