Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I've been in music since childhood and started composing pieces in high school. My music director suggested I try composing a piece which I did. I found it easy to do and I could really express myself. Fell in love with doing it and knew this was what I wanted to
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Getting separated from the band on the trains while touring in Europe only to somehow meet up again in Germany.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Performing 6 concerts at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
The process usually starts with something that inspires me. That sets the wheels turning and maybe generates a melody, the harmony, maybe both together. It may be the verse, the chorus or both. This leads to the gestation period. This is where all the aspects, details, and musical possibilities that will define the piece are worked out both consciously and subconsciously . When a sense of completion is reached, the piece is done. Revisions may occur at a later point in time.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Competing with the Major labels/artists and gaining recognition. Indie artists (and their genres) have grown tremendously over the past few years, establishing their place in the music industry as a viable entity. We must continue working together to strengthen our position in the music industry that was once controlled by the Major labels and artists, to ensure our music will be heard and appreciated by listeners worldwide.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Rehearsals are generally 2-3 hours long. Since we've played together for over 25 years, they're pretty loose. Usually start with some older songs to warm up, then go to the new ones being worked on or just start improvising, coming up with ideas and developing them. If the rehearsal is for an upcoming show, we work on the order of the pieces we've chosen and how we'll sync
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
There's really never been just one song that's been the greatest challenge. Every song I've written is a challenge within itself. As an impressionist, from the initial composition to the arrangement, instrumentation, etc. the challenge is always to make the right choices to paint the picture musically for the listener.
What's coming up in the future?
Working on a new CD release, plan to do some more live stream concerts and hoping to get back out to perform once the Covid pandemic eases up.
About James Kennedy James Kennedy began working as a professional musician in 1970 doing concerts and recordings. He released an LP “Just Being Natural” in 1972 and has been active as a recording session musician ever since. Throughout the years, James has performed as a solo artist and with a variety groups. In 1980, he formed “The Heartland Consort” for performance and recording. From 1981-1993, he was an Artist In Residence at Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA; thiss residency included performances with Stephane Grapelli, Bill Evans, Woody Shaw, Phil Woods, Gary Burton, and many more. In 1984 the German record label, Enja Records, released his self-titled LP of the group’s music. In 1986, he formed the indie record label Heart Consort Music which currently has 29 CD releases with worldwide distribution. In 1990, James formed James Kennedy & Friends group for performances and recordings - the group is still active in both performance and recording with 3 out of 4 of it’s original members. James is an active voting member of the Recording Academy since 2000. Has submitted new music to the Grammy Awards process for 19 consecutive years. He is also active in many online “collaborative” music communities, a current/active member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 137, and he remains active in composing and submitting music for film, TV, commercials, and other projects through Broadjam, Film Music Jobwire, Music Gateway, and various other entities. Mount Vernon, Iowa Community Development Group, produced 3 promotional videos for international distribution featuring 3 of James’ pieces. His music was selected for independent film “Pirate Island” which is currently in production (paused due to Covid-19), and his music was selected for Independent “short film” “East of Middlewest” which is currently in production.
While Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of “in-person” performances, James and his group
have been doing “virtual” concerts when possible. James has also capitalized on this time to
work on new music using a custom built Brazilian 10-string “viola caipira” guitar and hopes to
release the new material by the end of 2020.
James has received numerous independent music awards throughout my career.
Indie Music Channel Radio Awards 2019
Best Male Jazz Artist
for song “Sneak It Out”
2020 Indie Channel Music Awards
Nominated for “Best Jazz Instrumentalist”
“Uptown Theatre Honors” ceremony
James has been recognizing decades of musical achievements and his lifelong work of nurturing “rising” musicians.