"Try to go beyond it."
Photograph by Mark Mawston
An Interview with Stephen John Kalinich
Stephen John Kalinich is a prolific poet and songwriter who wears eye catching hats and the color orange on an almost daily basis. He is warm and nurturing to almost everyone in his life, including people he meets in restaurants and on the street. He is also an amazing friend, and it so happens that his friends, Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, were also his collaborators. It is not coincidental that two of the songs he wrote with Dennis, “LittleBird” and “Be Still”, are featured on The Beach Boys’ 1969 album, Friends. Kalinich has written for Paul McCartney, Randy Crawford, Mary Wilson, and is currently working with legendary Nashville musician/producer Jon Tiven (who’s worked previously with Alex Chilton, Frank Black, Don Covay) under the name Yo MaMa. They put out the gloriously primitive Stones-meets-Stooges opus Symptomology, which Andrew Loog Oldham lauded as one of the best albums of 2012. A practitioner of Transcendental Meditation for many years, Stevie has also contributed to David Lynch’s Transcendental Radio.
Light in the Attic Records will be releasing Stevie’s 1968 collaboration with Brian Wilson, A World of Peace Must Comeon vinyl this April. There’s been much speculation on the genesis of this project, and for many years people wondered if it was real at all. Stevie and I sat down in my living room to talk about his beginnings and to sort out the mysteries of A World of Peace Must Come.
I. GANGSTER CHILD POET
STEVIE KALINICH: My mother, every Sunday, would take us for walks in nature in Binghamton, New York, in the hills above where we lived. There was a lot of wilderness, and we walked around creeks. There were bulls behind fences, and my mother would say, “Don’t go in there. “ We would find skeletons. Once we found what we thought was the skeleton of a dead baby in a creek. We loved all the different colors of the leaves. We used to go tobogganing on the hill that had trees, and one time I went head first into a tree and I don’t know if I ever recovered. [Laughs]
I had this sense of walks in nature but I don’t think I felt it as anything other than how life was. But as I look back, that’s when my first poems started coming. I didn’t know what they were. I was five, six, seven years old. They weren’t very good, but I remember one of them and I’ve spoken it before.
At night I saw the stars above
A sign of hope and peace and love
The stars that shine above my eyes
That make me know
God is in the skies
THE BELIEVER: And these poems were the seeds that you tilled, as it were, for A World of Peace Must Come.
SK: Yes. But at that point as a child, whatever concept I had of God, which was very vague, was of something out there, outside of myself. As I’ve grown, I don’t think I would change that poem, except I would say that what I thought was out there is within consciousness, rather than outside of it. But we all project our beliefs and our systems.