Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Maura Kennedy

Maura Kennedy is a kind of accidental solo artist.

A long time half of The Kennedys with her husband Pete, the origins of her solo side project began with a stint staying with her relatives, gently brushing the strings of her guitar while her extended family slept. From there it blossomed into a full length album and a tour that will take her to two stops in the D.C. region next week.presspass

Maura Kennedy is a kind of accidental solo artist.

presspass

Maura Kennedy (Photo: Courtesy Melani Rogers)

A long time half of The Kennedys with her husband Pete, the origins of her solo side project began with a stint staying with her relatives, gently brushing the strings of her guitar while her extended family slept. From there it blossomed into a full length album and a tour that will take her to two stops in the D.C. region next week.

“Even when I was in the midst of writing and recording these, I didn’t have any desire to make a solo album,” Kennedy says. “It sort of happened as the result of my fans online. I’d post a song up and the response would be like, ‘This is great, I’m going to wait for the album.’ And I’m thinking, I’m not planning on making a solo album. I had no plans to do it. But they were persistent and a lot of my fans haven’t gotten to the downloading paradigm yet. So, I kind of bent under pressure.”

Thirteen tracks later, one per month, Kennedy had her album, her first solo venture after 10 releases with The Kennedys.

From the staccato singing on opening track “The Thing With Feathers,” to the retro-pop, WWII-era ballad closer “Shadows with the Lonely,” Maura puts her personal stamp on the album with her energetic persona.

“I’ve always lived like that and been excited by music,” Kennedy says. “It probably goes back to my childhood. I lived in a family of nine with seven siblings, all a year apart. There was always energy in our house. Our parents were very supportive of all of us and encouraged us and gave us permission to have that zest for life.

“I’m kind of ansty all the time. I love the night, I love to hear rock music and I love the noise of the city. That’s just my natural state I guess.”

That energy carries over into the album, Parade of Echoes, where it carries a more pop-rock fingerprint (“New Way to Live” and “Sun Burns Gold” serve as perfect examples) than the more Americana compositions of The Kennedys.

“Pete is little more rootsy, bluesy,” Kennedy says. “This stuff is more pop and rock because it’s just me. And in terms of subject matter, when we write together the songs seem to be more of a universal level, whereas these songs [on Parade of Echoes] feel more on a personal level.”

Part of that may extend from Kennedy’s journalistic approach to the album. Writing out a new tune a month, she tended to write about how she felt in a particular moment. What she was listening to at the time, even the time of year had an influence on the album.

“Because I wrote these songs over the course of the year. The summer songs sound like summer and the winter songs feel like winter. I wasn’t trying to convey that, the mood just happened. “Sun Burns Gold” is so much a winter song and “October” is very much a fall song,  not just because of the title, it has that emotional feel to it. They were just little snapshots of what I was feeling and listening to at the moment.”

Though unexpected, and maybe even a little uncomfortable (“The thought going on stage alone had me breaking out in a sweat,” Kennedy says.) Kennedy has embraced her sudden solo status, pledging to pursue the angle in conjunction with her usual work with Pete.

“It really surprised me how much I enjoy doing this. I never imagined I’d be playing solo shows, but I love it, absolutely love it,” Kennedy says. “I feel energized by the fact I could make this by myself and be really proud of it and have people like it. I’d love to keep doing it and of course The Kennedys will keep going, doing our thing, but there’s room for both.”

Immediately that means a short stint at The Birchmere on Jan. 22, part of the WFMA Annual Concert. She’ll play a long set a week later, hitting the stage at Jammin’ Java in Vienna.

• For more on Maura Kennedy, visit www.maurakennedy.com.