After wrapping up a tour of the British Isles promoting their 2012 album, “Closer Than You Know,” husband and wife musical duo The Kennedys are back in New York City and prepping for a performance Saturday at Jammin’ Java. A&E caught up with Peter Kennedy to talk about how the couple met, touring with Texas singer Nanci Griffith and how the pair draws musical inspiration.
A&E: The story of how you and Maura met is almost hard to believe because of how serendipitous it is. Did you know right away that you had a personal and musical connection?
Kennedy: The whole thing was totally simultaneous and instantaneous. Maura was living in Austin and had a great band down there but she was looking to expand beyond Austin and get out into the larger world. I was touring around and I played a gig at a rock ‘n’ roll club in Austin. We met and we hit it off right away. We ended up writing a song and it turned out really great. And when you have that kind of chemistry, it’s pretty rare. You can play with a lot of different people but to really just feel like it’s comfortable as if you’ve always been playing with someone, that’s very rare.
A&E: Your first date was a little unconventional...
Kennedy: I had to leave town and I called Maura from about 1,000 miles away in Colorado and we decided whatever was the middle point between our two locations, we would drive and meet. It turned out to be this town called Lubbock, Texas, which is really kind of in the middle of nowhere. But Buddy Holly, he was from there and is buried there. So we said we were going to meet at Buddy’s grave and we did. And there were no cellphones at the time so we couldn’t really check if the other person was doing it. It was really this leap of faith. But we did it ... and that’s really when the whole thing started.
A&E: You just got back from the UK where you were promoting “Closer Than You Know.” Can you tell me about the city that inspired this album?
Kennedy: Maura had been to Paris twice in the last couple of years and I went once. It’s a very artistic place and there have been a lot of rebellious things that have happened there artistically and so that’s always a healthy thing to try to incorporate into your music. When you go there, you kind of start to identify with other American artists who have gone over there. A lot of jazz musicians went there back in kind of the classic jazz days and we thought it might be cool for us, doing our sort of folk rock music to sort of let that influence seep in.
A&E: How does this album differ from past Kennedy records?
Kennedy: We wanted to sort of broaden our palette a little bit. If you’ve been painting with the same colors and then all of the sudden you discovered a whole bunch of other colors, you’d want to try painting with those. We decided instead of sitting down and writing the songs together which is what we usually do, I would kind of come up with the music and there were no rules. We would incorporate more complicated chords or something that we just wouldn’t do spontaneously if we were just sitting down in a hotel room jamming. I spent a year doing that and I wrote about three pieces of music that didn’t have any melody or words. I gave those to Maura and she lived with them for the following year and gradually, the words and the melodies grew out of her listening to that. So it was a really different way to do it and it was a good way for us to work in those other influences.
A&E: In addition to playing as a duo, you and Maura also have your own solo careers and occasionally play with other bands. What are you devoting most of your time to right now?
Kennedy: We’re both doing mostly all duo stuff now. Since we did get the album together, that prompted us to go around the U.S. and around the British Isles playing as a duo to represent the album so that kind of got us back in that mode. We kind of keep our hands dabbling in other things but the duo is always the main thing.
A&E: Where do you think inspiration for the next album will come from? Are you planning to take any more trips abroad?
Kennedy: When we were touring with Nanci, instead of traveling on the tour bus, which was kind of a protected environment, we just rented a car and drove all over England and Scotland and Ireland and Wales. We found little village back roads and mountains and just things you would never do on a regular tour. We kept a journal and Maura took hundreds and hundreds of photographs so I think we’ll be working off that for a while. We were counting how many new people we met on the trip and it was like 40 friends that we made and they all have interesting stories and that’s the kind of stuff where songs come from. I’m sure that will generate a new crop of songs.