Artist Interview: Cormac Kenevey
Jazz Vocalist and Songwriter Cormac Kenevey was born in Dublin and introduced to jazz at a very early age by his pianist father. He performs regularly across Ireland and the UK, and has been a favourite at festivals and events on a local, national and international level.
Ahead of the launch of his new album "Turning Skies" on Oct 28th, and a performance from the Cormac Kenevey quartet in Arthur's this week, we spoke to the artist about his musical background, influences and musings about music.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?
I have played in many great places, including festivals as far away as Abu Dhabi and Mexico. I’ve played in Ronnie Scott’s and my performances with the Concert Orchestras of RTE and the BBC as some of my proudest moments. I love old theatre venues like the Gaeity in Dublin, it’s the back stage areas that are most interesting! All of the ropes, curtains and workings are so full of history and potential.
Which musicians have been most influential to you?
My early influences include my own father, who’s a fine piano player and introduced me to some great recordings early on, including Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee and Sinatra’s Capitol recordings. I’ve always loved the swinging feel of Red Garland’s piano trio records. Later, everything changed for me on hearing Kurt Elling’s “Live in Chicago” album and seeing Mark Murphy live at Vicar Street in Dublin at around the same time.
Were there any other sources of inspiration at play when you were recording the new album? (music/arts/politics/personal etc)
I have two young boys now and they change the way you see the world. My lyric for Brad Mehldau’s Sky Turning Grey touches on a few of the feelings around being a father, including the fact that I still feel like a kid myself! I also have a lyric for Julien Colarossi’s beautiful melody that he has dedicated for his mother, so that has elements from a son’s point of view.
Can you tell us the most challenging/rewarding part of creating the new album?
My current band are such amazing musicians and they bring such a positive attitude to the rehearsal room, studio and stage. I’m very lucky they choose to stay involved.
One of the project’s highlights was getting the endorsement from Brad for his Sky Turning Grey track. We met up in Dublin earlier this year and he said he had been singing it in the kitchen with his wife, which was a nice image!
You chose to undertake a master's degree in Jazz Performance - why was this important to you? Did you get what you wanted from it?
Even though I have postgraduate qualifications in other fields, my formal music education was limited to Grade 7 Clarinet! I approached the Masters course as a good opportunity to do some serious practice and study. The qualification helps ease the impostor syndrome! A little.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I always have lists on the go. Lists of songs I’d like to tackle, lists of music that might suit a new lyric, lists of projects, unfinished verses and bits of ideas. I’m planning to record two new albums in the next 2-3 year period, one might be a duo project with a couple of my favourite accompanists and one might sound bit like Van Morrison and Ray Charles pushing Michael Bublé from a bridge. We’ll see.
What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?
With the availability of everything anytime, anywhere it seems the shared musical experience will have to come through live music. It’s hard to say if future generations will have the attention span or mindset to enjoy music as an experience in itself.