OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Artist Q&A with Cormac Kenevey
From an initial career as a software consultant, Cormac Kenevey followed his musical dreams to release his first album on the CANDID label in 2006 - This is Living, a collaboration with the exceptionally talented Dublin stalwart Phil Ware and his Trio. This was followed in 2009 by his second album The Art of Dreaming. His tour dates have included locations in London (Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express Dean St), around Europe, and as far afield as Abu Dhabi and Mexico, besides which he has found the time to complete a Masters in Jazz Vocal Performance.Ahead of the Cormac Kenevey Quartet's performance at the Signal Series this Tuesday 28th May, we spoke to Cormac about connecting with lyrics, the nature of words, and the vulnerability of performing your own music.
Q. What motivates you or inspires you to create music?
I’ve been involved in music since I was a kid, in various bands and orchestras. I spent my early working career in the software industry before realising it wasn’t for me, and music is the only thing I want to do! So now a big driving force, even when I’m finding motivation thin, is the memory of those days looking at the clock in my office cubicle. So back to it.
Q. Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career?
My first album was an important project for me! I spent all of my own software savings on it! It opened a few initial doors and ultimately led to a couple of festival gigs where I was “discovered” and signed by Candid Records in London.
Q. Working as a singer with instrumentalists, how do you think about the connection between words and music?
As as performer I find it difficult to sing lyrics that I don’t connect with. It doesn’t have to be relevant to my own life, but I need to be able to get inside the intent, like an actor. That’s the only way I feel the audience is going to get something out of it. Then there is the nature of sounds, of vowels and syllables. If I’m writing a lyric for a melody, it has to roll along and sound like the melody. As if it was always the right lyric! The right number of syllables is not enough, the shape of the words and the flow needs to be right. And still have the intent and the connection. It’s not that easy!
Q. How different do you find it creating covers of sometimes long-standing songs, and creating new music?
Performing my own music obviously leaves me in a more vulnerable a position! But it can be rewarding as I can be more precise about the intent of the lyric. I get quite concerned about the audience. I don’t want to over-do the “here are some of my precious lyrics” and there is an international jazz community of both musicians and audiences that communicate through a standard repertoire, and I respect that repertoire. And milk it for everything it’s got
Q. What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?
You might have to ask someone who’s 20 years younger than me! It’s old news at this stage that everything is available everywhere, all the time and for free online. So hopefully this will continue to encourage people out to live music experiences, where they can soak up the real energy of the music in the room rather than the digital copy. I think attention spans can be a bit longer in a live situation!