PatchChord News recently caught up with Ayrshire musician Sean Kennedy in the fair town of Ayr to chat about the pros and cons of changing career from a professional football player to become a successful singer/songwriter
Sean C Kennedy is a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Irvine, Ayrshire Scotland. His debut album, ‘77’ has just been released to critical acclaim and was Best Acoustic Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards in 2015. He has worked with many established artists and producers, including Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) and co-written songs ’Watercolour Dreams’ & ‘Still Hanging On’ with Nik Kershaw. His influences are from the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Bryan Adams, Amos Lee; Sean grew up listening to classic bands like the Eagles, Steely Dan and Prince. he began his musical journey after a leg injury ended his football career. Sean spent time in Ibiza (Spain) in 2015 to play for Gibson Guitars at the International Music Summit and travelled to New York to film the official video for ‘The Girl on Christopher Street’. and has found a way to brilliantly blend these influences with his own style in order to create something unique.
Sean has spent some time living, co-writing and performing in Nashville, USA, and returned to Nashville in the summer this year 2016 to work on a new project.
Martin Bone our Editor and Music Photographer met with Sean for a coffee and chat in Su Casa a café in Ayr. This is a venue where it began for Sean performing live as a musician a few years back so it seemed the perfect place to meet up. We chatted about how it all started, and to chat about tracks from his current album “77″ and single “Legacy”.
Sean, it’s great to finally get a meet up and have a chat. So before it all began for you in the music scene you used to play professional football?
Yes it was with Hibernian Football team in Edinburgh. I had played with boys clubs from about 8-9 years of age and with Hibernian youth teams at about the ages of 12 to 13. I also had a couple of trails with Glasgow Celtic, and with being a die-hard Glasgow Rangers fan, I used to wear my Rangers strip, under the Celtic top. It was only when playing in a tournament at the Land of Burns it was where Football Scouts spotted me. I then was asked to sign a contract with Hibernian for a couple of years. after that I went on to play football with Ayr United football club in Ayrshire.
Yes Ayr United, that’s the best team haha )
Yes ,It was great playing football. I played alongside the likes of Stephen Fletcher and other full-time professional footballers. It was all a good experience .At that time I took some knocks, However this was not in a physical way. This was mostly mentally by the way the football coach’s would shout at you at that time. I was a young guy travelling up to Edinburgh the capital from Ayrshire at this was to attend training and also to play for Hibernian.
The Youth football Coach’s were really hard on me. and as I reflect on this , this has been good for me. The coach’s would tell you how it was and it was hard.
My dad although he wasn’t hard on me. He was strict with me, but this was in a good way. So you always knew right from wrong. it was how it was and it was great. I think at that time all those years ago, by the way that the Youth coach’s had been shouting at you . you knew how to take all the criticism and the hard knocks. It was also a good test for me, and it helped me working within the music business, because of this you’re not really affected by anybody’s comments, and their approach. It’s like, even if someone tries to say something to you, to throw you off your game, you’re like, that’s fine that’s only your opinion at the end of the day. This is all something that I relate to with my music as I am passionate about my music and for me is now on a full-time basis.
I had just turned 17 years old. It was then I started to get injuries playing football at Jnr level. The injuries weren’t because of any physical knocks. It was due to wear and tear on my knee. It was due to the blood flow in my knee. I then had this examined with a consultant and then which led to me having undergone operations on my knee. This was a success and the blood began flowing again around my knee so that was pretty good.
It would then be a few months, and while warming up at a football match, at the side of the pitch. My knee just locked up, I couldn’t bend it and it was just locking out. It was the bone that came away from the joint. It popped back in. I would then seek further medical consultation and my consultant at that time, wanted to do a big major operation on my knee, with new Stem cell technology. it was all experimental. I just had to get it done as the consultant had also said I had a hole in my knee. I was only 18 years old at that time.
My dad was worried and supported me and said to me, we will just have to get this done. It was tough and luckily we had insurance which covered some of the costs involved as it was going to be expensive so we just managed to get the cash to pay for it all which we did. The operations were then carried out on my knee. Its been a success. I was on crutches for a while after the operation and indoors in my bed and then basically that’s when it all began musically for me.
I had started to sing at that time as I was totally bed bound. I was always playing computer games all day, or at least most of the time anyway This was all driving me insane and was also depressing. So music for me was a way to get out of that routine and situation .
I know your dad, Colin and he is a musician himself and has his own band “The Colin Kennedy Band”. So with being around your dad and music did this give you the inspiration to take up music?
Yeah, He had his own band in the 1970’s. He was going to sign a record deal at one time, but it never happened, which was a pity. But as he sees it that’s the way things go.
My dad has given me a legacy and past that’s past on to me . Music has always been in my family. So it didn’t matter if I was singing or not. Actually there is photo’s of me as a young boy holding a microphone, even though at that time I couldn’t even sing a single note, but it’s something that I think is built-in you. Music for me was a way to get out.
I was in a band before but wasn’t really writing. I did near to the end of it and learnt of the guys at that time. I played my first gig in” LIVE AT TROON “in the nightclub PEBBLES. it was the first time on stage, with a guitar as a solo artist. and I was crapping it. I had a couple of songs under my belt. At that time you don’t know if they are good songs, you just know that’s what you have at the time and you just kind of keep playing.
I have an American friend out in IBIZA, SPAIN. He has his own studio out there. He once said to me that there is no such thing as a shit song. Just that some songs are better than others. You have to look at it that way. So if you write 10 songs there is a good chance that one is going to be really good.
So how do you match the words and melodies for your music?
Well for me I am melody all the way and once it’s in my head it’s there. I am mad for whistling. My Dad was never one for whistling a tune. He was always a singer. And he is an awesome singer.
I watched a TV programme the other day where it was a bunch of gospel singers and they were selecting words then just singing randomly and stuff.
Yeah, that’s what I will do in the studio now by playing my guitar and piano and building a song, then as it feels good then singing to it. If you haven’t got lyrics and you may only have one word, you just have to get into the studio and get it recorded. If you listened to some of the things I have done, I have sung in Spanish, and in all sorts of words that were just totally made up.
Yeah, It’s catchy, Aye.
And another that sticks out for me is called “DRIFTING”.
Yeah, “Drifting”, Yes I see still see this is one of my best songs. I just feel it’s a timeless one.
As I was looking at the songs on your Album “77”. The titles all seem they are about things in life?
Yeah, like the track “SOMEONE YESTERDAY” for definite.
The song “THE COWBOYS LAMENT” does this mean you’re a cowboy then?
No am not a cowboy , That’s actually a JJ Gilmore song from The Silencers. I covered it and that’s his song and also another “It Wont Go Away”. Then again when I sing these songs I feel that I wrote them as well. There is the same aspect as my song “The Girl on Christopher Street”. That song The Cowboy Lament is about a guy that leaves town and goes to somewhere else and realises that somethings big there.
I watched the Video for “The Girl on Christopher Street” and I thought, has that really happened to him? And I felt it was actually well put together.
No, That’s bizarre it was a dream. It was great fun to make though.
Was that something you and your friend had discussed? Was this as you were running the marathon out there in New York?
Well, It will be a year to this week in October that we came up with the idea. We went out we had to plan. It was with a friend of mine Jamie who produces and films my videos. He is brilliant. He has got a really good eye. So with this idea how could I get to New York and film the marathon for the song and also re-enact the whole thing. I had went to Jamie’s house and explained that we should get a kick-start put together, and see if it will work out. Jamie was surprised when I asked him to come with me as , Jamie hadn’t been out of Scotland before. Jamie agreed So we put it out there. I think we had 4-5 weeks till the marathon that we had to be there. The whole thing was like 2 and half weeks. Which was mad? The next thing we had booked our flights and away we went for week.
We recorded everyday capturing something and then running through Brooklyn with a Marathon Vest a day before the actual marathon. People were looking at me, like has he lost the plot. The vest had the year 2011 date on the front. It was mad. During the actual marathon people were just running by and re-enacted it, While I was running through Brooklyn filming that scene there was a guy that was driving in this like done up pickup truck. And we thought a perfect idea for Jamie to get in the back of it. We just ask him if this was okay for Jamie to get in the back and he agreed and we just took it from there. I was just running through the streets and it was such a great buzz.
The Album Title “77”. Is this a specific year to you?
Yes. It was the year my mum and dad met. It was when my dad was with his band YANKEE at that time. They were touring in London and about to sign a record deal. It was also around when Elvis had died. in August, It was maybe 2 weeks after it. My dads band were performing and holding a tribute to Elvis covering his songs in the Pavilion Glasgow .
They were one of a couple of bands that were asked to play from a Monday through to Friday. The Poster for that concert was found online and the ticket price at that time was only £1.50.
My mum was a professional dancer at the same concert. The dancers would dance with the bands. So the nights would go by and my dad had his eye on my mum, my mum had an eye on my dad. And for one thing being the front singer of a band wasn’t something you would do go up to someone and ask them out. It’s not that easy, and my mum was the same. My dad wasn’t really reading the signs, and my mum had to leave to get a train to Clydebank, and later on at the end of the week one of the other dancers said to my dad, Colin you not going to ask Eleanor out, and he said I can’t she has a boyfriend, but wasn’t the case and then later they then went out and then got married. 2 to 3 years after that. It was a significant year though it was also the same year the magnum in Irvine opened. It’s really bizarre and you would have no idea how much that number comes up in my life.
Yeah it was something I picked up on the title 77 of your current album.
Aye, It’s something, even though it’s the name of the Album. Something you will always be there you will see it flag up somewhere but maybe in a different font or something.
1 Somewhere Yesterday
2 The Love You Owe
3 You Don’t Have to Feel Lonely
4 The Girl on Christopher Street
5 Love Don’t Live Here
6 Watercolour Dreams
7 Slow Me Down
10 Lesson Learned
11 The Cowboy Lament
12 It Won’t Go Away
13 Done All I Can
Yeah there is. 13 is my lucky number as well, I am big for numbers, I am not superstitious but I have a thing for numbers, Aye you will see my new songs come along and in my new album you will see numbers in the titles.
So when LEGACY was released this year?
In August this year 2016. It actually came about around January this year with the idea writing about it and then I built the track . I then thought, I wouldn’t promote it and just put it out. so it was probably the best thing to do. its been great.
I did notice it and was such big impact and great song and video loved the lyrics and it had a significant impact for me.
You See the opening line, It’s when you get a good title for a song and then building it into the song. It’s then I think you have nailed it. Mark Price I met when he wanted to show me a card trick. Mark then continued to blow me away with the card trick, including the number 77 in the trick . Its Mark its in the Video. Mark and I spoke most days conversing about the way life can change in the blink of an eye, how much we had in common, similar paths in life and just how passionate we were about making a difference, inspiring people and doing good. I would ask Mark specific questions to spark me. All I can say is it helped me to be more like myself. Talking about the things we did growing up as a kid. When we had an idea in our heads, we went ahead and did it with no fear. Why should that change when we grow up. Hence the opening lines.
I have Legacy on replay on my ITunes player. Your album has all lot of the tracks you can relate too with the lyrics. I love your songs and your style has a country feel. However do you have a particular genre of music style?
Yes you can to relate to the lyrics . When I brought out Legacy, some people were like, really I thought you did country music? . I never did country music in the first place. as I wasn’t born in Texas and never been on a horse . I am inspired by the likes of Prince.
So what would you say your genre of music is then?
Yes, it’s a mixture of everything I mean you will see this in my new album. It will have more of my personality in the album and then will all make sense.
So what are your thoughts on the X-FACTOR?
I don’t watch it I mean I watched in the past. I just feel that my body folds. I just don’t like it. There are a couple of things 1. You don’t get to be yourself and 2. It all goes to fast for you and if you might not have the legs to last the years contract. It’s just a money-maker that now not making any money.
What are your plans and goals for the future?
It’s Just writing songs at the moment. This year I have not writing as many songs as I have, At this point last year I wrote tons of songs. It’s not getting any easier but you find the old formula . Yeah, just another couple of songs . I will just wait and see might be a EP. Just got to keep writing songs for time being.
You going to be doing any Gigs soon?
No, Not really I was going to do a couple before the end of the year I might do one local and then hang off.
You have fans all-over the world and particularly in Nashville as you’re over there often, is it there you have a good fan base than here in the UK?
Nashville is where music is and I guess in the USA , people come along to my performances and they get to hear me perform ,alongside other musicians at that particular concert, and they may not be there to see me. however when they do they like what they hear and maybe I then have new people liking what I do. The fans are great wherever they are .
So when you were out in the USA were you still running the marathons? And would like you stay there
Yeah, I did a couple of half marathons and hanging around New York which was really cool and then to LA for a bit. I liked it there I mean if i was looking for a publisher I don’t think I would need to actually live all the time maybe every 4 weeks at the time. There but yeah be cool to live there.
So you also met Paul McCartney recently ? And he signed your guitar
Yeah I did I am a Beatles fan as well, and i guess he heard the Scottish accent straight away. He totally appreciated the whole musician to musician meeting. And he has seen it like a 100 to 1000 times. I do think he thought I was really genuine. He then asked me where i was from. I told him Ayrshire west coast Scotland to which he replied that he stayed in that area of Scotland for a long time . he asked me why you in town I said that I was running the marathon and playing a couple of gigs and he said good for you .It was a brand new Gibson guitar he signed yeah he was a gentleman I didn’t ask for a photograph I never pushed it anymore than that. A true gentleman
I also met Bonnie Rae at that time and that was amazing and in Nashville i while was in a Mexican and just sitting there was Jack White from the White stripes and then just before I left I seen Steve Tyler and he who is what you would call a superstar . It’s just amazing.
Well Sean, it’s been a pleasure and really enjoyed our chat and thank you for chatting with me. Oh and thank you for also buying the Coffee
Yeah It’s been a pleasure I enjoyed it and yeah you can get the coffee’s the next time. You must come to the studio the next time that be good.
You can check out Sean C Kennedy on his website and also purchase his music on ITunes
on the following links