I got to take a little night trip to LA recently to sit down with Kennedy outside of a donut shop! You probably recognize that name from his viral hit, "Karate". This catchy tune was featured in a slew of things such as the Dollar Shave Club commercial and two films: "The Namesake" and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist". His other huge, blow up song is "Mama Made Me a Pimp". This was featured in "Get Him to the Greek". His music has been in other films as well: "National Lampoon's Adam and Eve", "American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile" and "Let's Get Def". He has only appeared on my radar as of recently - but he's been on loop the entire time! A lot of his work blends humor with a seventies vibe to give you a very rare, psychedelic product. As most artists are - Kennedy is a very well rounded individual as far as his talents go. Read on to learn all about my long lost sibling!
Let's start off with an introduction of your choosing. Tell all the dorks out there who you are.
Well - my name's Kennedy. I'm a Libra. My name is Jack Kennedy -- some people call me Kennedy. Some people call me Jack - that's usually people I don't know too well like the IRS though. I'm a musician and a song writer. I produce records. I do some amateur comedy for fun. I make my own kombucha. I live in a treehouse.
Okay so I need to clarify that right now because when you originally responded to me you said, "...It may be fun to do it in the treehouse I live in..." and I had no clue if you were joking or if that was code for something cool that all the hip kids say nowadays. So you really live in a treehouse then?
I do live in a treehouse. It's up in the hills above Highland Park in this area called Mount Washington.
You may not want to be too specific about your treehouse location....
*laughs* It's a really big area. There's a couple of tree houses up there too.
Fully functioning tree houses? Plumbing and all of that?
Yes, plumbing and everything. It's very basic. I really try to be more and more minimal as I get older so moving to the treehouse was the next level of minimalism for me. It's just a very basic cabin with a bed in it. It has an outdoor deck that has a kitchen...it's really cool. It keeps it simple for me. I like it - for being in LA it's very low key. You can't hear any traffic. You CAN hear hawks, coyotes, raccoons -- it feels very much like being out in the middle of nowhere.
That's so rare to find, in LA of all places too. That's rad! I just had to ask though for specification on what you meant by tree house. It totally caught me off guard.
You're from Thousand Oaks, California -- born and raised?
Yep - born and raised in Thousand Oaks. Actually -- I was born in Chicago. I moved to Thousand Oaks when I was really young so I grew up in Thousand Oaks. It was a very suburban, middle class kind of....it's just really boring. It was then - it may be really nice now but when I was a kid there was really nothing to do except skateboard, take drugs and go to Denny's.
Honestly that describes a lot of places. That even sounds like the little town I grew up in and that was on the East Coast.
I think that's it. It's like suburban life.
What brought you to The City of Angels?
I moved to LA.....I ran away from home when I was about sixteen. I finished high school and I did a brief amount of college at UC Santa Cruz studying marine biology.
Well that is quite different from what you are doing now.
Yeah it's A LOT different. I basically wanted to swim with dolphins. - which I can do without a degree, ya know? But I put this band together in the summer after Senior year and before college started. I put this band together just to do one show. We did that one show and then I went off to Santa Cruz. From that one show we ended up getting a record deal.
What kind of band was it?
It was kinda like a Minor Threat-type punk band. We had the musical proficiency of Minor Threat but we were trying to write Beatles' type songs. It was pretty cool. I listen to it now and I think it does sound pretty rad. We couldn't sing -- so we had to scream. I still have trouble singing nowadays on key.
So then I dropped out of UC Santa Cruz and moved down to Hollywood. I don't know, I think I was probably about eighteen -- but I lived right under the Hollywood sign for a while. That was the first time I moved to LA. I moved out of LA though - I seem to always return to LA. It's my home now, I have been here a long time.
I think San Diego is that place for me - wherever life ends up taking me.
Where did you go in between returning to LA?
I moved to London in 2007 - I was there for five years.
Wow - what brought you to London? What a difference from the West Coast of the United States.
I have always loved England. I have been going there for a long time. I have a British friend/drummer so I'd go to London to see him and play shows. Then I got another record deal with Warner Bros and they were printing my record out in Europe. So I went over there for what was supposed to be one month but then all of a sudden I got a work Visa. Then, I got a girlfriend too so I was like..."Maybe I'll stay here." I never really had an apartment or life here in LA anyway so it was an easy transition. Everything I had in LA kind of just dissolved.
I would love to do that someday! Just uproot my life and start somewhere fresh. That's what I did six years ago actually - from the East Coast to the West. It's such an indescribable feeling. I love London though -- I've been there once. It would be a dream come true to live there for maybe a few months.
It was cool. Also growing up in a suburban neighborhood in California...to go to a city like London where you don't have to drive. You walk out your front door and it's just an information overload happening.... it's amazing.
What brought you back to the States then?
I don't know. It was kind of the same way I went out there. I came back to LA for a month and then I just liked it again. I love London - it feels like a home to me - but when I left LA for London I was really over LA. I was like..."This place is so boring. The weather is always the same. It's hot. I gotta get outta here." But when I came back from London to LA -- maybe it was because of the weather -- I don't know but it was so chill here compared to London. It was very laid back.
You would say LA is a step DOWN from London? That's saying A LOT because LA is absolute chaos in my eyes.
It's crowded but for a city of its size - it reminds me of a really big, laid back giant beach town. It could be because I'm from here too - so I'm used to it. The weather though - I feel like I'm always on vacation. I just saw LA in a totally different light when I came back too. At midnight I was getting tacos from a food truck and it was like eighty five degrees out. This is an exotic place to live. I'm so used to it that I never saw how brilliant it is to call this place home.
I'm from Philadelphia and most of the friends I've made out here in California are like you - they truly don't realize how special it is to live here. It's just like what you were describing -- how you didn't realize how great it is here until you left.
When I lived here before, I NEVER went to the beach!
You California natives are crazy. How can you not go to the beach?! I used to have to drive over two hours to get to a shit beach let alone the ones that are now fifteen minutes from my house!
I go to the beach at least once a week now.
Yeah, when I first moved out here I was going every night. I love a good evening stroll on the sand. Now it's not as frequent but I still try not to take it for granted. The ocean is wonderful.
Do you surf?
No - I wish! I just usually walk around and contemplate crap. I don't have depth perception or peripheral vision so I feel like surfing would be dangerous for me. I don't know though.
I go surfing and I usually wear prescription glasses. I don't wear contacts either so when I'm out there I can't really see anyway -- I make it. I usually can't see the details of the water but you just see these big blobs of water coming at you and you just go for it.
I'd like to try one day. My friends back in PA are always asking if I've surfed yet or telling me I need to since I'm in CA now. I'm stubborn AF so when a lot of people tell me to do something it usually ends up in me purposely NOT doing that thing just out of spite. It's stupid but I can't help it -- I'm Irish.
If you ever want some lessons, let me know.
Do you have a favorite song or album that you've made so far? Do you listen to your own music after it's out?
You know, I don't that much. Once in a while I do. It's not like I don't like it - I do. But when I listen to songs like, "Karate", I don't even remember how that writing process came. All of a sudden it was there. Listening to it now - I really appreciate it.
Well yeah, that's your number one played song on Spotify. 1.7 million plays so far!
Yes. My big hit is a near miss. *laughs* I like that song though. I produced and cowrote this song called, "10,000 Emerald Pools". That's a song that when it comes on I get really happy that I was able to be a part of it. The title of that song is my mom's address in Las Vegas. She was really over the moon about it.
What's your range musically? Obviously you have pop songs like, "K.E.N.N.E.D.Y." and "Karate" but you also have played in bands like Silversun Pickups.
Yeah I was in that band for a couple of years. I got a record deal right around the same time they got their record deal. I loved playing with that band. It was really a fun group to be in. I wasn't writing any of the songs. Brian, the singer, is a really great songwriter. I don't know - I had to make a choice: Do I wanna be the guitar player in a great band or follow my own muse? I feel like I was in Silversun Pickups for the right amount of time. I feel like I helped them find their sound and they helped me find my guitar playing. I always thought it was funny being in Silversun Pickups because I was playing lead guitar but Brian was a much better guitarist then I was. I played in that band for a while but as far as my range...hm.
Yeah. So you mentioned you do stand up comedy too but if you look on your iTunes page it has a "Related artists" section in your bio and for Kennedy it only has two related artists: Daft Punk and Prince. Do you have any other spectrums you like to explore musically as far as sound goes?
First of all - let's rewind and say...I got compared to Prince?! *shocked* Wow. I will take that!
It's a great hybrid to be!
Yes, definitely. I think I have a really long background in playing punk music. Then I started morphing into classic rock. After that I fully got into house and disco. Now I'm coming back around to...not playing a certain genre but making individual songs that are just awesome. That's why I like the Emerald Pools track. It doesn't have a genre - it's a little folky, a little pop, a little electronic..it stands on its own.
That music that truly intrigues me and draws me in - when you just can't compartmentalize it.
That's what is trippy in the music business though because people want to know what it is. They kind of need something to compare it to. I get that, of course, but I really want to make a new sound.
Yes - a Kennedy sound!
There you go - my own genre!
We will work on making that happen, then.
Do you have any training musically? Or was this something that came naturally for you growing up?
Not one lesson!
I find that so fascinating. Most of the musicians I have interviewed so far haven't either. You know - I took piano and guitar lessons for almost two decades and I still am not talented with it. It's so ironic, isn't it? Sometimes people are really just born to do something - it's astounding.
What made you start wanting to be a musician, then? What was your spark?
I've always wanted to - since I can remember. I would just play this tennis racket and parties and lip sync Beach Boys' songs. My parents had these really elaborate parties all the time. By the end of it people were getting thrown in the pool and I'd just be playing this tennis racket. My parents weren't very observant, though. I feel like if I had a kid I'd be like, "Oh - obviously he wants to be a musician because he's playing that tennis racket. Let's buy him a real guitar!" They never noticed that.
Yeah - they were too busy throwing elaborate parties and throwing people into pools to see you playing your tennis racket.
Haha, right! They pretty much were. So I kinda had to wait until a little later on in life. I didn't start playing until I was about fifteen.
That's when you started your punk band?
Yeah - I got this bass guitar and I could KINDA thumb my way around it. But I truly loved writing songs and lyrics and stuff. That was part of the reason I ran away from home too. My parents really wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer. Things are a little bit different now, maybe they're not, but back then trying to make a living in any sort of creative field was considered insanity. It's not a stable career. Anyway - I've always learned my craft as a producer and as a songwriter and even as a band member through apprenticing people. I apprenticed really great producers and songwriters. Also -- listening to my intuition and then just DOING it. Trying to write a song even though I only knew maybe three notes on the bass - but then finishing it. At the end of the day it's always just about doing it regardless of my skill set is. As the years go by, your skills will get better. Now I can more easily express myself how I want to, if that makes sense.
Totally! I didn't know what I was doing years ago when I started my site. I don't even want to think about what it looked like originally, haha. I just kept consistently doing it though - and striving to keep expanding what I get to do on here. Just last year I found out I truly love interviewing people. Now here I am in LA sitting with you! It's just about always wanting to better yourself and to keep pushing yourself no matter what happens.
I'm going to assume you don't have stage fright or anything? You got up and performed Beach Boys in diapers in front of people pre-pool throwing.
No, not really. I love performing. That's the one thing I haven't been doing that much lately - in the last year or so. I've done a few shows but there was a time I was performing a few times a week - not a year. I do host a variety show here in LA called Kennedy Administration. It's kinda like a live version of the David Letterman Show. THAT I can get a little bit nervous for because it's not just music. It's a little bit of comedy and an opening monologue. With music, I know I can own it but if I'm trying to entertain a crowd just by talking...I can get more nervous for that. I know the interviewing process pretty well now too - I do that at the show too. I'm sure you know - you gotta get out of your own head and as soon as you do it's fine. It'll take on a life of its own.
That still happens to me now. It's always RIGHT before it starts - just minutes prior. I'll get so anxious and just want to cancel. Then of course all of the negative thoughts we all generate will still pop up right before the interview too for me. But I have yet to let that control me. I always follow through and it has never been a catastrophe. Even if catastrophe strikes - it'll be another thing to grow from. I've learned so much in the time I've been interviewing and absolutely live for it now.
Even if you do get nervous -- some people will never get over it but that's what they were put here to do. Like you!
If I can do it - anyone can do anything - seriously! I used to have severe, crippling anxiety but here I am chatting it up with you (ANXIOUS AS HELL ON THE INSIDE!) I will never get over my anxiety entirely but I never let it control me - or at least I try not to let it control my life.
So who are your favorite artists?
There's been so many over the years. If I was going to say currently....I listen to The Clash all the time. I never get tired of their songs, their melodies or their lyrics. The songs are so catchy and you read the lyrics and you're like..."Wow this is so political." That's how you fool people into your politics -- I didn't even know the lyrics to, "Rock the Casbah" until maybe six months ago when I looked them up. I thought they were saying, "Shouting all night, rock the casbah" but that's not what they're saying. They are saying, "Shareef don't like it"..the whole song is about an Islamic state that is under the control of a dictator.
Well that's just like your song, "Karate" that has so many underlying messages about 9/11.
Really?! Please tell me! *laughs* I had someone come up to me before and tell me they love that song because it has such a philosophy on life. I was like..."What philosophy is that?? Please let me know!"
But yeah, I like The Clash. I also get really into certain songs. I'll listen to one song repeatedly for days straight. I had The Doobie Brothers, "Listen to the Music", on loop in my car for a week straight. That song is the perfect song for me - I could never get tired of it.
It's rough having an addictive personality. I do the same thing with artists or albums too. Sometimes it makes me feel insane with how much I'll listen to the same thing and STILL enjoy it.
That band Vulfpeck is up there on my list too. I've just devoured them to the point where I even bought tickets to see them play -- I haven't bought tickets to a concert in a LONG time. I usually know friends who have tickets or whatever with being in the music industry. But I could not stop listening to them. I think you'd like them - they are instrumental.
I'll check them out for sure.
What's your latest project that you're working on now?
What am I working on now? Well I'm about to go up to the mountains and live in a cabin for a bit. That's not a project I guess. It's more of a lifestyle thing. It's only maybe an hour or two outside of LA. I'll probably write music there or see how I get inspired. I like nature, meditating, quiet - so this is perfect. That being said, it'll be a place where other people can come visit and write with me. I'm working with a girl now - her name is Reys - we are finishing up a record. it sounds like the healing hands of reiki coming out of your speakers and massaging your aura.
Are you performing on this record or producing? Or both?
I play a lot of the instruments on the recording and do some of the harmonizing but she has a band so I wouldn't be performing live with them or anything. I like making uplifting music - so does she. She has this amazing seventies vibe too. It's like disco but...not.
In your interview for Ground Control you had said that you like your live shows to be like a party. Is that something you still like to live by?
Yeah, definitely it is! I don't remember saying that, haha, but....that guy knew what he was talking about.
Haha. Well I love that. I think it makes for such a genuine and organic experience at your shows. The energy is so important when performing live and that's something I enjoy about you.
That's the difference between seeing a band that blows your mind and a band that's "eh". The band that I have now - if we play in a rehearsal studio...it's SO fun. I never laugh as hard as I do when I'm in a rehearsal with those guys. There's times when we are all laughing until we are crying AND playing the music is so fun. It doesn't matter if we are playing in there or on stage -- we always have fun. If you fake having fun...that's the definition of a douchebag.
That's why I wanted to interview you too.
Because I'm a douchebag?
Duh! Just kidding - because of how "real" you are and how much positive vibes you emit while performing. You definitely can't fake the energy you put out there at shows.
#staynerdy is my catchphrase so I always end these chats by asking what's the nerdiest thing, in your eyes, about yourself?
Ummmmmmmmm - well I don't know if this is, "nerdy", but I wake up at 5:30AM everyday and do Yoga at a place right down the street from here. I'm usually in bed by 10 or 10:30PM every night.
NERD! How long have you been doing yoga for?
Regularly and consistently I have been doing it for about five or six years. Finding discipline in my life has always been challenging. When I have discipline with things like yoga and playing music - it ends up being the most rewarding thing. It's so annoying though because as a human I just want whatever is going to give me instant gratification, but the last thing I need is instant gratification.
HAUL OF THE WEEK
My boyf and I had a day off together this week and we enjoyed it thoroughly. I was spoiled just a lil bit too by himself and me! We ventured to Best Buy, Game Stop and Ross. I picked up a new phone case, sailor moon socks, a Bart Simpson "Troublemaker" baseball tee, a wireless controller, wireless headphones, and two new Pop! figures: VI from League of Legends and Geordi from Star Trek TNG.
OUTFIT OF THE WEEK
This is what I wore on my leisure shopping day referenced above. I thought it was super cute so I had to share it with ya'll.
INTERVIEW ON DECK
I interviewed a cute lil lady named Jamie - of Pinked Flamingos on Etsy - recently so stay tuned for that next week!