Musically, Kennedy’s songs are slow and conscious. They are purposefully crafted works of art. Lyrically, though, he really opened up. It’s a conscious effort, he says, and opportunity to draw his audience in, without scaring them.
“When I’m writing, I try to write about my own experiences,” Kennedy told me.
“But I also try to write along the lines of other peoples’ experiences.
“I want other people to feel that [my music] almost has a healing effect – giving up empathy, and the ability to feel other peoples’ pain.”
Take ‘You Hurt Your Mother Again’, a track off of Kennedy’s 1972 solo record, Hypnotic Music.
The track is honest enough for people to accept, without being preachy or scaring listeners away.
You could argue that Kennedy’s ability to open up to his audience in the most natural way is a result of his vast musical past.
He starts to tell me about his roots – his story, as he calls it – and, like in his music, he opens up.
Kennedy’s grandfather, who is Irish, introduced him to country music, and he fell in love with the storytelling aspect of it. Accessing the roots of country music, Kennedy found the mandolin, the banjo, and other distinct-sounding instruments. Shortly after, he fell into blues, falling in love with that infamous blues soul.
Kennedy also said he remembers dressing up for Church and singing in the choir.
“I learned about music that way,” he says.
“[The music] had an effect on people, it helped them relax . . . . I want my music to do that.”
‘Shame the Devil’ – off his latest record by the same name – takes the emotions that go along with a good-hearted message, and transforms them into a soothing, calming gem.
Kennedy got the title of the record from one of his mother’s favourite sayings: “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” Despite incorporating some of his own true-to-life experiences, Kennedy says he took some poetic license with much of the record’s content.
“Nothing stays static,” he says. “If something becomes overbearing, it’ll change. Like [the music industry] – don’t think you’re gonna come in this business with no pain; there’s pain!”
He laughs – a hearty, soothing laugh.
Kennedy will be touring extensively this summer, with stops at the Harrison Festival in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., and the Choose the Blues showcase in Westport, Ont., before hopping across the pond to Europe.
He’ll also be releasing a new record soon – his third with Electricity Records and Andrew Gallaway (“an exceptional human being,” he says.)
For more information, visit http://www.harrisonkennedy.ca/