With an unprecedented four Juno awards for songwriter of the year, Jim Vallance is one of Canada’s pre-eminent songwriters and the creative force behind top tracks for artists like Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Joe Cocker and Glass Tiger.
Born in 1952 in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Vallance studied piano and cello at the University of British Columbia, then turned to rock music. He played drums with the Vancouver band Prism, and wrote their first single, Spaceship Superstar (which of all Vallance’s hits has travelled the farthest, having been played on the Discovery space shuttle).
After touring with Prism, the soft-spoken Vallance worked as a session musician before a chance meeting in 1978 with 18-year-old Bryan Adams confirmed his career direction. The two began a fruitful decades-long songwriting collaboration. Vallance recounted, “We clicked right from the start.” Adams confirmed, “It was an incredible ascension from absolutely nothing to having hit songs. In the beginning, we used to spend hours and hours in Jim’s basement toying with ideas.”
Vallance remembered their hesitancy: “Never did we think, ‘Bingo, this’ll sell a million.’”
But Adams’s album, “Cuts Like a Knife,” released in January 1983, yielded three hit singles co-written with Vallance, and reached platinum.
The follow-up album “Reckless” cemented the Vallance-Adams writing partnership in the annals of rock music. No. 1 on the Canadian and U.S. album charts, it sold five times platinum, with six Vallance co-writes in the Top 15, including the duo’s first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single, Heaven; and the No. 1 Mainstream Rock tracks Run To You and Somebody.
Vallance then concentrated on songwriting, penning a non-stop stream of hit rock ballads, including the now-famous chart-topping charity single Tears Are Not Enough, a collaboration with Adams and fellow Canadian and renowned producer David Foster.
Vallance’s creative abilities have benefitted top international acts like Pat Benatar, Roger Daltry, Neil Diamond, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Joan Jett, The Go-Go’s, Rick Springfield, Tina Turner, and Rod Stewart. He has also written for such top Canadian acts as Anne Murray (Now and Forever, sharing the Canadian Country Music Association’s songwriter of 1986 award with Foster); Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Jamaica); Chilliwack (Who’s Winnin’); Loverboy (Jump); his old band Prism (Open Soul Surgery and Don’t Let Him Know, a Billboard No. 1 Mainstream Rock hit); and Toronto (What About Love, a Top 5 hit as covered by Heart).
He has also co-written with Canadians Lawrence Gowan, Pranam “Chin” Injeti and Glass Tiger, with whom he wrote the Juno-winning No. 1 single Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone), earning a Juno nomination as best producer.
The 1990s saw Vallance turn to writing heavy-metal and hard rock songs in his Vancouver studio with Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, KISS and The Scorpions. Aerosmith’s label brought Steven Tyler to Vancouver to work with Vallance on several occasions. Tyler recalled, “I could go over to Jim Vallance’s house and leave a few hours later with a cassette of three or four new songs and a new friend. It was always a moment for me.” Their co-written songs included the Billboard Rock Chart No. 1 hits The Other Side and Deuces Are Wild.
Vallance says the secret to his success as a songwriter lies in adapting his approach artist by artist. “If you’re working with a band, write a song that sounds like that band…then bring something a little different to the table. Be conscious of staying true to a band’s sound.”
Vallance’s recent activities include collaborating with Adams on songs for the Broadway show “Pretty Woman: The Musical.” He has served on the boards of SOCAN, the Songwriters Association of Canada, and FACTOR, is a member of the Order of Canada, and boasts 22 SOCAN Classic awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award.