When Ryan Kennedy picks up a guitar, people pay attention. Kennedy has released his debut CD titled Something to Say– a collection of nine original compositions. The 34-year-old Berklee School of Music trained Charleston native is a member of both the Bob Thompson Unit and the Mountain Stage Band.
The Ryan Kennedy Trio will be performing at his CD release party – Friday, March 27 at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, 702 Quarrier St, in Charleston at 8 p.m.
Kennedy’s reasons for making the CD are clear.
“I just wanted to do one of my own. It was time. I had done, over the years, a lot of other people’s CDs,” said Kennedy. “My focus when I was at Berkeley was actually jazz composition. I need to have something of my own.”
But he did not want to his debut release to be an album of standards. Instead he opted to write and record an album full of his own material.
“What was most important to me was that it was representative of my writing. Obviously the playing is important, but I didn’t want it to be so much of a standard bebop format where we just play 30-second long statement of the melody and then the whole thing is devoted to nothing but solos,” he explained.
Kennedy comes from a musical family – both his parents were band directors, but at a very early age, he realized that marching band was not for him.
“But I remember when I was about four or five years old, I had seen how stressful marching band could be for them. My mother would come home in tears sometimes just because, screaming and yelling about how her kids were acting up at the school and so I associated all these horrible things with what my mother and father did,” he recalled.
“So, I wanted no part of marching band when I was very young. And I think they were a little surprised when I chose the guitar.”
After everything was recorded, Ryan sought the opinion of noted jazz musician and mentor, Bob Thompson, who inadvertently came up with the CD’s title.
“I played some tracks for him on the way to a gig one day just to ask his opinion. As much as I admire the man, I want his honest opinion. I’m not fishing for compliments from him,” said Kennedy.
“It was enlightening talking to Bob and the first thing out of his mouth—when he heard it—was that I definitely had something to say. So, that’s where the title came from.”
While Kennedy is proud of all the material on his new record, he has a special affinity for one track in particular.
“If I had to pick a favorite, it’s probably The Mermaid. That’s only because I put so much time into it. I like the way that it unfolds. I kind of noticed that it lined up thematically nicely with a William Butler Yeats poem that I’d read called The Mermaid. It’s a very dark poem, actually. It’s a little bit different take on the mermaid than what we’re probably used to, but I felt that it kind of lined up with the tone of the piece. So, it was named after the fact. ”
When asked what music means to him, Kennedy’s answer is simple, yet powerful.
“What it means to me? It means everything.”