Interview: James Kennedy

James Kennedy is a musician from Wales whose story is not your typical success story, and that’s what makes his story special and interesting to hear and read about. His approach to music is very DIY, with all of his albums being crowdfunded by his loyal fans, called Misfits. He was in an alternative metal band called Kyshera, who received praise in Rock Sound, Classic Rock, Big Cheese, Rhythm, and Dead Press.

He describes his upcoming book, Keeping On, on his crowdfunding page,

“Being a winner is easy. It’s being a failure that’s hard. The tale that follows is not another cliched collection of rock’n’roll debaucheries (sorry) nor is it another tired fable of triumph over adversity (you’re welcome). It’s the story of how a half dead kid from a tiny, remote village in South Wales came to be hailed as a ‘genius’ by the UK’s biggest radio staton and headhunted by major labels. The following year, the music industry crashed – and it crashed hard, losing with it an entire generation of talented artists who would now never get their shot. CNN would later call it ‘Music’s lost decade’ This is the story of one of its survivors.”

James Kennedy’s plan for this year and next year is to launch a new solo career and release his upcoming book.

I got to interview James Kennedy about his book, so if you want to learn more about him, keep on reading.

Angie Moon: How did you get started in music?

James Kennedy: It kind of just happened naturally. My Dad gave me a little Spanish acoustic Guitar for my 9th birthday (he’d nicked it from somewhere in a desperate attempt to cover yet another kids birthday!) and I picked it up really quick so it became my obsession.

From there, everything else that I did musically was just out of necessity – I taught myself how to record & produce records because I couldn’t afford to hire a studio, I started singing because I didn’t know any singers & I started a label because I couldn’t get signed – so one thing just led to another.

AM: Was there one big break or was it a slow burn to get all this recognition in the press?

JK: Very slow burner! I ‘almost’ got a big break right at the start, with Sony & Warner calling me up excitedly, but then the industry nose dived & all of that interest dried up over night. The next 10 years for me was like wandering a barren dust bowl with my Guitar in hand and getting no interest from anyone, anywhere.

AM: I read that your fans call themselves Misfits. Where does that name come from?

JK: It’s a fitting name for the dysfunctional extended family that we’ve become – but it originally comes from my song ‘Misfits’.

AM: What forgotten musicians that went through a similar situation would you recommend to us?

JK: There were some amazing bands that hit the scene the same time as Kyshera and some of them are still going strong, like Henry’s Funeral Shoe, who’ve got a new album coming out soon.

Cat Southall’s solo stuff is awesome, as was her Pop Punk band ‘Sal’. We used to share a lot of stages with The Donde Stars and Alisons Op – both awesome bands and Matt from Alisons Op ended up becoming our Bassist. 

AM: What were the biggest changes in the music industry?

JK: Digital. Nobody realised until digital came along that music in itself had never really been worth anything – people were paying for the plastic it was played on. As soon as the internet came along and people could share these tiny files with ease, the whole house of cards fell down.

The whole industry until that point had operated on a seriously shaky business model and digital made most of it redundant – it took many years for anything resembling a new model to materialise though.

AM: What would you change about the music industry?

JK: The value of music needs to be higher. Music plays such an important role in peoples lives, yet a whole album that took an artist a year to create costs less than a Panini. This is grossly un-cool and all of us are a guilty part of the chain.

AM: What is different and special about Konic Records compared to rest of the industry?

JK: Not much, other than it is 100% artist owned and operated. As an artist myself, I am on the side of artists – I know what the daily reality is like and I know how hard it is to get anything back for all the blood, sweat & tears. I have no interest in chasing trends, I am much more interested in the boring, long term, patient road to longevity & building an actual sustainable career rather than being a magazine cover one week & job seeking the next.

AM: What was writing the book like?

JK: Fun, upsetting, hard work & rewarding. I’m really glad I did it and I learned a lot about myself and my journey from doing it, but at times it was difficult re-visiting certain moments and as the scale of the book started growing, I did feel myself drowning a little. But ultimately it was a really cathartic experience & hopefully the story will be one that others enjoy too.

James Kennedy live

AM: If you could talk to your past self what would you say and at what point in time would you say it?

JK: I’d tell my 18 year old self : “Don’t doubt yourself so much, it will only slow you down & hold you back. It’s gonna be tough out there and you’re gonna need to be on your own side”.

AM: How do you feel about the flash in the pan/viral type Insta-fame and reality show fame?

JK: I think it’s a sad indictment of our society’s values. I feel sorry for the people involved because they are obviously desperately yearning for any kind of attention, even if it’s negative. Their desperation is exploited by media companies looking for cheap, easy content and the rest of us have the standard of our culture dropped to the lowest denominator. Why anyone gives a sh*t about any of this stuff, I can’t fathom.

AM: What advice would you give people who are thrust into the spotlight because of viral fame so quickly?

JK: None of this is real. So enjoy the ride and don’t take any of it (let alone yourself), in any way seriously. It will be over real soon.

AM: What would you say to someone who feels that their music career is in a rut?

JK: Take a break. You can dig yourself face first into a big black hole if you keep ploughing on. Take a break, reconnect with all the other parts of your life, get some clarity, get some energy, get excited again – and then get back on the saddle. There’s no end point to this road, it’s a life long work load, so take a pit stop now & again.

James Kennedy - Suit

You can follow James Kennedy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and his official website. If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of his book or availing of some unique crowdfunding perks like a custom song just for you or a house concert, you can preorder here.

Shout out to my good friend and Topaz level Patron, Patrick.

Loved this post and want to see more great posts like this and show your appreciation for The Diversity of Classic Rock? Chip in some money on Patreon (monthly donation) or PayPal (one-time donation). Or buy my merch or my photography prints on RedBubble. Or donate your writing or art talents to my blog, contact me here if you’re interested in collaborating. All of this is totally optional, but extremely helpful. 

All Diversity of Classic Rock content will remain free, but Patrons get some nice perks, like early access to blog posts, birthday cards, Skype calls with me, and exclusive behind the scenes posts. Every dollar helps. 

If you cannot afford to donate to The Diversity of Classic Rock, there are many free ways to support the blog: clicking that follow button on my website, turning off your AdBlock, following me on Facebook or Twitter, liking posts, sharing posts, leaving nice comments, or sending your music for review. Thank you!