The husband-and-wife duo will play Dover on Saturday, April 20.
The Kennedy name is prominent in politics. Musicians Pete and Maura have been trying to grow that name in the area of entertainment for over a decade.
As a folk-pop/rock duo named The Kennedys, the husband-and-wife duo from New York have a passion for living out of a suitcase, sharing their tunes with as many people as possible around the country.
In 2018, the pair dropped their latest album, “Safe Until Tomorrow.” That same year Pete Kennedy released his book, “Tone, Twang and Taste: A Guitar Memoir,” which revealed several tales about great musicians he’s met along his journey.
The couple will bring some folksy fun to the First State with a concert at the Wesley College Chapel Saturday.
Pete Kennedy dished on being in the presence of Stevie Wonder, the irony of being a musical genius, and the significance of playing in a band with a famous name.
What’s a story that stands out from “Tone, Twang and Taste?”
One show that really sticks out was a show at The Kennedy Center where Frank Sinatra was supposed to sing, but he decided not to at the very last minute. It was right before they introduced him. But I guess if you’re Frank Sinatra, you can do that. Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight were all singing and Elton John suddenly burst out onto the stage, even though he was not on the bill that night.
The audience really flipped out when they saw that. Elton John and Stevie Wonder were at a battle of vocal wits, in a friendly way, trying to outdo each other. That was such a cool thing to see. I was just sitting back in the orchestra, strumming my guitar and enjoying the whole thing.
Did you get a chance to meet Stevie?
No, because when there’s an orchestra there’s like 18 people playing, and if everyone went up to him it’d be too much. But everybody wanted to do it. A real genius radiates a vibe as soon as they walk in the room. You’re like, “whoa.” If you’d never heard of Stevie Wonder and he was at some place and you’d look over at him, you’d say, “Who is that guy?” There’s something about him. You could tell he was brilliant.
Have you flirted with the idea of becoming that famous?
I think there might be a certain loneliness. I’ve been reading a book about Jimi Hendrix lately. He loved music so much; and over and over he said music is his whole life. Geniuses might feel separated from other people because they have a mission in life that’s overpowering. One of the themes of my book is I never make myself the star out of any of the chapters. I’m always going somewhere where I could be around someone like that. The book’s more about being a student than anything else.
What’s one of the biggest pieces of advice you’ve received as a student among these greats?
Guitar players are famous for turning up real loud and playing a whole bunch of stuff for themselves. I learned early on not to do that, but to think of the guitar the way that singers sing. Like when Maura sings. Her voice goes directly from her heart to other people’s hearts; and Stevie Wonder would be another example of someone who does that. Soon after I started the guitar, I started to play like a singer so that people would get it. They wouldn’t sit there and say, “he could really move fast” or “that’s really loud” or something like that. I wanted to try to communicate with people.
How does Maura complement you on stage?
I think part of it is you used the word “complement,” and it’s true. We don’t have the same exact skills. She’s a great singer and songwriter. I’m really focused on guitar and I can do a little bit of singing to support what she does. We blend together really well because we each play off each other’s strengths. I think that’s why it’s worked for such a long time.
You have to be supportive and accepting of the other person, that’s the main thing. You can’t think in a marriage or band that it’s all about you and that you can stay focused on yourself. You have to really figure out what makes the other person happy and satisfied, and you try to make sure that’s happening all the time.
How do you accomplish that while not completely abandoning the things that make you happy?
The chemistry might have to be there from the beginning, because when we met, it turned out we liked a lot of the same things. We kind of had the same dreams. We both love to travel, and that’s a good example: if one of us liked traveling and the other one didn’t, that’d be a major problem. We don’t really need the security of a house with a picket fence and all that stuff. We always live in hotel rooms. We have a little apartment in New York and we’re both happy like that, but we know a lot of other people wouldn’t be happy living that way.
Do you share any anything in common with the political Kennedy family?
I’m not related to them directly, that I know of. There are lots of Kennedys back in Ireland. Maybe there’s some connection there, in terms of genes. One of the reasons we call ourselves The Kennedys is I do think that maybe it represents a certain type of political/social idealism. Whether that’s completely accurate or not, I don’t know. But I was alive during that time [when John F. Kennedy was alive] and I know that’s how people felt. It was very much like the Obama era where there was a lot of optimism going on. That’s the way people felt about JFK.