Episode 1: Gordon Kennedy – A Series of One Steps

Gordon K and JMK pic

Gordon Kennedy – Episode 1 Show Notes:

I sat down with hit songwriter, producer and musician Gordon Kennedy to discuss his successful career, the ups and downs of the music business and how taking a series of one steps can lead to a great career in the music industry.

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Gordon Kennedy’s social media links:


Talking Points:

* I think we’re supposed to pray about and do our due diligence and get a peace about what’s the next one step to take. Then when you take the one step, guess what you do? We do the same thing again.
* Just one step is all that matters and don’t get too bent out of shape over long-term plan.
* Gordon has been building industry relationships since high school.
* “Change The World” took years to write in small amounts between multiple writers. Once it became a single for the soundtrack, then that event caused me and Wayne [Kirkpatrick] and Tommy [Sims] to start getting calls from people about “would you write us a song?” “Would you do one for Bonnie Raitt?”, etc.
* For some it doesn’t make sense to do a publishing deal these days because publishing companies can’t really pay. In fact they’re embarrassed to offer what they’re able to offer these days to a seasoned writer.
* If people don’t buy music, then you see the these draws (advances) that publishing companies give writers diminish to the point where they’d rather not offer a deal than offer the kind of deal they can these days.
* Income streams for songwriters and publishers in performance royalties is still there.
* Mechanical royalties (CD sales, etc) has pretty much vanished.
* You have an advantage if you’re an artist because a publisher can see an artist as being somebody that is going to bring them recorded songs rather than songs they have to go hit the sidewalks to pitch to try to get recorded.
* Single steps lead to these other things.
* Advantages of a publishing deal – someone to connect your songs to major artists.
* Advantages of being self published – getting more money when a song is cut.
* Tip Sheet – an industry form for publishers and song pluggers that list artists going in the studio and types of songs they are looking for.
* Gordon has been a live player, a session player, a producer, a published writer, a self-published writer.
* This is a calling that is on my life.
* God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.

* I’ve tried the best I can to let priorities shape my goals rather than the other way around. A lot of times if your goal is to be a star, then your priorities can suffer as far as how you’re going to be a husband, how you’re going to be a father. They have to get in line behind these priorities, otherwise I’m not interested in that particular goal if I have to leave my family for weeks and weeks on end and be gone to achieve this goal, I’m not interested in that goal
* If you’re getting called a bunch for something, pay attention to what that might be and maybe that’s something you should investigate.
* Ricky Skaggs talks about God wanting us to study on and think about what the next one step is. Pray about that and when you get a peace about it, take that one step and then do the same thing again.
* You’re writing your personal story right now. Be aware of that. Do the work now, don’t put it off.

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Gordon Kennedy – BIO

Gordon Kennedy is a multi-Grammy Award winning songwriter and record producer, a virtuoso guitarist, and a music industry visionary in Nashville. With his love for storytelling, vintage guitars and his deep knowledge of music history, he has emerged as one of Music City’s most beloved Ambassadors. Kennedy’s live shows are a treasure trove of colorful backstories and outstanding performances that one only as talented and immersed in rich experiences can truly deliver. He came by it honestly as the son of legendary guitarist, Jerry Kennedy.

Kennedy sites his guitar pickin’, record producing dad and his singing mom, Linda Brannon, as his biggest musical influences. “While other families might gather around the TV to enjoy time together,” Kennedy recalls, “we gathered around a tape machine. My dad would come home every night and bring us new music that he had just recorded. My brothers Bryan, Shelby and I couldn’t wait to hear from Roger Miller, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, The Statler Brothers or Jerry Lee Lewis.” The Meet the Beatles album his dad gave him when he was five, and more records from his father’s days as an executive of the Mercury Records office of Nashville, provided him with a diverse diet of music. This, along with a basement full of his father’s guitars, a jukebox and a piano, nourished and inspired him as he became one of music’s finest songwriters, producers and players.

Kennedy’s most successful composition is the international hit song Change The World recorded by Eric Clapton for which Kennedy and his co-writers received a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1996. The song won Record of the Year for Eric Clapton, and spent a record breaking 81 weeks on the top of the charts. In 2007 Kennedy also received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, co-producing, composing and performing on Peter Frampton’s Fingerprints album. Bluegrass Legend Ricky Skaggs’s Grammy nominated Mosaic, released in 2010, was produced and co-written mostly by Kennedy. It was a career bending recording that was a departure from Skaggs’s bluegrass records. Skaggs called in Kennedy to produce after hearing his song demos. He wanted to recreate the Beatle-esqe musicality that Kennedy captures on the record.

In his early career, Kennedy was a member of the Christian Rock band White Heart for six years in the 1980s. His substituting on a few shows for high school friend Dan Huff ultimately led to a permanent position as the band’s lead guitar player and songwriter. Huff became a successful record producer and would later hire Kennedy to play on many records that became gold and platinum recordings. Kennedy played on Reba McEntire’s first #1 hit, Can’t Even Get The Blues in 1975 while a young student at Belmont University.
Kennedy recalls that songwriting began to click for him in 1991 when he began co-writing with his friend, Wayne Kirkpatrick. Dogs of Peace formed in 1995. Their first album, Speak, was released in 1996. Twenty years later, in 2016, Kennedy, Jimmie Sloas, Blair Masters, John Hammond and Jeff Balding reunited for a second album called Heel. Kennedy, Kirkpatrick and Tommy Sims would later join forces in co-writing one of the biggest chart topping hits of their generation, Change The World. Kennedy not only received a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1996, but in 2002 a plaque on the Record Walk of Fame. In June 1997, the Southern Songwriters Guild inducted Gordon into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in a ceremony in Louisiana.

As a songwriter, Kennedy has written 15 songs recorded by Garth Brooks. Kennedy co-wrote You Move Me recorded by Garth Brooks which reached #2 on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart in 1998. Brooks subsequently recorded ten more of Kennedy’s songs on his alter-ego album, The Life of Chris Gaines, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. Kennedy will join Garth Brooks 2019 Stadium Tour on guitar. “Garth and I have been friends for many years. It’s a great honor to be asked to tour with him and the other fine musicians that will be a part of the band.” It’s a feather in the cap of a successful career for Kennedy to accompany his friend Garth on this legendary tour. “It’s not just anyone I’d leave my family, the comfort of my home and my studio to hit the road with, but Garth’s an exception.”

Bonnie Raitt has said that Gordon Kennedy is “one of her favorite songwriters.” It’s no surprise then, that four of her five recent singles have been Kennedy compositions. Kennedy’s songs have also been recorded by artists including Alison Krauss, Stevie Nicks, Faith Hill, Don Henley, Tim McGraw, and Carrie Underwood. His compositions have been heard in the film soundtracks of Tin Cup, Phenomenon, For the Love of the Game, Where the Heart Is, Almost Famous, Summer Catch, Someone Like You, The Banger Sisters, Instant Family, and Disney’s The Fox & the Hound 2.

He has lent his talents as a player to Don Henley, Kenny Loggins, Reba McEntire, Michael McDonald, Leanne Rimes, Bruce Hornsby, Little Big Town and Shedaisy, among others.
Seals and Crofts 2, the Beatles cover band Mystery Trip, and Tom Petty cover band The Petty Junkies are current projects Kennedy enjoys. He recently produced Shifting Gears, the new solo project of his longtime friend Larry Stewart of Restless Heart.

As a Belmont University alumnus, Gordon has been recognized as a Morris Family Mentor & Lecture Series, Curb College Distinguished Lecturer, and in 2014 received the Curb College’s Robert E. Mulloy Award of Excellence. Kennedy currently serves on the Belmont University Advisory Board, and has served on the Board of Governors for the Nashville’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Kennedy has continually given to Belmont and its students for years. He has spoken at seminars, hosted events (including Belmont’s Homecoming concert, Homecoming in the Round), is an adjunct professor, and a student mentor. Gordon is the fifth and final recipient of the Distinguished Lecturer, an honor given to industry professionals who inspire others through their work in the entertainment and music industry. In addition, Gordon served on Brentwood Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2007-2010 where he and his two children are graduates and remain active alumni.