Interview With Songwriter Eliot Kennedy: A Love Of Your Own
ELIOT KENNEDY | NEW SINGLE “A LOVE OF YOUR OWN” | OUT NOW
Eliot Kennedy is the songwriter to the stars; the mastermind behind pop’s hit parade who is now stepping into the spotlight with his own album, ‘A Yacht Named Sue’.
In the past 25 years, Eliot has written some of pop’s biggest hits. With his longstanding songwriting partner, Bryan Adams he has written When You’re Gone featuring Mel C; the Grammy-winning Never Gonna Break My Faith with Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige (originally written for the Robert Kennedy biopic BOBBY); and the title song for Celine Dion’s album Let’s Talk About Love.
Eliot Kennedy first came to fame writing for boy and girl-bands. Take That’s Everything Changes co-written with Gary Barlow is his first number one; his first global smash hit is The Spice Girls’ Say You’ll Be There. He won an Ivor Novello for Boyzone’s Picture of You and he has had major hits with Blue, S Club 7, Five, Billie Piper and Atomic Kitten.
Based in Sheffield, Eliot is also an A list film score composer and co-writer with Gary Barlow of the hit Broadway musical Finding Neverland. He began songwriting in his teens and was always more interested in songwriting than performing. Until now.
Eliot Kennedy – the album has a lot of my life in it
Lockdown, introspection and the encouragement of his famous friends led to the ‘deeply personal’ first album, which Eliot has described as ‘cathartic’.
‘Not only am I singing,’ Eliot says, ‘but the album has a lot of my life in it. It seemed the right time. I’m capable of doing different styles of music – that’s been the best thing about my career, working with so many diverse artists – but this is more about expressing myself. There’s a lot of self-reflection going on, being locked down.’
The title of the album ‘A Yacht Named Sue’ is a homage to Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue.
A Yacht Named Sue is inspired by the ‘Yacht Rock’ genre of the mid-70s and early ’80s, epitomised by Hall & Oates, Foreigner and Michael McDonald. Why Yacht Rock? That was the era, Eliot explains ‘ when men were able to be sensitive about their feelings. There were love songs from men that were vulnerable – ‘I want to know what love is!’
‘My Destiny’ is a funky, up-tempo pop track, with echoes of Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross in Eliot’s vocal. Thematically, it’s a classic love song about two people made for each other, coming together. Eliot has shared the songs with his co-writers. Bryan Adams absolutely loves the single, which is highly anticipated by the music industry and endorsed by some of its biggest stars.
I have been writing and producing professionally for 30 years. Starting as many people do, as a tea boy in a studio ins Sheffield (around working at the local Wimpy burger bar). Thankfully I was able to stay after sessions and do demos etc. That’s how I learned how to run a studio and record musicians. I started my own business as a freelance recording engineer and produced demos for local bands.
Eventually hooking up with two song writers that had some success in the charts. This was my first production company that lead to Producing Lulu, Take That and a few other artists!
After that… the 90s were just a blur… I found that developing new talent was the thing I enjoyed the most. One of those artists was Spice Girls, another was 911 and Five. During this time I partnered with two guys (Mike Percy and Tim Lever) from Dead Or Alive, and we started The Steelworks studios in Sheffield. This is still my facility in the city centre.
The 90s were a busy time and we had a lot of success in the charts, which lead to working with Gary Barlow and Bryan Adams. With Gary, I developed the Australian artist Delta Goodrem, and with Bryan, I have written for Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and made 5 albums with him as the artist.
Gary and I also wrote out first Broadway musical ‘Finding Neverland’ which we are looking forward top bringing to the UK asap! I am currently working on a new musical about New York!
Can you describe ‘When Love Breaks Down’ / ‘A Yacht Named Sue’ and tell us what they mean to you?
‘When Love Breaks Down’ is about my divorce. When I decided to make this album I said to myself that there is no point in doing it unless it is honest. About my life. It was Gary Barlow that told me I needed to do this. After a show (it was my 50th birthday gig, which he attended and performed at along with other artists from my career), he called and said that I needed to release an album as an artist. I thought he was insane. I was always a singer, but never really wanted to be an artist. But then 2020 happened… Gary said ‘what else are you going to do…?
So I made the album ‘A Yacht Named Sue’… the title being a head nod to the style of music, which is late 70’s early 80s Yacht Rock. I always love Hall and Oates, Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers etc. I have always told young artists that first and foremost they need to make an album for themselves first. Something they love and feel comfortable playing to people. After all we are kingly humans and if you are happy with it, then others will be too.
I have made this album of honest experiences from my life as a way of showing who I am.
What inspired you to make this album / single?
I have never considered making an album as an artist. I have spent so much time on the other side of the glass… but I have thoroughly enjoyed the process. I just can’t wait to be able to go and perform this for people. Music is the ultimate inspiration for me. I have always said that it is the ultimate backstage pass to everyones soul. It gets in where no other media can. Architecture, dance, art, are all inspiring, but music is a ‘field’ of energy that permeates everything. I feel so lucky to be holding a pencil on thew days that the universe wants to write a song!
You have worked with an impressive list of music artists! What have been some of your favourite moments?
Wow there are so many, I have had an amazing career…
Writing a song with Bryan Adams for the Pope and watching him perform it at the Vatican…. Writing a song for Aretha Franklin and watching her win a Grammy with it… Making the Jubilee record ’Sing’ travelling around the world with Gary Barlow to make the record and then performing it for Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham palace… Performing with Gary in Afghanistan for our troops… I find myself in so many situations and pinch myself… I am still that lad from Sheffield, I never lose touch with that
Eliot Kennedy – can you tell me a bit more about your personal journey?
I grew up in Australia. My folks emigrated there when I was 4. It was amazing, spending most of my time outside and I can’t really remember wearing shoes that much!
After coming back to the UK (I was 11) it was a huge culture shock. I fell asleep in the snow (I didn’t know what it was) and got pneumonia. After that, I had to stay in hospital for a while!
All that time music was there. My dad was a singer and I used to go to watch him in working men’s clubs (though I had to wait in his dressing room or watch from side stage). But music was always part of my life. When I was 12 years old, I met a cousin who was a musician and he had some equipment to record. I got hooked on that and synthesisers etc…all I wanted to do was be in a studio. I got a job as a tea boy in a studio, and the rest is literally history. The ’90s felt by writing and producing. It was hard work, it is meant to be. We are here to serve music not the other way around.
You began song-writing in your teens. Can you give your top tips for others wanting to pursue a career in the music industry right now?
As I mention. It is tough. I came from nothing. My folks had nothing; we were very poor. Dad worked so hard to provide us with whatever we needed. So having a strong work ethic is an amazing gift. Working for free, most of the time. Doing your time, your ’ten thousand hours’ as Malcolm Gladwell puts it.
What I know is that every song that has been written or is going to be written is out there. To receive it you must put up your aerial. But to do that you have to surrender to the reality that you don’t control music. It is out there like a field of energy waiting to be received. What we get to do is personalise it. That’s where talent comes in. Being able to shape it, put words to it, or not. But it only works if you are prepared to be part of something bigger than yourself. We serve music. It means you have to be really honest about it. What inspires people and connects people to music is the honesty. It’s the most wonderful human thing.
Sadly we tend to only learn things through pain, so songs or music written with that kind of honesty always connect. People think it has been written for them. That’s the magic. We are all human and all face the same issues. I feel thankful that I have the ability to express that with music. It is something I never take for granted.
How has this past year been for you and life under lockdown?
I have to be careful with this because so many people have had terrible and painful times. They have lost parents and partners. I have been sensitive to this, and also peoples anxiety, so I made an album called ‘Mind Music’. A set of pieces of music to help transport people away from their anxiety. People tell me it really helps them to relax or even sleep. Thats wonderful. It has been an incredibly creative time for me. I love working from home, so it’s lovely to get up and be able to get myself into a place of readiness to receive and then see where my hands fall on the keyboard or on a guitar… and go from there!
You are based in Sheffield – what are your favourite things about living in the city?
I LOVE Sheffield. People here are ’to the point’. It doesn’t matter who you are, or who you think you are, people treat you how you treat them. It’s friendly and ‘real’. Music in this city is alive, always has been. So many great artists come from here, so it’s clearly in the air. I think that has a lot to do with the reality of life here. I have a lovely garden and massive woods behind me; and a Husky dog (Charlie Parker) who absolutely loves the woods, so I am very lucky.
What is your top tip for living your best life?
Being happy to be a part of something far bigger than yourself. Being truly OK with that.
People get lost in racing to be the first, or the best, or to have more etc. It’s not about any of that. We all breathe air, we all have blood in our veins. We get to live here on this amazing planet and we take so much for granted. We’ve only been here for a blink of an eye in terms of the time of this place, so we need to take in as much as we can. Along the way, we have music as our soundtrack. Just think about that and how amazing it is. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that success should be measured in one way. If a soul breathes easier because you have lived, then you have succeeded. I am truly ok with that. Then I am successful.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently writing another musical. My first was a broadway hit – Finding Neverland – which we hope to bring to the UK when theatres are back. That is taking a lot of time and energy. I am truly excited about it. Alongside making ‘Mind Music VOL 2’ which I hope to have out by the summer! Also writing with Gary Barlow for new projects and also his own material. Busy times, which is awesome! I feel so fortunate to be still here doing this. I am so thankful for that.