Conversations With Sean Kennedy: Finding Focus, Career Highlights and His Latest Single ‘Nothi
In 2019, I was blessed by a submission from some dude named Sean Kennedy. I had never heard of him before, but his song, “Young & Depressed“, quickly became my favorite song of the moment – even my wife loved it (which doesn’t happen often) – and eventually it became one of my sons first favorite jams (when he was 3 years old). Sean Kennedy was new to me, but I was hooked and I needed more. Most impressive to me was his songwriting, with every word cutting deep into my soul and connecting on a personal level like very few artists before or since have been able to. Two parts misery and one part solace, his debut single made me feel all of the feels and continues to do so each time I listen. Quirky, honest and oh so familiar, Sean Kennedy is penning songs for the young and depressed person who hides within most (all) of us.
Most recently Sean Kennedy has dropped his latest single, “Nothing Reminds Me of You“. While it is nearly impossible for me to rank his tracks, this is quite possibly my favorite to date. Bringing a different vibe than what I am used to from him, his latest offering is a somber love tune that will help to open the mind of anyone with a broken heart. With his impressive lyrics leading the way, Sean Kennedy delivers an emotive performance that you can’t help but notice. Over a minimal, guitar driven production every word muttered feels like it comes straight from his heart and is targeted directly for yours. As someone who tries to keep his emotions in check and mostly hidden from the world – something about this song totally fucks me up – and I mean that in the best way possible.
Since his debut just a couple of short years ago, Sean Kennedy has kept the ball rolling, delivering a number of equally stunning tunes. While he tends to prefer quality over quantity unlike most of his contemporaries, and even though I want a whole lot more Sean Kennedy, I find the wait between songs only makes the next drop more exciting. By the time his new single comes, I am not yet sick of the last, and all of the releases prior to that are still in heavy rotation. I could go on and on about why I think he is criminally underrated – but I don’t want it to feel like I am trying to gas him up. To put it simply, I am a fan… you should be too. Do yourself a favor and check out his catalog, and see below for our interview!
RDFO: I’ve been a fan since you dropped your first single, “Young & Depressed”, in 2019 (this was actually one of my sons first favorite songs when he was 3 years old) – what made you decide to launch a solo project and how long was the project in the works before you decided to move ahead with your first single?
SK: That’s so cool. If a three year old likes it, it’s probably pretty good:) They’re not thinking about why they like it or if it’s cool, they just like it or they don’t… I am an artist first and foremost. I grew up writing and performing my songs with and without a band. So, when I started doing writing and producing for others full time, I knew that at some point I’d be putting out some songs again. I wrote and recorded young & depressed in one session by myself and I knew that it was really special. Lyrically, it really summarized a lot of what was swimming around in my head. I wrote it right after I saw the Jonah hill movie mid90s. I let my publisher pitch it for a few weeks because I thought it was so good that a huge artist might want it. Alas, I was very happy to have it not get placed and to get to release it myself. My friend Dan made the artwork.
RDFO: All of your singles so far have been intimate while also having mass-appeal. How do you approach songwriting and what do you find to inspire you most to write?
SK: My main source of inspiration is having something that I’ve decided I’d like to say. I used to make music just to make music. But now I’d prefer to sit and think about things I notice about myself or about others or about life in general. I deeply enjoy the challenge of trying to say something original in a concise and universal way. The short answer is probably words. One or two or three or four words that already sound like something.
RDFO: In our prior discussions you mentioned you grew up in Massachusetts, moved to Providence and then found your way to New York before ultimately landing in LA – which city was your favorite to live in and where did you feel most at home?
SK: My favorite city to live in is New York. I constantly need to be distracted so that I don’t think myself into a frenzy. New York is the best place for that. Walk out your door and there are a hundred million distractions in every crevice of that place. Los Angeles is a close second. I like providence too but it was too small. I like to feel anonymous as much as possible and a city that size doesn’t really allow for that.
RDFO: How long did it take from when you started writing songs until you landed a publishing deal? How has the publishing deal helped to expand your horizons and support your career?
SK: Oh jeez. For me it took longer than most of my peers. I’d say almost ten years from when I started taking music more seriously than anything else in my life until the time when I signed a publishing deal. To be honest, I think I could’ve been signed to a label or publisher a lot earlier but I was very reclusive and unambitious as a young guy. I liked to sit in my room all day and write songs and make shitty demos and never show them to anyone. The process was honestly enough for me. But at some point that changed and I found a way in. My publisher (BMG) has been great. I was signed by a guy named David Stamm who is no longer with BMG but he was a champion on of mine for the 2 years we worked together. He set me up with all the people in LA that I would now call regular collaborators. Now I have a point person named Henry Bishop who I’ve known for years but who has only been with BMG for a few years. He’s great too.
RDFO: Beyond your solo material, do you also work behind the scenes with other artists? If so, what has been the biggest highlight so far on that side of things. Any songs in particular that you were a part of that you are super proud of?
SK: I do. I’m very proud of a few things. I did a song called “Drugs” with my artist friend UPSAHL and my very great friend Killagraham. It was so effortless to write and it continues to gain popularity even two years after it’s release. The other song I’m probably most proud of is a song called “JFK” that I did with my artist friend Ryann. I had this line “You look like John F. Kennedy, you sexy beast, I just can’t take it.” After we’d written the chorus to the song I suggested this lyric to Ryann and she sang it so perfectly. I’ll never forget that moment. I think my jaw dropped haha.
RDFO: Your new single, “Nothing Reminds Me of You”, is without a doubt my favorite release so far – and I say that every time you drop something new… Do you think the best is yet to come and if so is there anything that you have coming that I should be pumped for?
SK: I hope the best is yet to come. I”ll be happy to just remain inspired, it’s difficult in a fucking pandemic. There aren’t any releases lined up right now. I’m kinda trying to find my swing again – so to speak
RDFO: Is your new single written specifically about a person, or is it meant to be more broad and poetic? If it is about someone specific – have they heard it and how did it make them feel lol.
SK: hahaha. Ya it’s about my ex-girlfriend Liz. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s heard it. But, I also wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t. Like all of my songs, I tried to keep it as much about the concept as possible. I was pretty heartbroken when we drifted apart. I think when it happened I thought, this has left an enormous hole in my life, I need something to fill it with. My brain immediately jumped to like some sort of spirituality. I really thought I could meditate my way out of the pain. Boy, was I wrong.
RDFO: I love how all of your songs are a bit depressing while at the same time triumphant and uplifting. Would it be safe to say your music is your greatest escape to get away from your own depression?
SK: Ya the only time I feel weightless is when I’m in the process of making something I love. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, and when it’s not happening I’m very moody and probably pretty unpleasant. I like how you explained it, depressing and triumphant. I like things that feel musically triumphant for sure. A product of growing up on classic rock I suppose. And the sadness can’t be helped. Write what you know, right?
RDFO: You mentioned that prior to going solo that you were part of several indie groups. Any names you want to drop, favorite songs, highlights from that period of time that have stuck with you?
SK: You wouldn’t have heard of any of the bands I was in, but my favorite was Famous Winters. We were very young and obsessed with making music. I was desperate then, I’m not desperate anymore. Sometimes I miss that feeling.
RDFO: Tell us about your experience at Berklee College. What made you first apply, how did you like the program and what ultimately made you decide to drop out?
SK: I was only there for 6 weeks. I applied cause I had a drummer friend who was applying and I thought it seemed like the only way to both do music full time and not seem like a failure to my dad. I dropped out, he came around, it all worked out. I got to meet John Mayer when I was there who was, at the time, my hero. So it was worth it just for that. I can’t really speak to the strength of the curriculum in any meaningful way. The first six weeks are great haha.
RDFO: For my own curiosity, what is up next and how long do I have to wait until you drop your next gem?
SK: Welllll, unlike most of my contemporaries, I’m trying to wait til I love something to drop something. :/:/ I hope for both of our sakes that it doesn’t take too much longer.