On Music: Free Kennedy: Two arts, one sound

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

It’s not known whether recording artist Free Kennedy has risked turning the volume past the comforts of country music fans. What’s for sure is that he’s making enough noise to prove he belongs alongside Bo Bice, Jason Aldean and Darius Rucker in a rock-tinged brigade Nashville has welcomed with open arms. Kennedy’s debut, American Dream, dropped Oct. 23, and has as much punch in six songs that Aldean packed in the 11-track debut that rocked straight to the top 10 in 2005.

A Muskogee, Okla., native, Free Kennedy moved to Chicago in 2003 to focus on selling his songs in a bigger market. It wasn’t long before Nashville writers took notice, altering the unknown guitar store worker’s course of action.

“I got into songwriting in Nashville to sell my songs,” Kennedy said. “After a while, someone told me they liked my stuff and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just be an artist?’ The next thing I knew, I was cutting a record. It was almost like it just happened.”

A former rocker, Kennedy spent a few years in the trenches opening up for a host of bands like Gin Blossoms and working among the industry’s A-list producers.

When it appeared he’d solidify a career as a rock artist, it was Kennedy’s down-home roots that opened the door for a country career that would take much of his hard-driving influences along for the ride. And he’s making no bones about it, nor trying to hide the rock and roll that stands tall and proud behind a tapestry of countryfied literacy.

“People are loving it,” Kennedy added. “It’s definitely a hybrid—country/rock mixture influenced by different things.”

Kennedy’s influences are evident in his music, something he says is attributed to the stew of the music he grew up listening to. From Motown to Motley Crue, Kennedy was moved in the right direction that has Nashville execs realizing the new generation of country rockers has arrived, just as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Clint Black revitalized the traditional country sound in the early ’90s. As the charts continue to prove, there’s plenty of room to rock. In fact, even as country gets louder and stronger, there’s nothing getting in the way of what made Nashville famous.

“Today, we are pushing the limits,” Kennedy said. “To some, today’s country is the new rock. But there’s still your traditional country and the blues/rock stuff that will never go away.”

Managed by global A&R company Entertainment 29 (Golden Music), Free Kennedy and band, Project Free, have been busy playing a variety of dates and promoting the title track, which continues to branch from the Muskogee airwaves, where it was the Okie Country 101.7’s most requested track, to other markets.

Whether today’s country is, in fact, the new rock, a six-song EP won’t be the last anyone hears from Free Kennedy. If there’s ever been anyone in the decade who has actually fused—without alterations—country and rock, Kennedy is it. The album can be purchased at freekennedy.com. More information about Entertainment 20 is at entertainment29.com.

From the Nov. 10-16, 2010 issue

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