NJ Welcomes The Kennedys With Their 1st All-Original Album In 5 Years
Pete and Maura Kennedy are back with Headwinds, their first album of all new material in five years.
They’re performing a couple of shows in the NJ/NY area and they got together with Jim Monaghan to catch up on what they’ve been up to.
JIM MONAGHAN – Here at 105.5 WDHA on All Mixed Up. It is good to see them both literally and figuratively, Pete and Maura Kennedy. Welcome back to WDA.
MAURA KENNEDY – Hey, Jim, it’s great to be back.
PETE KENNEDY – Great to be back, Jim.
JM – The new album, Headwinds has just been out a couple of weeks. We’ve been playing a bunch of tracks from it and I love it. Congratulations.
MK – Thank you so much.
JM – What took so long, aside from the pandemic?
PK – There was a little pandemic in there.
MK – But we were stuck at home. You’d think it’d be a perfect time to record an album, but we were doing these live streams every week. In the beginning, we were playing songs that we knew. We thought we would just do a week or two of these. And then the pandemic kept going. And we wanted people to keep coming back week after week, so we vowed not to repeat songs. So after about three months, we went through every song we knew and we started learning songs. So really, our entire week from the minute our show ended on Sunday at three, we would start working on the next week’s show, learning a dozen new songs and researching how the songs came to be written and things so that we’d have a nice conversation. So that took up all of our time.
PK – And that went on for two and a half years.
JM – No one expected that.
PK – By the time we got up to the 130-something show, we had done over a thousand different songs. A thousand different songs. So we had to learn each song. It was like getting a PhD in songwriting. And I think it really helped a lot with this album.
MK – Yeah, that’s when at the end of last summer, we started doing monthly live streams. So we had more time and we had all this wealth of songs that we had learned over the past three years. So that when we sat down to start writing, I think like we had more tools in our musical toolbox to work with. And so that’s where the songs from this album came from. We recorded them over the last year.
JM – You’re at close to 150 of these live streams. And Pete, you kind of anticipated this question that I wanted to ask you – through the course of doing all of these songs, and like you said, no repeats. What did you learn about songwriting and the process of putting these things together?
PK – I think keeping in mind the ones that we responded to the most helped us identify our own songwriting style. So when we do like there’s sort of southern soul music on the record and some things that are sort of like country, but not too twangy, but kind of soulful country. And from doing those sort of things when we went to write, that kind of came out.
MK – Plus lyrically, the songs that resonate the most for me that we learned are, the writers really know how to use metaphors. They really know how to see something, a deeper message in something mundane. And I really love, I love writing, I love finding a metaphor, you know, and then and going with it. So, and also rhyme schemes, there’s some there were some really amazing struct song structures that we learned from. So I think it kind of took our songwriting to a place we hadn’t gone yet.
JM – You mentioned the word “mundane,” and it sounds like it’s, you know, pejorative, but it’s really not. In fact, Marshall Crenshaw and I have had a couple of conversations about this – it’s hard to write simple.
MK – Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah.
JM – I mean, you think of a song like “Achy Breaky Heart,” and when that song became a big hit, how many guys in Nashville were going, “I could have done that. I could have done that.”
MK – They didn’t.
JM – They didn’t. Exactly. They didn’t.
MK – Well, there’s a song on the new album that I’m particularly proud of called “Late September Breeze,” and it starts off with the smell of grass when when someone’s mowing the lawn mixed with the smell of leaves because that’s right in the part of the season where I was when I was taking a walk and I just took an inhale. And that set off a metaphor for the whole song. And you have to kind of keep your mind tuned to the, you know, quote unquote, Monday, and then everyday things around you and just see where they leave you.
JM – I know that when I was in high school, there was a certain there was a certain smell that cut grass had in the end of August to the middle of September that it didn’t smell like any other time of year. And what little high school football I played, it immediately, that smell, brings me right back to that moment. Yeah. That’s right there.
PK – That’s what Maura’s song “Late September Breeze” is exactly about that.
MK – That very moment that that real tiny window of time.
PK – But you can start with that smell. And like you said, it brings you back to a certain place. So now you’ve got a nostalgia element. You’ve got a time passing element. You’ve got things that are coming to an end, other things you’re starting. So now you’ve got ingredients for a whole song just from that one, one sensory thing.
JM – And there is a real country sense, a country feel maybe perhaps to this album that I know you’ve explored that before in your music, but I think it’s a little bit stronger in this album.
MK – I think maybe that just comes from being isolated for for so long, you know, and from, you know, we moved out of the East Village where we lived for 20 years and we moved up to Tarrytown and we were out in nature a lot like everybody was because we weren’t going to night clubs and things for those first couple of years. And the pace was slower. We weren’t on the road, you know, we didn’t really set out to write country songs. And of course, they’re not all. There’s a sort of a salsa song and a gospel song on the record. But I think it just reflects the pace of life for us at the time.
JM – Yeah, I hear a bunch of different influences, including…there’s a Yardbirds influence on one of the tracks as well, the guitar tone.
MK – Oh, “The Sky Doesn’t Look Right.”
PK – “The Sky Doesn’t Look Right.” Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
MK – Yeah. And then I got my Dave Edmunds sound on the title, on the opening track, “New Set of Wheels.” That was heavily Dave-influenced.
JM – As soon as I heard that song, it immediately took me back to “Queen of Hearts,” which of course, Dave Edmunds had done. And I think I didn’t know until I looked it up when this album came out. I had no idea “Queen of Hearts” was written by a guy from Staten Island.
PK – Was that Hank DeVito?
JM – Yeah, Hank DeVito. I had no idea he was a New York City kid.
MK – Yeah. I didn’t know I didn’t know that.
PK – I knew him from Emmylou’s (Harris) band. I didn’t know he was from Staten Island. That’s one of those classic classic pop songs.
JM – And of course, a big hit for Juice Newton, if I remember correctly, right?
PK – Right. Dave Edmunds had cut it, but Juice Newton had the bigger hit with.
MK – And what’s his name?
PK – Rodney (Crowell) did it too.
MK – The guy who used to live in Austin, the English guy.
JM – Albert Lee.
MK – No, no, no. He was in Dave Edmunds’ band, the guitar player. I forget. That other guy. That other guy.
PK – It’s like the other guy in Wham. The other guy in Rockpile.
JM – Pete and Maura Kennedy are with me this morning here on All Mixed Up, the brand new album.
MK – Billy Bremner.
JM – There you go. Really? I didn’t know he lived in Nashville for a while.
MK – No, in Austin when I lived there, he lived there. And I remember having a conversation. He was kind of miffed that Juice Newton had the hit with it.
JM – The new album from the Kennedys Headwinds is out. There’s a couple of shows, in fact, that we want to talk about one tonight at North Square Village Nights in Manhattan. And then there’s another one coming up here in New Jersey on November 3rd with one of my favorite live bands, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams at Outpost In the Burbs in Montclair. Pete, you were telling me a story before we came on the air about this place where you’re playing tonight. Tell us about it.
PK – It had a different name. Was it the Earle? The Earle? Maybe it’s right on the northwest corner of Washington Square. So totally central to that whole area where all the clubs were back then. Cafe Wha?, the Night Owl, every place. And also the theaters where touring bands would play. So I mean, if you went into this hotel in any given night, the Byrds or Jimi Hendrix or the Mothers of Invention or the Lovin’ Spoonful would be in there rehearsing or staying there in various rooms. And somebody used to stay on the first floor all the time because they couldn’t pay their bills so they would jump out the window. They had a certain room that they stayed. So it’s one of those really historic rock and roll sites in the village. So we’re really glad to do an album CD release gig there.
MK – This is part of Richard Barone’s series that he curates called “Village Nights.” Yeah, and it’s right in the Washington Square Hotel. It’s tonight. It’s going to be our big New York City record release. So come on out.
JM – That’s a hotel sounds like New York City’s version of Laurel Canyon.
PK – Yes. Exactly. Yeah. Yep.
JM – There’ve been a couple of different films and documentaries about that. One of the other documentaries and we mentioned this briefly before we came on the air this morning was the three episode Get Back series by The Beatles that I know you’ve watched and it was just magical for me. And I’m sure it was for you. I know you’re huge Beatles fans.
MK – Well, watching (Paul) McCartney actually write a song that we all know was like, I’m still in shock from from witnessing that. Like what a gift to be able to watch that process.
PK – Yeah, he was like an unstoppable machine. He’d just walk in, take off his coat and immediately write like five songs, one of which would be like “Let It Be.” He’d be fooling around and then all of a sudden he’d come up with a classic song.
JM – I spoke with a friend of mine the other day who has not seen it yet and he was asking me about it. And I said, well, there are three parts to it. And there are parts that are really long and it’s like, all right, come on, let’s get to the next part. But when you get to the, when you get there, you get to Paul pulling “Get Back” out of thin air, you get to the rooftop concert and even George (Harrison) is smiling. And John (Lennon) and Paul are moving in unison with each other. Those payoffs are so worth the times where you’re thinking what’s going to happen here?
MK – Well, there’s so much of it, like we had to, when we watched it, we would watch, I thought we were going to blast through all three, but you need to give your ears a rest and you need to process what you just saw and heard. And you know, they’re all, they’re in a room together. They’re talking over each other and everything. And you’re kind of like, wow, I’m in the room with these guys and I’m, I’m a witness to this process. So you have to really give yourself time in between. It’s great.
PK – I think as a companion piece too, there’s the Rick Rubin series with Paul McCartney.
MK – That’s great.
PK – I think it’s called 1,2,3 McCartney or something like that, where they have the actual tracks and they pull the faders up and down to hear exactly what they were doing on those various songs. That’s so, so educational for any songwriter.
MK – And then I, then the third companion piece is something I got for Pete for his birthday earlier this year, which is that two-volume, Paul McCartney Lyrics.
JM – Yes.
MK -That Paul Muldoon kind of edited and put together from interviews and stuff. And that’s, that’s a great glimpse into Paul’s songwriting process too. And his life really.
JM – Exactly. You know, when you watch, when I was watching him write, “Get Back,” I can’t tell you how many times I rewound it just to go, “Did I really just see this?”
MK – I know.
JM – I’m sure it happens with a lot of artists. When you to write a song, there’s probably moments and you’ve had, you’ve written some really, really fine pop, rock, country, whatever songs, but nobody’s sitting there with a camera in front of you.
MK – Right. And we didn’t know there was a camera on the Beatles when he was writing that.
PK – Those moments are usually lost as soon as they’re over, but that, and he’s playing his, he’s strumming his bass like a guitar. He picks up the bass, starts strumming chords on it and singing “Jo Jo was a man…,” and it’s amazing to see that.
MK – And see how the words evolve, you know, at first it kind of mumbles and then, yeah.
PK – And then he sits at the piano and he says, “Mal,” you know, Mal comes over with a little note pad. He says, you know, write this down. “When I find myself in times of trouble….” Wow. You’re seeing the creation of something good.
MK – We don’t have a scribe. We should get a scribe. When we’re writing a song.
PK – Paul had his own scribe.
JM – And the rooftop concert, I must have rewound that a dozen times just to watch that.
MK – It’s just amazing.
PK – You can actually hear them too. When I saw them in ’66, you could see them, but not hear them. All you heard was 30,000 girls screaming at the top of their lungs, but it was still an amazing experience.
JM – Pete and Maura Kennedy are my guests this morning here on All Mixed Up at 105.5 WDHA. Headwinds is the first original studio album in five years. And then the show tonight in Manhattan, North Square Village Nights and on Friday, November 3 in Montclair along with the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Pete, I know you have a guitar with you. And you said it was kind of like a comfort blanket. I had a couple of things with me today. You’re kind of responsible in some way for this because I love the sound you get from your Rickenbacker. So I started with this, which is a Liverpool Sans Amp pedal.
MK – Oh, yeah…Sans Amp.
JM – And I was using that for a while. And then during the pandemic, I had a lot of free time on my hands. So that morphed into the Vox Mini Super Beetle (amplifier).
PK – Oh, those are great.
JM – Oh, my gosh, it’s wonderful. Yeah, it’s just it’s an amazing amplifier.
PK – James Mastro turned me on to that.
JM – And then well, I went out and I bought a Vox AC 15 stack because I always…
MK – You didn’t!
PK – Wow.
PK – You’re turn into a Beatle.
MK – You’re a gear head, aren’t you?
JM – I am. And then I know you’re a big Rickenbacker fan….
MK – Oh, oh, wait a minute here.
PK – I’ve got the exact twin….
MK – You guys…get a room.
PK – I’ve got the exact twin of that guitar.
MK – Oh, OK.
PK – But isn’t that when we were playing in the garage back in the old days and we had our Silvertones from Sears, we wanted to have the Vox amp and a Rickenbacker guitar, but that was way out of out of range. So now that we’re old guys, we can indulge in that.
MK – I see a new duo coming on.
JM – You know, I had Rick Springfield on a few weeks ago. And as he as he came on, I had a guitar with me and he came on and he starts playing harmonica to one of the Beatles songs. And so I started to strum the chords to it and he said, “I bet you didn’t know we were going to do a duet here, did you?”
MK – Wow.
PK – Wow.
JM – Are you familiar with Rick Beato, speaking of duets?
PK – Oh, yeah.
JM – Did you happen to see Rick Beato’s interview with Nuno Betancourt.
PK – No.
JM – You have to check that out. There are a lot of F bombs, so I can’t, I was not able to play it in its entirety on the air. We had to search far and wide to find an edited version, but Nuno had been touring with, I believe it was Rhianna. He had come off the road. He’s exhausted and he gets a phone call from, I think it was his manager who says, I need you to come down to do a rehearsal for the Grammys. Man, I just got off the road. I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a pass on this. “Paul McCartney is going to be there.” “Where and when?” So Nuno goes in and he has his back to the entrance to the room that they’re in and he’s just playing some licks on the guitar and he hears a voice with a British accent behind him going, “What’s that you’re playing?”
MK – Oh, God.
JM – And he turns around and it’s McCartney. And so he says, oh, it’s just something I’m working on.
And so Paul asked him to play it again and then he said, well, what do you got after that? And Nuno said, what would you do there?
MK – Oh, my God.
JM – And that’s the exact reaction that Rick Beato had, because Nuno says, am I writing a bleeping song with bleeping Paul McCartney here? I mean, it was amazing. I really encourage you to check that out. I think you’ll like it a lot.
MK – Oh, wow.
PK – Yeah. Rick Beato is an amazing guy.
JM – When you get to these live shows one tonight and then again in November in Montclair, what can your fans expect to see?
MK – Well, usually with the shows that are two sets, we’re going to do a bunch of the songs from the new album because we’re so excited for the new songs. And then what we do usually is for the second set, we’ll do all requests. So people can yell out whatever song they want and every show is going to be different that way. Now for the one that we’re doing on November 3rd at the Outpost In the Burbs, that’s a double bill with the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, the acoustic version. And we just played last weekend a festival. They’re old friends of ours. And we know their songs and they know our songs. So we’re going to do a bunch of stuff together on that show. That’s going to be really, really a fun one too.
JM – That’s great. That is Friday, November 3rd. You can find all things about the Kennedy’s online at KennedysMusic.com, Headwinds the new album. And again, the show tonight in Manhattan and November 3rd in Montclair. It’s so good to have you back. I missed talking to you guys and look forward to seeing you in November in Montclair.
MK – It’s great to see you too.
PK – See you then.