Kennedy, former lead singer with the Mayfield Four, joined the band last year and jumped right into the recording process. The band has hit the road for a series of appearances, including Sunday night’s show at the Murat Egyptian Room.
During a break in tour rehearsals in Orlando, Kennedy took time out to discuss his new band with NUVO.
NUVO: How did the other guys approach you to be in the band? It’s almost like you were struck by lightning or something.
Kennedy: My previous band traveled with Creed in ’98. As it turns out, Mark and the other guys were fans of my voice. So they called late last November and sent four songs for me to put my vocals on. They liked it so they had me come to Orlando and we rehearsed and tried to see if we were on the same page. So I think “struck by lightning” is a good way to put it.
I was in Spokane writing a solo record at the time. It was tough, because I was working by myself, basically playing everything, programming everything. I was starting to really miss the brotherhood of playing in a band.
The timing was perfect. A couple weeks before they called, I remember staring at a computer screen, thinking, “I really miss bouncing ideas off other people.”
NUVO: How much pressure do you feel in joining a band where there’s instant pressure and comparisons?
Kennedy: I knew there were gonna be comparisons. The previous band had sold a ton of records. As time has progressed — we’ve been a band now for nine months — it really feels like a separate entity, I think, to the public. The album has just been released and it’s still all new and they’re still digesting it, but to us, we’ve already established ourselves and we’re confident with that.
NUVO: Talk about recording the new album.
Kennedy: It was actually one of the easiest records I’ve ever been a part of. We did the basics in Atlanta and finished the remainder of the record here in Orlando. Then we mixed it in L.A. It was a really painless process, because everybody from the engineer to the producer to the band were pretty mellow. Everybody just had a good work ethic and there were no egos to deal with. I will have fond memories of making this record.
NUVO: Have the other guys kind of taken you aside and said, “Look, here’s what to expect,” from the media and the press?
Kennedy: The Mayfield Four was pretty deep under the radar, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much. But what I did learn from the Mayfield Four is to not read any press. I try not to watch any music channels. I just live in a vacuum. The Internet, I just go to check my e-mail. I find that if I go read any of it, be it good press, bad press or what people post on message boards, it does effect what you do. So I just try to do what I do and stay as untainted by all that as possible.
NUVO: Do you listen much to fan feedback — not crazy fans, obviously, but nice people who just come up to you and say things?
Kennedy: That’s the best. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’re excited to get out and play live and develop rapport between us and the fans. Even when we were in Indianapolis playing [in August], the people up there were so cool. It means a lot to get their vibe on things.
NUVO: Do you listen to other bands very much or draw influence from current artists?
Kennedy: I keep my listening pretty varied, because I’ve found that if you listen to one artist too much, you end up morphing into that person. It’s a real danger for any artist.
Initially, as a vocalist, the guys I listened to and learned from were Stevie Wonder. Songs in the Key of Life was a big record for me. And What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye was a huge one, especially as a writer. To this day, it’s probably in my top one or two all-time. Robert Plant was definitely an influence and he’s kind of the alpha and the omega. He was such a performer and a great singer. Contemporaries: I’m a big fan of Chris Whitley. I thought Jeff Buckley was arguably one of the best singers of the last 20 years. I just try to absorb as much as I can without absorbing too much.
Music is one of the most powerful artforms on the planet. You can be having the worst day of your life and hear a song and it’ll have such a profound effect on you and just elevate you to a whole new level. I hope that some of what we can do can do that to a degree. I hope that when people put on this record, and if they’re dealing with whatever life’s throwing at them, it can have some kind of healing effect. If it’s just for entertainment and they just want to rock, that’s OK too. But hopefully, our music will move you. That’s our goal.