The Life In Brian

He’s one tough cookie, that Brian Kennedy, having survived cancer, Covid and cardiac arrest in recent years.

Then again, the man is from the Falls Road.

And he did work with Van Morrison too. Who some wags in the music industry call The Really Big C.

So, clearly, young Kennedy’s a born survivor, and now, with a new album, Folkie, just out, Brian is finally back on the road again, refreshed-verging-on-reborn after his recent life and death experiences.

“Serious illness really does expand your empathy,” he said recently. “It’s fun too. If someone offers me another margarita, I’ll go, f**k it, why not? No one knows how long we have got.”

Having made his singing debut in 1988 as one of Van The Man’s backing singers, Kennedy broke through internationally with his second solo album, A Better Man, in 1996, later scoring a Top 5 in the UK and Ireland with 2005’s You Raise Me Up. The following year, Kennedy was representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest, his self-composed Every Song Is A Cry For Love, hitting no.4 in the Irish charts, despite only securing 10th place. More recently, the lad has been part of the judging panel of The Voice Of Ireland, and started his own weekly radio show on Tipp FM.

And just ahead of his 56th birthday next Thursday, Kennedy is bringing happy-to-be-alive tour to Greystones, with a gig at The Whale.

In the meantime, we caught up with the man himself to discover the tracks of his years, and to find out just how he got lost in music…

I shouldn’t have become a singer at all really. I never chose it, I think it chose me.

I grew up in West Belfast in the late ’60s, right the way through the ’70s and the even more dangerous hunger strike ’80s. My childhood soundtrack was one of war. I am a child of war, as my song says.

I would harmonise with ambulance sirens and negotiate life-threatening routes to school every single day but somehow music began to speak to me in a language that nothing else did. I missed punk by a narrow margin because I was just too young but the Sex pistols certainly got my attention. I remember hearing Kate Bush sing The Man With The Child In His Eyes, and I was hooked by the spookiness of it all. It was as if she was singing directly to me only. Just how a good song should feel.

Then came Culture Club and Boy George and those fantastic songs. I’m sure some people really did want to hurt him but I just wanted to hug him. Little did I know we would record duets together over three decades later. My namesake uncle Brian had the most bespoke vinyl collection and that was where I first heard of this fella called Van Morrison – and it was a while later that I discovered he was also from Belfast. Again, I couldn’t have imagined that I would sing with him in New York’s Madison Square Garden and feature on five of his albums. It was like the future was waving at me.

Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were on the same bill and I would say Joni remains my biggest influence though. I tune my guitar the way I do because of her, and my approach to songwriting too. I even made a whole album of her songs called A Love Letter To Joni.

It’s hard to imagine that I’ve just released my 17th album, but here I am. And these are the Tracks Of My Years…

 

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