As venues remain closed and gigs take place behind closed doors, Brian Kennedy treats us to a session from his home in Kilmainham. he sat down (virtually) with Barry Egan beforehand to reveal how he has been coping during lockdown, without live gigs, and what else is on the horizon...
What is your current state of mind?
I’m feeling lucky to be well and Covid-free and I’m mad to do gigs.
How’s life in Kilmainham?
I love living here in this house with my very cool and lovely housemates and the lockdown reminded me about how close we are to beautiful parks and canals. Lockdown life started off feeling very slow in March but somehow it's suddenly August, how the f**k did that happen?
Who is the love of your life?
I was hoping to have an Irish wolfhound pup by now but they’re proving to be very rare so he’s not here yet.
What music have you been listening to in lockdown?
I share my house with incredible young women who constantly introduce me to brand new music, to my ears anyway, like Chvrches and the newest Taylor swift and Lady Gaga albums.
Any favourite albums that you returned to?
Well firstly I re-alphabetised my CD collection and found some amazing half forgotten albums. Keith Jarrett Music At Midnight, Stevie Wonder, Kate Bush, Talk Talk…Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell are never far away.
What is the greatest song ever written and why?
You always ask the awkward question but that's YOUR job! OK, today I would say Imagine by John Lennon, it still speaks so articulately about longing for a simpler kinder world and it could have been written this year, never mind all those decades ago given its timeless fresh temperature.
What is the greatest song you have ever written?
My opinion changes frequently but so far, I think Christopher Street is a song that I feel very proud of because it's so complete and I particularly love playing the guitar part. I love the revisit I did with Boy George on my Ultimate Collection, or Recovery from my most recent album with Billy Farrell because I was able to articulate my own journey back to health from a very difficult few years with my cancer journey, and now it feels like an anthem for recovery from the devastation of Covid on our nation.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Brian Kennedy?
Oh that's a hard one, because sometimes people say I’m much taller in real life or that I’m smaller or thinner or fatter, I get it all. Or that I’m some kind of lovely long haired soft folky dude, when in fact I survived a daily life threatening childhood with the war in Belfast to miraculously became a recording artist and a published author and I’ve never had any kind of formal training for anything. Check out my most recent song Child of War on Recovery; that sums up some of that time. So maybe that, but it's not really for me to say. I also have a fairly filthy sense of humour I’m told.
What new songs are you working on?
I’m noodling away on some ideas that I like, I also finally have a proper piano again in my house so that should be interesting.
When can we expect to hear some new Brian Kennedy music?
As soon as the radio stations get behind it and actually play it. RECOVERY IS OUT NOW! And hopefully at some gigs too.
How has Covid 19 effected your creativity?
Well, it's affected the way I am in the world. Live gigs online are great fun and challenging in a different way but not the same as in a venue with an actual live breathing audience to interact with so I think that will have some kind of impact creatively eventually. The results are yet to be seen but it’s going to be interesting.
Have you written any songs inspired by the lock-down?
The inspiration for songs is not always obvious at first, they tend to reveal themselves later in life in my experience. Some songs just happen in their own way and own time, but my song Recovery seems to have taken on a completely new meaning now that we’re in the throes of this lockdown.
When do you think you will be back gigging?
Well the good news is I’m going to be singing at the Younique festival of Love. September 25th at Stormount hotel Belfast and then Saturday 26th September in Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle Co Down, Fingers crossed!!!
What is your greatest fear?
I don't tend to entertain fear for very long but I would certainly like to stop losing close friends to cancer at such a rate like I have over the last few years.
What makes you angry?
Plain ignorance, racism and needless cruelty. It takes less energy to be kind in the long run in my opinion.
Which living person do you most admire?
Well it was John Hume until we lost him only a few days ago. I really admire Sinead O’Connor's artistry and courage in the face of so much public trauma, and I have to say the unwavering generosity of my friend and trainer Paul Byrne who is one of the most selfless humans I know and who helped raise all that money for my expensive cancer surgery that ultimately has saved my life. He always puts other people first and he has a huge heart. He’ll hate that I have said this publicly. Too late!
What living person do you least admire or despise?
Unsurprisingly I least admire Mr Trump. The way that he constantly degrades people and has somehow given permission for white supremacists to reappear from their hiding places and make the world a more Dangerous Ugly place. The last time I was in NYC he had managed to suck the joy out of that incredible city in the midst of impeachment, so very sad to see so many humans being so taken in by his ridiculous rhetoric.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I think deplore is a bit dramatic, but I dislike how very hard on myself I can be, but it's a two way street because that same trait made me able to leave my hometown of Belfast when I did for the tricky streets of London when I was only 18 but it ultimately enabled me to make the life I have for myself now in glorious Dublin.
What is your greatest regret?
I always try and remind myself that ALL roads lead to here so I regret nothing really because I see with hindsight that I needed to make very drastic decisions about people and places in order to blossom and have the life that I have now. There are certain people that I know I tried my hardest to understand, love and and stay close to but it just didn’t work out and although I miss some of them sometimes I understand they’re not in my life now for very very good reasons, life’s too short for regret.
When and where are you happiest?
On stage mostly like the tour with Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell in America in 1998, it was unforgettable. Also singing eight shows a week in the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway for almost a year in a special production of Riverdance and I wouldn’t have written Christopher Street had I not lived there. I also bizarrely love leg day in the gym because it’s so f**king hard but so f**king worth it. I also miss a slow boozy gossipy lunch with my besties.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Honestly I think I have it. I LOVE being a singer like nothing else.
What makes you laugh out loud?
When Katherine Lynch does anything by Sheila Sheikh.
What have you binge-watched on Neflix?
I was addicted to Ru Paul's Drag Race, Schitts Creek, Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries, Lavender and Thyme, and currently Unforgotten which is incredible.
Video produced by Barry Egan.