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The Kennedys

The KennedysInterview by Joyce Peters

November 1998
Reprinted courtesy of Taconic Press

I caught up with Maura and Pete Kennedy by telephone, as they drove between shows from Ohio to Pennsylvania.

JP: Where are you now?
MK: We’re in a parking lot somewhere between Yellow Springs and Cincinnati [Ohio]. We’re calling from our van – our home away from home. We broke down and bought a cell phone last week. We resisted it for a long time.

JP: When I read articles describing your adventurous road trips, I was envious. Can I come along?
MK: Sure, you’ll have to come next time, as long as you do some driving [laughs].

JP: Have you read the book, Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon?
MK: Oh, my God. Pete mentioned that book to me twenty minutes ago! We are driving a small road from Yellow Springs down to Route 71…and Pete said, “This is a blue highway.” We were talking about the very same book.
PK: We’ve been keeping a road diary since 1996…it’ll be book length eventually.

JP: How do you find solace while on the road?
MK: Now that we have a cell phone, we don’t [laughs]. We like to schedule side trips, like the Grand Canyon, away from the rigors of traveling.

JP: I keep reading “jangle-pop” and “jangly guitar” as descriptions for your music. What’s that all about?
PK: Jangle is a word that was applied to The Byrds back in the ’60s…they always had a 12-string guitar and a tambourine. Vocal harmonies that float on top of the guitars. That term has been dormant…we sort of revived it. It’s applied to us all the time.

JP: Now that you’ve made two albums while on the road, with lots of guests, and now “Angel Fire” with just the two of you in your own studio, what’s your preference?
MK: We love to do things outside of a formula. We don’t want to be predictable. Being able to record at home has been a great thing. We wrote the songs at home and were able to record the same day. It’s a real luxury to record a song when it’s fresh.
PK: We like both ways. Recording an album is a chance to reinvent ourselves every time. It gives us a challenge…to come up with a new approach.

JP: Who would you love to collaborate with?
PK: Lucy Kaplansky and The Nields; they’re good buddies of ours.
MK: Dar Williams. We’re really into Angelique Kidjo; she combines world music rhythms with Jimi Hendrix stuff. She’s really cool.

JP: What would surprise people to find out about you?
MK: When people come to see us live, they’re surprised…that we have the sound of a full band. We sing in real wide harmonies, so it sounds like more than two voices. The level of energy we have on stage. Pete’s an incredible guitar player. I was completely floored the first time I saw him play. He does sounds…percussive things…he’ll tune down and up in the middle of a solo.

JP: What can we expect from your performance at The Towne Crier?
PK: Our show is really about the chemistry between the two of us. You have to see it live. We celebrate the fact that we both love music and the opportunity to do this. MK: Grey Eye Glances are on the bill…and we’re excited about their music.

JP: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
MK: Pete has a story involving leiderhosen [laughs]!
PK: It’s now in our contract that we won’t ever wear leiderhosen on stage.